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What I Bought This Month: Figs

Fri Apr 1

While perusing a farmer’s market recently, I came across a fruit that I hadn’t expected to find, figs. 

As I imagine is the case for most people who grew up in an area where this fruit isn’t particularly plentiful, I had never eaten fresh figs before. I mainly knew them as gooey centers to a cookie that I hated as a child. Later, as a teenager, I sampled some dried ones my mother brought home but their concentrated sweetness was not to my liking.

Still, given that  I generally try to not put too much stock into my childhood tastes (they were interesting, to say the least) and that I’d become fond of the previously detested cookies in my adulthood, I decided to buy some. They weren’t too expensive, so why not? I bought two black figs and two green ones.

Upon arriving home, though, I realized I had a slight problem. That being that I had no idea what to do with said figs. Were they good raw? Could you eat the skin? Should I try some recipes?

Fortunately, the internet is a useful tool and soon I had my answers. They were (in order) yes, yes, and yes, but you’re going to need more figs.

This probably could have been the end to my adventure with figs, but, alas, I am notorious for not leaving well enough alone. Not only did I decide to sift through the internet reading up on figs, but I also decided to share what I learned and what I ended up doing with the figs I bought.

What I learned

Finding fresh figs can be a tricky business. They’re on the fragile side (apparently, they can burst on their own when they’re ripe) and don’t do particularly well when shipped. If you can find them grown locally, (they grow best in warmer temperatures) you’re in for a real treat.

I mentioned that I bought two different colored figs, but this in itself was actually a big surprise. Who knew that there were green figs? I certainly didn’t, at least not ones that were ripe and ready to eat. As it turns out though, there are quite a few. These are a few of the more common varieties.

Black Mission Fig

If your goal in buying figs is to eat something that will smack you across the face with sweetness, Black Mission figs are likely to be your best bet. Commonly grown in California, they have dark purple skin and a pink interior. Flavor-wise, they’re known to be incredibly sweet.

All that sweetness makes these figs pair well with savory foods. Prosciutto was one recommendation that I saw, as were cheeses like ricotta or mascarpone.

Brown Turkey Figs

Brown Turkey figs look similar to Black Mission ones, but they aren’t nearly as sweet, offering a much milder alternative. This makes them a popular choice for adding to salads.

If you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, however, don’t write these figs off. They can be drizzled with honey, made into jam, or added to desserts to satisfy the strongest of hankerings.

Calimyrna

Moving away into green figs, we have the Calimyrna fig. This variety has a goldish-green skin that masks a pink interior, and a nutty flavor dialed up to one hundred.

That same nutty flavor makes this fig a welcome addition to a cheese board, but they’re good grilled or in salads as well.

Kadota 

Another green fig variety is the Kadota fig. These boast a pale green color and make excellent jam. They can also easily be tossed into a salad.  

That said, Kadotas are not the sweetest fig ever, so while they are just fine to eat raw, don’t expect an overflow of sugary goodness. Although, The Spruce Eats recommends a sprinkling of salt for a salty-sweet flavor if that’s what you’re inclined to.

What I did

So which types of figs did I buy? I’m not actually sure. If I had to guess, though, I’d say that they were probably Brown Turkey and Kadota. Take this with a grain of salt, though, as I don’t have what anyone could call a refined palate and probably couldn’t pick up on more subtle flavors. Still, neither one was more than slightly sweet and I didn’t notice any sort of nutty flavor so those are my best guesses.

At any rate, they were fresh and pleasant-tasting (I definitely second the idea of tossing them in a salad). They were great raw, but after reading many recommendations to pair them with honey, I decided to give that a go as well as a topping to toast.

Needless to say, I now know why this was so widely recommended.

What you can do

I mentioned some general ideas of ways to prepare figs earlier, but there really are a lot of recipes to be found with a quick online search. Here are a few that I definitely will be trying:

  • Fig and Honey Tarts- recipe here
  • Spiced Figs- recipe here
  • Grilled Fig and Lentil Salad -Recipe here
  • Fig and Caramel French Toast (well, hello there)- recipe here
  • Homemade Muesli- recipe here