Chocolate Dipped Figs

In a 1794 letter to his friend George Wythe, Thomas Jefferson wrote “…I ever wish to have the opportunity of enjoying your society, knowing your fondness for figs, I have daily wished you could have partaken of ours this year.  I never saw so great a crop, & they are still abundant of three kinds which I brought from France…”  Jefferson achieved some success with this tender species, often recording harvesting dates and regularly sharing his favorite variety, Marseilles, with friends and neighbors. The fig terrace, in the south-facing submural beds below the Monticello kitchen garden, was a popular site for Jefferson-escorted tours of the landscape. It also created a warm microclimate that, when compounded with the unusual hardiness of the Marseilles, gave the Monticello figs a reputation for unusual fruitfulness. At least one contemporary considered Jefferson a pioneer grower of the fig.  A friend and neighbor, John Hartwell Cocke, recalled that figs were “first successfully cultivated by Mr. Jefferson at Monticello after his return from his mission to France.”

Today, the Monticello’s Marseilles, Brown Turkey, and Angelique figs still abundantly grow on Monticello’s grounds and elsewhere including the White House.  In 2009, Monticello’s then Director of Gardens and Grounds Peter Hatch gifted a grafted Marseilles fig tree to Mrs. Obama.  Later that year, volunteers in the Kitchen Garden at the White House mistook the small fig tree for a weed and added it to the compost pile.  Thankfully, executive director and assistant chef Sam Kass realized the mistake, replanted the tree, and, jokingly, apologized to it profusely.  This year the young Marseilles fig tree bore fruit for the first time and gained the distinction of being the only fruit bearing tree at the White House.

In 1835 Margaret Bayard Smith, a friend of Jefferson and a central figure in the whirlwind world of Washington society, reported on a conversation with Henry Orr, “the most experienced and fashionable waiter in the city,” in which she suggested a dessert that included figs for a sophisticated dinner party. Orr responded, “Oh no, ma’am, they are quite vulgar.” Well, we beg to differ! Chocolate-dipped figs using American Heritage Chocolate are a delectable addition to your next garden party!


Chocolate Dipped Figs by Katy Woods

1 pound fresh or dried Brown Turkey figs

1 American Heritage Chocolate Block

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

  1. Over low heat, melt the chocolate block and semi-sweet chocolate, stirring constantly until the chocolate has melted. Remove from heat. Line a plate with wax or parchment paper.
  2. If using fresh figs, clean each fig and dry completely with a paper towel. Delicately holding the stem, dip each fig into the chocolate until the fig is covered. Set on plate lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours or until the chocolate is firm. Delightful by themselves or served with a glass of Gabriele Rausse’s Merlot!

For over 100 more delicious fig recipes, check out Under the Fig Leaf.



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