I LOVE FIGS!
I’m pretty sure that I have at least doubled my caloric intake the last few days due to figs. Riding along the small roads of the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia, it has become my obsession to pick figs, and any other fruit that’s hanging out along the road, to “save” it from falling to its timely death and becoming a subsequent feast for ants, worms and the like. Perhaps, if I liked insects my attitude might be different, but I hate bugs. I have, however, become decidedly less fearful of them on this trip, as they are continuously invading my space as I invade theirs. Even spiders – big ones – don’t induce in me the squeeling and scurrying they used to.
Figs. I don’t recall ever having figs so delicious as these. Maybe it’s the romanticism of picking them right off tree and plopping them in my mouth. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Alaska, and figs that make their way that far north fall prey to the fate of all the other fruit and veg that is imported to the arctic: picked too soon and unlovingly shipped too far. Whatever the case, I’m in heaven here. Half for me, half for the road, and inevitably, all figs are consumed within an hour or two. I feel like each fig tree may be my last and I have to pick all the ripe figs I can! And repeat… I see another fig tree laden with ripe fruit a few kilometers up the road.
One of the best things about riding a bike around, and walking would have this same benefit but even better (you’d be going really slow), is that you really notice what is in season each day and in each region. And if you’re lucky, it’s growing within arm’s reach!
Finland in May, yellow dandelions covered the countryside like nothing I’ve seen. I swore at the time that Finland must hold at least half the world’s dandelions. I ate dandelion greens my first night camping in Hameenlinna and again in Tampere, sauteed with stinging nettles. In Sweden, yellow rapeseed flowers were out en masse and Sandra, Jordana and I later camped in a harvested field in Austria (see previous post). While camping under a powerline one night south of Jonskoping, Sweden, I found myself amidst perfect fiddlehead ferns. Sauteed with salami (i had no olive oil or butter), they were an incredible treat alongside my campstove pasta. Germany was covered in wheat fields, sprinkled in bright red poppies and dashed with elderflowers which made my water so much tastier. On a much needed potty break north of Berlin Sandra and I happened upon fields of perfect, hand staining blueberries. Heading south, we camped in a field of corn only a foot high and in Czech Republic picked ripe black cherries still seated in on our bikes and climbed into cherry trees to get to the luscious red clusters. In Austria peaches and apricots were dreamy-ripe and grapes were not yet showing on the vines covering the hillsides. The sunflowers that were fields of green anticipation in Germany had opened up to the sun by the time we reached Austria, though somehow they were always facing away from us. Corn grew and grew as we pedaled south, the ears maturing as the days got warmer. Jordana and I couldn’t resist temptation and picked a couple un-ripe ears in Linz, Austria our first night together. We tried to eat them because we felt bad. They weren’t very good. Along Slovenia’s undulating country roads I got a sneak preview of the still unripe fruits that would await me in Croatia.
Blackberries and raspberries have been surprisingly pickable since Germany and I am still finding them, though, as Croatia is seeing one of the worst droughts in history, the berries are more jam-like than juicy. Croatia, even in these dry times, is a fruit lover’s dream. This morning I picked figs and tiny plums and almost ran over a perfectly ripe apple that had fallen off a nearby tree. Olives and grapes line the hillsides and are getting bigger each day! Land o’ plenty! Stone houses crumble as the fruit trees prosper beside them. I wonder how old some of these massive fruit trees are. If they were planted any time near the era of the surrounding stone walls and archtecture, many would date over half a millennium!
Free fresh fruit! Can’t get enough of it!