An edible fruit that grows on a tree packed with nutrients such as iron, calcium, potassium and fiber. There are hundreds of varieties of figs which range dramatically in size and color. Fresh figs are soft, very fragile and spoil quickly, making them generally unsuitable for shipping. Several varieties are suitable for drying and preserving and this is how figs are most often found. Unless pruned [not necessary on mature trees] most varieties produce two crops, the first on established branches, and the main crop on new growth.
Fresh figs are pear shaped, some more squat and others with a longer neck. They range in size from small 1" diameter fruits to large 21/2-3" varieties. The skins of the different figs are golden, yellow, amber to brown, light to deep green, light violet to deepest purple, and black. The thin layer of rind is generally white with the edible flesh and seeds ranging from pale pink to deep brownish red.
Selecting and Buying
Figs are a fruit that can often be foraged, since many can continue to grow, thrive and produce for decades with no human influence. In many areas, fig trees can be found in fields or vacant lots. If a fig tree was planted by a house or structure that was then abandoned, the house can be long fallen down while the tree continues to produce delicious fruit.
There are many varities of figs that grow wild in some parts of the world. Some of these are edible for humans, but the taste may be questionable. These figs are an extremely important food crop for wildlife.
Preparation and Use
Fresh figs must be used soon after picking as they spoil quickly even when refrigerated. The fruit is picked from the tree with the stem attached, but it should be removed before preparation. Fresh figs are not a common ingredient used in many recipes, especially baking. The fruit naturally varies in water content from year to year making it difficult to achieve a consistent result in baked goods. Although there are good cake and cookie recipes to be found, the baker should be prepared for some trial and error to achieve desired results. For the experienced baker willing to experiment, figs can make an excellent healthy substitute for the fat or sweet component in a recipe. They have no fat, and have the highest fiber content of all common fruits and vegetables.
Dried figs can be used easily in any recipe that calls for dried fruits of the sweet and sticky variety. Oiling the blade of the knife, scissors or food processor will make cutting or chopping dried figs much easier. Rinsing the blade in hot water will quickly remove the stickiness.
Conserving and Storing
Many varieties of figs are excellent for drying. Dried figs will last for 6-8 months when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Several varieties also make excellent preserves, alone or combined with other friuts [strawberry, rhubarb] and flavors [ginger, citrus]. Sometimes dried figs develop a white coating of crystallized natural fruit sugars on the surface. Since this is hastened by fluctuations in temperature and humidity, storing in the refrigerator or freezer is not recommended. This does not affect the quality of the fig, but can be easily removed by rinsing in hot water , if desired.