The end of spring always results in a flurry of ambitious leafy growth on my fig trees, and for that I am both grateful and annoyed. When I planted the fig trees 5 years ago they were much smaller, and I didn’t have the foresight to realize that they would eventually block the path to the greenhouse when leafed out. I mean honestly, the nerve! But, I’m **trying** not to dwell on the negative as much lately, so let’s move onto the positive! And it’s actually REALLY positive because there is not one, but TWO (!!) reasons why this is a good thing.
I give you Exhibit A: The leaves will provide the energy to grow and sweeten the figs themselves later on in the summer (huzzah!) And Exhibit B: It’s also because the leaves themselves hold a secret knowledge that I’m sharing with you here today. And that secret fact? Well, you probably guessed from the blog post title (not to knock the wind out of your sails), but the leaves themselves are edible and actually quite delicious! Now, that doesn’t mean you should grab a fig leaf and take a big ol’ bite out of it willy nilly like you would with salad greens. Nope, much like coffee beans, fig leaves require a bit of effort for your reward. Namely, they need to be lightly “toasted” in the oven, and then boiled in a liquid like syrup or milk to extract their flavor, much like you would with tea leaves. The result of this quick bit of cookery is a delicious flavoring reminiscent of toasted almond, coconut, and vanilla all mixed together (yuyumyumyumyum), and that is the little-known magic of fig leaf syrup.
So now that you’re in on the secret, don’t tell anyone. Kidding! You can tell people. I’ve told you. I mean really, who am I to say not to tell anyone, I just told the internet, and that’s basically the same thing as telling a billion people. Anyway! The recipe I’m sharing here is essentially a simple syrup made with a mixture of honey and granulated sugar, because I *really* love the way the honey adds to the flavor of the fig leaves. But if you want pure, unadulterated fig leaf flavor, you can feel free to swap out the honey for just good old granulated sugar.
As for what you can do with the fig leaf syrup, it is REALLY *extremely* good as a sweetener for your morning coffee or tea (← that’s what I’ve been using mine for and let me tell you—it is a Treat with a capital T!) You can also drizzle it on top of unfrosted cake to sweeten it up a bit, or on top of yogurt and granola for a bit of extra sweetness, or use it in place of any cocktail recipe that calls for simple syrup to infuse some extra-tastiness into your drink. But syrup isn’t the only way to enjoy the flavor of the fig leaf, it also makes for a really wonderful panna cotta, too! I’ve also made fig leaf extract (aka infused vodka) with it before, but am having a hard time finding any recipes online for that, so I’ll just have to write it up and share it next year during fig season 🙂 And once you actually have figs, this cheesecake is pretty stellar, too. Enjoy, my friends!!
Fig Leaf Syrup
- 6 fig leaves
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay the fig leaves out on a baking sheet in an even layer so that they are not touching one another. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook until the leaves dry out and curl up and are still green, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on the heat of your oven and if you're using a convection fan or not. Remove them from the oven and set aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water, honey, and sugar to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat, add the toasted fig leaves, and stir to combine.
Allow the mixture to infuse as it cools to room temperature (about 90 minutes). Strain, discarding the leaves, and place the fig-leaf-flavored syrup in an airtight container. I use this fluted mason jar: https://amzn.to/3JSfBP0
Keep in the refrigerator and enjoy within 3 weeks!