Ingredient Spotlight: Figs

Luscious, sweet figs are among the oldest cultivated fruits, prized for their honeyed flavor and soft, jammy texture. Fresh figs are delicate and the season is short – here are some tips to help you savor it fully.

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Season: There are two fig seasons a year – a smaller harvest in early summer and a larger harvest in late summer to early fall.

Varieties: There are hundreds of varieties, including dark figs like the Mission, which is moist and full-flavored, and Brown Turkey, which is milder and has fewer seeds. Light green or golden fig varieties include Calimyrna, which has a nutty taste; Kadota, which has few seeds and is good for drying; and Adriatic, which has sweet pink or red flesh.

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

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.

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.

Recipes to try:
Fresh Figs with Cashew Cream
Grilled Figs with Honeyed Mascarpone
Plum and Fig Flognarde
Roasted Figs with Honey and Rosemary
Yogurt With Caramelized Figs

Fascinating fact: Figs are technically not fruits but inverted flowers – some of which are pollinated by wasps in an amazing symbiotic relationship.

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Related: How to Select and Store Figs

(Images: Kathryn Hill; Emily Ho; Emily Ho)

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Emily Ho is a Los Angeles-based writer, recipe developer, and educator on topics such as food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. She is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and Food Swap Network. Learn more at Roots & Marvel