Figs—One of Mother Nature’s Best Fruits, EVER!

When you hear the word “fig,” do you immediately think of the cookie? Well, there’s much more to this fruit than a Fig Newton. In fact, there is nothing like the unique taste and texture of fresh figs—they’ve gotta be one of Mother Nature’s best fruits ever!

They are lusciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. California figs are available from June through September; some European varieties are available through autumn.

Figs range dramatically in color and subtly in texture depending upon the variety. The majority of figs are dried, either by exposure to sunlight or through an artificial process, creating a sweet and nutritious dried fruit that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

They’re high in fiber, vitamin B6, copper, manganese, potassium, and pantothenic acid. Research shows they lower blood pressure, protect against diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, aid in weight loss, and protect in macular degeneration.

With all the health benefits attached to this delicious fruit, it seems smart to learn how to use them. Figs have a mildly sweet taste and a notably sweet aroma. They are commonly consumed in a dried state, but fresh figs are also easy to eat, as well.

If you’re lucky enough to find fresh figs in your grocery store, be sure to choose ripe figs. The exact size and color of a ripe fig varies based on the variety, but all varieties are soft when ripe. A ripe fig will give when poked and will have a very potent, sweet smell. Make note of these fig tips:

Avoid figs that are hard or ones that have deep rips or bruises. A few small scratches are fine, however, since these will not affect the taste or quality of the fruit.

Also avoid figs that appear to have mold on them or those that smell sour or rotten.

Ripe figs can be green, brown, yellow, or deep purple.

You should use figs as fresh as possible. They can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days after harvest but will begin to spoil past that point.

While figs are often enjoyed on their own, they pair well with many other flavors and foods. To start with, you can:

Cook figs with oatmeal. Simmered in a pot of oatmeal, both fresh and dried figs turn into jammy fruit pockets.

Roast figs with honey.

Make a fig tart.

Stuff figs with cheese and bake.

Stuff figs with roughly chopped walnuts and bake.

Make fig jam.

Roast figs with meat.

Add figs to salads.

Make fig chutney for cheese platters.

Fold chopped fresh figs into Greek yogurt.

Wrap figs with prosciutto strips and bake.

Roast butternut squash chunks and combine with fig slices, fresh greens, and walnuts.

Use sliced figs along with carmelized onions, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar to top a pizza.

Combine walnuts and figs with cooked spaghetti or fettucine.

Serve quartered figs alongside seared baby lamb chops.

Roast chicken and figs together.

Bake and mash figs into a little honey and top vanilla ice cream.

Dunk fig slices in dipping chocolate.

Chop fresh figs and add them to spice cake batter.

Puree them into your morning green smoothie.

If none of the above interest you, you might try this unique and very good fresh fig-filled salad—perfect for this time of year:

ROASTED AVOCADO, KALE, AND FIG SALAD (yield: 2 large salads)

1 head curly leaf kale

1 to 2 large avocados, cored, peeled, and sliced

2-4 figs depending on the size, sliced

1/2 red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice from half a lime

salt to taste

pepper to taste

pinch Chipotle powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the stems of the kale and cut into bite sized pieces.

In a large bowl, massage the olive oil into the kale and season with salt, pepper, and Chipotle powder.

Place kale on baking sheets and roast for approximately 15-20 minutes or until kale starts to crisp up.

Assembly: make a bed of the roasted kale on a plate. Sprinkle red onions, figs, avocado slices on top.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and if you are like me and love a smokey kick, the Chipotle powder.

Drizzle with a dash more of olive oil and squeeze the lime juice over.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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