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.


Translations: Vīģes, Figos, Smokve, Figi, Vijgen, अंजीर, Figos, Рис, Σύκα, التين, 무화과, Fíky, Ara, 无花果, Figues, Fige, Figy, Fichi, תאנים, Fikon, Смокве, イチジク, Figues, Abb., Figner, Figgs, Higos, Рис, Viikunoille, Смокини

Physical Description

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.

Colors: Wide range, depending on variety.

Tasting Notes

Flavors: Sweet with honey-like qualities, some have a nutty-sweet flavor.
Mouthfeel: Fresh figs are soft with a jelly-like pulp, Some with a tough skin; dried figs are chewy with a crunchy seed center.
Food complements: Cheeses; honey; pork; lamb; other fruits such as apples, Pears and berries; nuts
Beverage complements: Beer, Green teas
Substitutes: Dried-dates, Raisins

Selecting and Buying

Seasonality: july, august, september
Peak: july, august
Choosing: Figs must stay on the tree until they are fully ripe, because they will not ripen any more after they are picked. A ripe fruit on the tree will be soft all over AND the stem will be bent [limp] where it meets the branch. On some varieties, the bottom of the fig-opposite the stem- will be "cracked" open exposing the pulp when ripe. They should be refrigerated shortly after picking, and will only keep for 3-5 days. Because of these factors, figs are best picked yourself or purchased at a farmers market from a vendor who picked them that morning or the evening before. If the stem looks dried out and the flesh near the stem has started to shrivel they have been harvested for at least a day and should be kept in a refrigerated case.
Buying: Because of their very short shelf life, it's best to have a use in mind for your figs before you buy them. If you have a choice of varieties to buy, purchase the one that best suits your purposes. While all are delicious for eating fresh, some are certainly prettier than others if your goal is to make a dish beautiful to the eye. Brown Turkeys are a popular variety, big and beautiful, they are what you usually see in gorgeous magazine pictures. But, being extra large, they have a very high water content making them unsuitable for preserves, candying, or drying. If your goal is to make fig preserves, or to dry your own figs, choose a smaller more compact variety such as mission or celeste.
Procuring: Figs are easy to grow in hot climates, and require little to no tending once established. Varieties have been developed in recent years that thrive in cooler areas. Many fig varities require a lot of room to grow as fig trees can reach heights of 10 to 30 feet and are often wider than they are tall. They require full, hot sun for ripened fruit to be palatable.
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.

Cleaning: Do not wash figs or remove the stem until ready to use. Wash gently, as fruit is very fragile. Some varieties have tough skins that are usually peeled, while others are used with the skins intact.

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.


In BC times, figs were held sacred in all countries of southwestern Asia, and in Greece, Italy and Egypt. The fig is the most talked about fruit in the Bible, and is mentioned in Babylonian writings as early as 2,000 BC. Figs and the fig tree were of the highest importance in social and religious customs of the early Greeks, the Romans, and in the Middle East. These early peoples also recognized the health benefits of eating figs and using them topically for skin conditions.
The fig tree is the symbol of abundance, fertility and sweetness.

History: Figs are one of the oldest and most important fruit crops in the history of our planet. The fig is believed to be indigenous to western Asia and to have been distributed by early man throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. Remnants of figs have been found in excavations of sites traced to at least 5,000BC. By the 14th century, figs were known to be cultivated in India, China, Africa and Europe. They were brought to the Americas in the 16th century by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries.



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