Thursday, July 15, 2010

Calabrian Figs That Make Your Mouth Water

Imagine orchards of fig trees with their wide, green leaves fluttering in the breezes off the Tyrrhenian Sea. Their branches are heavy with ripe, round figs as you reach up to pick one on a late summer day. As you bite into this juicy, delicious fruit, you know you have to take home as many as you can carry. Some you will bake in the oven, maybe stuff with walnuts or almonds or fill with limoncello. You’ll enjoy these figs all year, if you can keep yourself from eating them all at once.

Can this beautiful vision really be true? It’s happening now, in the small village of Amantea, not far from Cosenza in the region of Calabria, Italy. Fichi Marano is a company started in 1930 and currently run by the Marano Brothers (Fratelli Marano). The brothers learned the business from their father, who taught them the techniques and ancient recipes handed down through generations from the time of Magna Grecia (when the Greeks settled Southern Italy).

It is believed that figs were brought to Calabria by travelers from the Middle East and thrived in their new climate. The hills of Cosenza are covered with Dottato figs, a variety that ripens to rich flavor in the Calabrian heat. The figs are picked green from the trees and sun dried during the day on bamboo racks called cannizzi. Every night they’re brought into a closed, dark space and this process continues until the figs reach perfection.

Fichi Marano creates wonderful products, some of which I was lucky enough to sample at the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC. First, they enticed me with Bocconcini della Nonna. These figs are dried but moist, stuffed with walnuts and flavored with sugar and cinnamon. Then there was the Bocconcini - moist, dried figs stuffed with almonds. Next I tried Paciocchi, which are figs covered with melted chocolate or white chocolate and filled with almonds. They told me that these delicacies will stay fresh for a year without refrigeration. A year? They wouldn’t last 10 minutes in my kitchen before I found a way to eat them all!

They also offer figs flavored with liqueurs like rum, grappa or limoncello, fruits like orange or lemon and even a spicy variety with peperoncino. They also create a variety of chocolate candy and beautiful, small gift baskets filled with their tasty treats. To learn more about this company and order its products, visit

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