By the fig

By the fig and the olive

Qu’ran, The Fig


I had never eaten a fresh fig until sometime around the age of thirty when my husband plucked one from his mother’s tree and placed it in my mouth. The climate in Tasmania is far too cold for figs to grow and even the sight of the tree was unfamiliar to me. Here in Melbourne’s north however figs grow in abundance. Planted by Lebanese, Italian and Greek migrants they are a tangible reminder of a Mediterranean life. My children love fig season and although we do not have a tree of our own, they gather around their father in excitement when he brings the fruit home in empty Khobz bags, sometimes with bread crumbs sticking to its slightly bruised skin.

Fig and olive tree’s have developed a sacred aura for me, as they are mentioned in our religious sources as blessed. They also hold within them the nostalgia of early years of romance when with starry eyes I felt myself enveloped by the safety of the backyard orchard, warmed by the prospect of becoming a nurturer. The woman who feeds and tends her family, stirring belonging into huge pots of sauces and jams. Making flat rounds of cheese in the dusk light of early Summer. Love in abundance.

Even now years later when I have realised that these late twentieth century Anglo hands of mine can do little more than reach out in admiration or nostalgia towards the women of the orchards, fig tree’s remain magical. The gnarl of their trunk and branches as it meets such large and precise leaves, they are beautiful and to interact with them carries a soft holiness.

In the time since I tried to control my fertility with hormones I have suffered prolonged and painful periods. Being on blood thinners didn’t help. I expect my anaemia is the result of sustaining such a long and heavy cycle, usually fifteen days in length, the first four or five days ( which for some people is the length of a usual period) are often incapacitating.

As I casually mentioned this to a friend last night as we were standing under a fig tree, she suggested making fig leaf tea. Amongst other medicinal benefits fig leaf is apparently helpful for reducing blood flow and symptoms of PMS. For the last twelve months I have continually mistaken PMS for symptoms of major depression. So we plucked some of those wonderful leaves from the tree and today I am going to turn them into tea. InshaAllah!

How I love to learn about the medicinal benefits of plants.

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