Feasting on Figs with Rachel Carley

Rachel Carley's colourful ceramics and the ancient history of the fig tree.

‘The leaves are turning from green to gold and rust, the last of the fruits hang crimson and smoky blue on the trees, the pumpkin-coloured dahlias and Michaelmas daisies have collapsed like drunks across the gravel path. The garden darkens to the colour of ginger cake, here and there a shot of saffron, brilliant ochre or deepest crimson. The colours, I would guess, of the Vatican at prayer.'

— Nigel Slater on his fig tree and fruiting garden as autumn approaches.

The fig is one of the most ancient fruits we know. Sweetened under the desert sun, well before our time, they tell a humble story of feasting and famine. Evidence of Ficus Carica (the edible fig) was discovered in Neolithic sites from 5000BC— thus the fig tree is one of the first fruits to be recorded in our history. In an ancient Greece Olympians were gifted figs as it was believed that the fruit had restorative powers and symbolised prosperity and peace. They believed that figs were ‘heaven-sent’.

And, don’t you believe it too? A perfectly ripe fig, what a gift! Picked from the tree and eaten right under its branches… Or a fig paired with goat cheese and drizzled with honey… Or roasted under a grill bubbling with gold… Or dried in the sun and sweeter than anything you’ve ever tasted before! Patience Grey, the great cook who was renowned for her humble recipes and fondness towards edible weeds and foraging, wrote in her book Honey from a Weed (an account of the Mediterranean way of life): 'Figs are best eaten from the tree, or gathered in the very early morning and set on a fig leaf in a dish in pyramid form to eat at midday.'

Rachel Carley’s wonderfully bright and playful dishes are the perfect host for an afternoon platter of perfectly ripe fruit. The objects she makes are colourful with wise intention. A sustainable imperative informs the design practice. The ceramics are proudly made in New Zealand, and have become collectable so are less likely to be part of a disposable ‘throwaway’ culture. They are designed to be used through breakfast, lunch, and dinner, becoming intimately connected with the food rituals and tea and coffee ceremonies of everyday life.

Shop all Rachel Carley, here.

'Figs are best eaten from the tree, or gathered in the very early morning and set on a fig leaf in a dish in pyramid form to eat at midday.'—Patience Grey
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