This week’s Ingredient Spotlight is our ode to one of this season’s most desirable fruits: figs. Throughout the centuries, the luxurious flavor and texture of figs are simply unrivaled by any other fruits. One of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits, figs yield an intense, honeyed sweetness and jammy quality that tastes best when they are plucked at the peak of their ripeness. Their fragility and short season makes them even more desirable as it can be a challenge to get your hands on them, depending on the time of the year.
What to look for: As a seasonal fruit, figs are best eaten during the summer and fall. Unlike certain fruits like mangoes and apricots, figs don’t ripen once picked so it’s best to enjoy them when they’re already soft and ready for eating. Avoid any figs that are hard, wrinkly, overly squishy or dry. You’ll want to feel them for a soft texture that yields to slight pressure and a sweet, fragrant aroma. Also, you can know when figs are ripe when you see a soft bend at the stem area. Figs sometimes crack when they’re ripe, so a little bit of minor cracks in the skin are perfectly okay as long as there isn’t any mold or milky, white-colored sap on them.
Storage and prep: Figs are known to be extremely fragile and as such, don’t travel well for long, extended periods of time. Easily prone to spoilage, they should be stored in the refrigerator as soon as possible and must be eaten within a couple of days. If you wish to place them in the refrigerator, make sure to place them in a plastic produce bag or box in the coldest section. And if you’re ready to eat them, rinse them off under cold running water, pat dry, gently remove them stems and split them in half.
Uses and recipes: What to do with figs? The question is more what can you not do with figs! A fruit that has truly withstood the test of time, figs have been found as early as 2000 B.C. and have been an ageless favorite throughout the centuries. Not only are they delectable eaten fresh out of hand or as part of a cheese plate, they can be used in so many different recipes, whether sweet or savory. They can be sliced into sandwiches and melted into an scrumptious grilled cheese or sprinkled into salads for added sweetness. They can also be grilled with spiced pecans and balsamic vinegar or baked in the oven with honey. One of our favorite summer recipes is our Roasted Fig Foccacia with Gorgonzola Cheese.
Rich in color and flavor, Black Mission Figs have enjoyed a long and abundant history in the United States after it was planted by missionaries in California during the 1700s. Today, it’s one of the most popular varieties of figs available. Black Mission Figs have dark purplish-black skin that cracks upon ripeness to expose a soft, syrupy and almost jelly-like pink flesh underneath. Their flavor is mellow, delectable and extremely sweet, making them wonderful for jams, jellies or serving alongside tangy cheeses and savory dishes.
Brown Turkey Figs are a timeless favorite among fig aficionados and are considered one of the best growing variety of figs available today. The Brown Turkey Fig has a pulpy, juicy flesh that’s a rosy amber tone in contrast to the Black Mission Fig’s pink counterpart. Although deliciously sweet and juicy, Brown Turkey Figs are also more mild in flavor than Black Mission Figs with a slightly nuttier taste. These figs are excellent in recipes with a little extra sugar or honey added.
Although fresh figs are seasonal, dried figs are usually available all year round, making it possible to enjoy these tasty fruits at any time of the year. Dried Calimryna Figs can be eaten as a wholesome, low-calorie snack or incorporated into both savory and sweet recipes such as cakes, cookies, scones and stuffings. You can even simmer them into sauces and chutneys. These figs are plucked at their peak ripeness and sun-dried to perfection, giving them a richer, sweeter and more dense flavor than fresh figs.
Which fig varieties are your favorite? How do you like to enjoy these amazing fruits?