Words & photos Kristina Jensen
Sometimes, certain combinations of fresh produce just turn up in my kitchen and inspire me to make something new and exciting. This ‘throw-it-together-and-see-what-happens’ attitude has led to some very interesting taste sensations, such as pork cooked with apples and figs, or a chutney that includes figs, tomatillos and zucchini. Notice the reoccurring ingredient? Yep, it’s figs.
Every year, I go looking for figs. It’s true that I do love them almost more than any other fruit, but secretly, I’m also hoping to revisit a memory of climbing up into a tree of strawberry figs about 12 years ago and gorging myself and, here’s the good part, with no apparent side effects. I do have a friend with a tree that has delicious figs that are almost black on the outside, and another whose tree grows huge, melt-in-your-mouth-type figs and even though they are very good, they still haven’t touched those strawberry figs of long ago (sigh). But I won’t give up; one day I’ll find them again, I’m sure. In the meantime, I carry on creating ways to cook with them and when there are too many, I will dehydrate them and then soak them in brandy.
On the other hand, I don’t usually have to go looking for kiwifruit; they come to me. I belong to a great produce-swapping Facebook page here in the top of the south, and there are always folks with kiwifruit ready to trade around the middle of May (my contribution in return is dried wakame seaweed). I pop a box in the coldest corner of the laundry and they sit there ripening nicely over the next two to three months. All I need to do is sort through them once in a while and pick out the soft ones.
So it was that figs and kiwifruit came together in my kitchen to produce this delicious marmalade, which offers an alternative to pure citrus recipes. I had a bit of a glut of dried figs from last year and decided to try using them in a marmalade (or maybe I had just run out of brandy?).
Kiwifruit & Fig Marmalade
1 cup chopped dried figs
2 cups chopped kiwifruit
1 large ‘Granny Smith’ apple, peeled and chopped into small chunks
10cm length of fresh ginger, grated
2 small lemons, quartered, pips removed and minced in a food processor (or chopped very finely)
3 cups white sugar
1 cup water
Put all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot and slowly bring to the boil, stirring regularly.
Simmer for 45 minutes, by which time the marmalade should be thick and ready to set.
Carefully spoon into hot sterilised jars and seal.
Delicious on toast, scones, stirred into plain yoghurt or added to a fruit loaf.
Interesting facts about kiwifruit:
• The Chinese name for kiwifruit is yang tao, which means ‘strawberry peach’.
• New Zealand’s first kiwifruit were planted in the early 20th century and were called Chinese gooseberries until 1959, when the name was officially changed to kiwifruit, after New Zealand’s national bird – small, brown and furry, like the fruit.
• Kiwifruit are notoriously hard to pollinate. They do best where there are large concentrations of beehives without too many other food sources for the bees to access.
• You can ripen kiwifruit faster if you put them in a bag with a banana, a pear or an apple.
• Ripe kiwifruit make a great meat tenderiser. This is because they contain an enzyme called actinidain.
• Actinidain is unfortunately an allergen for some people. The most common symptoms are itching and soreness of the mouth. Severe symptoms include intense coughing and wheezing, and anaphylaxis.
• Once you chop up a kiwifruit, the enzyme will act as a food tenderiser to the kiwifruit itself and make it overly soft. Consequently, if you are adding kiwifruit to fruit salad, you should do so at the last minute so as to prevent the other fruits from becoming too soggy.
Note: If you like your marmalade chunky, use firm kiwifruit – they will hold their shape better.