Everything You Need to Know About Figs

Ingredient Intelligence

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Luscious sweet figs are among the oldest cultivated fruits, prized for their honeyed flavor and soft, jammy texture. But did you know that figs are technically not fruits but inverted flowers, some of which are pollinated by wasps in an amazing symbiotic relationship?

While fresh figs are available twice a year, each season is short. Here are some tips to help you savor them fully!

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Season: There Are Two!

There are two fig seasons a year – a smaller harvest in early summer and a larger harvest in late summer to early fall. Figs harvested in the second season have thicker skins but have a more concentrated sweetness.

Varieties

Although there are hundreds of varieties, here are some of the more commonly grown figs:

  • Black Mission: Dark purple or almost black in color, Mission figs are moist and full-flavored. These are also the ones that are commonly dried.
  • Brown Turkey: Sometimes labeled Purple Turkey, these figs are milder and less sweet in flavor. They also have fewer seeds and are brownish-purple in color.
  • Calimyrna: Light green in color and larger in size, Calimyrnas have a nutty taste and are also often dried.
  • Kadota: This common fig is yellowish-green in color and the flesh is especially smooth and silky but not as sweet as other figs.
  • Adriatic: Sometimes also labeled "white figs" or "candy-striped figs," these extra-sweet figs are pale green or pale yellow and pink or bright red inside.

How to Select

Choose soft, plump fruits with intact, bent stems. Minor bruises or tears are usually harmless, but avoid buying dry, cracked figs.

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How to Store

Once picked, figs have a short shelf life and should be eaten within a few days. Store these perishable fruits in a single layer on a plate or shallow bowl in the refrigerator or a very cool place and eat within a few days. Although figs do not continue to ripen off the tree, firm ones may soften if left at room temperature for a day or two.

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How to Prepare

Handle figs with care; rinse them with a little cool water and gently wipe dry. Figs may be eaten skin and all and are delicious raw, baked, broiled, caramelized, or roasted. They may also be preserved by drying, steeping in liquor, jamming, or pickling.

Here are 5 delicious recipes with figs:
Fresh Figs with Cashew Cream
Grilled Figs with Honeyed Mascarpone
Plum and Fig Flognarde
Roasted Figs with Honey and Rosemary
Yogurt With Caramelized Figs

Updated from a post originally published in October 2011.

(Image credits: marylooo/Shutterstock; Emily Han; Kathryn Hill; Emma Christensen; Leela Cyd)