Using Figs

August 29, 2012

When buying fresh figs (available from June through October), pick ones with a honey-sweet smell that yield softly to the touch.

High Cotton Food Styling & Photography

Figs may well be the first fruit man ever enjoyed. They’re native to Turkey, and digs in the Jordan Valley suggest that figs were domesticated nearly a thousand years before wheat or barley. Literary references abound: When Adam discovered his nakedness in the Garden of Eden, a handy fig leaf restored his dignity.  Cleopatra hid the poisonous asp she used to end her life in a basket of figs—a notable departure from the fig’s more common use as a symbol for peace and prosperity.

The Spanish planted figs in Mexico in the mid-16th century, and when Franciscan monks established the missions of California, they had figs in tow. Hence, the dark-skinned Smyrna (originally from Turkey) became known in this country as the Mission Fig.

California continues to be the largest producer in the United States. When buying fresh figs (available from June through October), pick ones with a honey-sweet smell that yield softly to the touch. Because they’re fully ripe when shipped, they’re often a little sticky. To serve fresh figs, slash an X in the stem end, cutting  about two-thirds of the way toward the base, then gently squeeze the base to create “petals” of flesh. It’s hard to imagine a nicer addition to a cheese tray.

—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.


Fresh Fig Compote

This recipe is easy to make in a single batch, but if you have buckets full of figs it is fun to make as gifts for your friends and family.


California Ripe Olive and Fig Tapenade

Serve this tapenade on crostini spread with soft cheese like feta, goat or blue. Sponsored by California Ripe Olives.


Chocolate-Covered Figs

Fresh or dried figs are transformed by a coating of chocolate for a simple and sweet treat.


Grilled Cheese with Arugula and Fig Jam

In this grown-up version of a childhood favorite, the sweet jam balances the pungent cheese and peppery arugula.

Honey Cake

Olive-Oil Orange Cake with Poached Figs

A perfect ending for your Hanukkah meal.


Chicken-Fig Tagine

This slow-cooked Moroccan-style stew combines chicken with sweet dried figs.


Fig Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar, Lemon and Rosemary

These preserves have a complex, intoxicating flavor that balances sweet figs and honey with tart lemon and balsamic.


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