Delicious, nutritious – and often underrated – Figs bring to mind the rustic and sun-soaked hillsides of the eastern Mediterranean, along with that region’s traditional cuisine – but as a culinary ingredient they don’t discriminate, and figure into any number of endeavors. From fresh eating, to dried snacks, to both savory and sweet baking, and on to appetizers and main dishes, Figs are a surprisingly versatile fruit. So get ready to dig in and explore in this weeks Forager’s Pick below.
Black Mission Figs
Figs are one of the oldest plants to be cultivated by humans as a food source, with records of their growth as crops dating back over 11,000 years (in Egypt). Most popular now in Northern Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean, they have also been successfully naturalized in the US, primarily in Southern CA. One of the most popular Figs here, the (California) Mission Fig renders its name from the Spanish Missionary Fathers who originally planted the Figs around the San Diego Mission in 1769.
Black Mission Figs have a tough dark purple peel, which often cracks near the stem when it’s ripe, and a creamy ivory colored flesh filled with a jelly like sack of edible seeds. The seeds are generally hollow, unless they have been pollinated, in which case they provide the nutty flavor found in dried Figs.
In addition to fresh eating (or drying) Black Mission Figs also pair extremely well with savory ingredients like salt, spices, and even cocoa where they develop an almost meat-like smoky flavor. They make a great base for cheese appetizers – try whipping Blue Cheese and heavy cream and pipe into halved Figs, then top with toasted Hazelnuts. Or try sauteeing roasted beets and quartered Figs into a honey balsamic vinegar, and then toss with Arugula for a delicious salad.
Candy Stripe Figs
Also known as “Tiger Stripe”, Candy Stripe Figs are easy to spot with their tell-tale green and yellow striped skin. The rose colored interior flesh includes a crimson colored seed pulp which has a flavor reminiscent of raspberry or strawberry jam. This Fig varietal has the highest sugar content, and its flavor is light and sweet – making it one of the best tasting – and most popular of all figs.
The Candy Stripe is the most commonly eaten fresh and out of hand. They make a great both a great tasting and nutrient rich snack – and their attractive appearance and sweet flavor make them an excellent pairing for strong cheeses. They are also great dried and stored for later eating, or cooked and made into a jam or a filling for baked goods.
One of our favorite varietals of the Candy Stripe’s is the Panache Tiger Stripe, a classic old variety, these figs come and leave quickly, so snap them up when you see them. Striped in green and gold with a sweet raspberry red flesh, the most beautiful fig on a plate you’ll ever see.
Additional Fig Varietals:
Desert King Figs:
This larger sized Green Fig varietal is fast becoming a favorite among Chefs and Farmers Market patrons. It’s thinner skin is a bright to light green, and has a bright rosy red flesh, and sugary flavor with strawberry and mulberry undertones and a melt in your mouth texture. It’s rich juicy sweet flavor and succulent flesh make these a favorite for fresh eating.
Brown Turkey Figs:
This darling of the Mediterranean has a rusty purple skin with a light green shoulders and stem area. Its blush colored flesh has a distinct amber hue to it and contains edible seeds. Easy to eat fresh out of hand, they will often crack open near the stem easily exposing the flesh. More decadently sweet than other varieties, the flesh is meaty with hazelnut undertones.
Figs are a nutrient dense choice for either a snack or cooking and baking. Low in Sodium (if any), and rich in dietary Fiber, Calcium, Protein, and depending on the varietal they also contain various levels of Potassium, Magnesium, and Iron, along with Vitamins B and Phosphorus (when dried their mineral levels increase, so if you’re looking for more Copper, Magnesium, or Potassium, snack on some dry Figs). They are also a great source of Omega-3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, as well as free-radical fighting anti-oxidants. Most varietals are also Cholesterol Free and Sodium Free.
Cooking with Figs:
Here’s some of our favorite creative and delicious Recipes starring Figs, along with some other links to additional resources for using Figs in the Kitchen:
Fig Recipes (Clockwise from Upper Left):
Marinated Fig Salad: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/marinated-fig-salad
Onion and Fig Jam Crostinis with Roasted Garlic, Brie, & Prosciutto: https://www.cookswithcocktails.com/onion-and-fig-jam-crostini/
Pancetta and Fig Pasta: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/pancetta-fig-pasta
Figgy Focaccia: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/figgy-focaccia
Epicurious.com has some great creative recipes for both Fresh and Dry Figs, as well as some general tips on eating, prepping, and stowing your Figs.
Another great recipe features last week’s Forager’s Pick as well – Seared Figs with White Peaches in a Balsamic Reduction
And finally if you’re looking to do some Baking with the delicious Fig check out Brit.co’s 20 Fig Recipes That Far Outshine the Newton