General Description: Figs (Ficus carica) are small oval fruits with a protruding stem that are delicate in texture and flavor and filled with tiny, edible, crunchy seeds. Figs enjoy a long and prominent place in human history. In the Old Testament, Adam and Eve covered their bodies with fig leaves, and Cleopatra hid the poisonous asp she used to end her life in a basket of fresh figs. Native to Turkey, the dark-skinned Smyrna fig was introduced to Mexico by the Spanish in the mid-16th century. Franciscan monks brought figs to San Diego–area missions in the late 1700s. The crop spread to various missions along California’s coast and produced the dark-purple or black Mission fig.
Figs don’t ripen once picked, so they must be at their peak when harvested. The fruits are extremely fragile, and their skin bruises and tears easily. A short season plus difficulty in transporting make this delicate, highly perishable fruit a high-priced delicacy in much of the U.S.
Black Mission figs have dark purple skins with light strawberry-colored flesh. Calimyrna figs are yellowish green on the outside with pale pink flesh. Kadota figs have green skins with amber-colored flesh and are less sweet than other varieties. Brown Turkey figs can be medium to large in size with copper-colored skin and whitish to pink pulp with few seeds.
Season: Black Mission figs are available from May through November, Brown Turkey figs are available from May through December, Calimyrna figs are available in July and August, and Kadota figs are available from May through October.
Purchase: Look for figs that are soft and smell sweet. Handle carefully. Purchase firm, unbruised fruit with the stems intact. It’s common for the base of the fig to tear slightly or become moist and the skin around the stem to be slightly shriveled. Ripe figs produce clear, sticky syrup from the blossom end.
Avoid: Avoid dry-looking, overly green (unripe), or bruised figs.
Storage: Refrigerate for up to 2 days; bring to room temperature before serving.
- Wash figs under cool water.
- Eat whole, peeled or unpeeled. If you choose to peel them, do so with a paring knife.
Serving Suggestions: Fresh figs are best simply halved or quartered. Serve figs in a green salad with Roquefort cheese and pecans. Make a fig pizza with gorgonzola, fig halves, prosciutto, and walnut halves.
Flavor Affinities: Almond, anise, blue cheese, chicken, cured meats (such as prosciutto and smoked duck), duck, lamb, pork, walnuts.
from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com