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How to grow and prepare figs

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Deer do not especially like figs but pocket gophers love the roots. To frustrate gophers, sink a wire basket into the planting hole or grow your figs in a container.

Beautiful mascarpone-stuffed figs

My grandfather introduced me to figs when I was about 2 years old, says Linda, the chef. He took me by the hand and we walked out to the giant fig tree in his backyard and ate ripe figs right from the tree.

I have had a love affair with figs ever since that day many years ago.

Some of my favorite fig preparations other than just off the tree are fig preserves and figs sautéed in sugar and lemon, served with honey yogurt, or as an elegant teatime dessert stuffed with sweetened mascarpone, mint, toasted walnuts, and drizzled with honey. Mmm, love.

You can use any kind of fig that you have available. Since figs ripen in different sizes, I have given estimates on how much mint, walnuts, and honey you might need. Add more or less as needed.

For an alternative to a cold dessert, there is the option of baking these beautiful figs for a warm dessert or even breakfast. Enjoy!

Mascarpone Stuffed Figs With Honey, Mint, and Walnuts

1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese

1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, or to taste

Figs -- as many as the cheese will stuff (depends on size of figs)

1 teaspoon orange-blossom honey per fig

1 teaspoon toasted walnuts per fig (toast for 1 to 2 minutes on a plate in the microwave)

Mint, in a fine chiffonade to sprinkle over figs

Soften the mascarpone cheese enough to mix with the confectioners' sugar.

Cut a cross in the top of each fig. Open them slightly so that you can stuff them with the cheese-sugar mixture using a pastry bag or spoon. After stuffing as many figs as you can use at the moment (see note below), drizzle each fig with honey, add toasted walnuts and sprinkle with the mint. Serve immediately.

Variation: If you would like these warm, leave off the mint and bake them in a preheated 350 degree F. oven until the figs are tender. The mascarpone melts into the softened, honey-sweetened figs and makes a wonderful, aromatic warm dessert or breakfast. Add mint after baking (optional).

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