When buying fresh figs (available from June through October), pick ones with a honey-sweet smell that yield softly to the touch.
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.
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.
Serve this tapenade on crostini spread with soft cheese like feta, goat or blue. Sponsored by California Ripe Olives.
Fresh or dried figs are transformed by a coating of chocolate for a simple and sweet treat.
In this grown-up version of a childhood favorite, the sweet jam balances the pungent cheese and peppery arugula.
A perfect ending for your Hanukkah meal.
This slow-cooked Moroccan-style stew combines chicken with sweet dried figs.
These preserves have a complex, intoxicating flavor that balances sweet figs and honey with tart lemon and balsamic.