Although not juicy, the fig is an incredibly luscious fruit, with a delicate aroma and sweet flavour. Originally from Asia, figs are now grown across the Mediterranean and there are hundreds of different varieties, grouped into four main colours: white, green, red and purple/black.
Figs have an oval or squat pear shape, and thin skin that encloses hundreds of seeds (actually miniature fruits themselves) held in a succulent, softly fibrous red or purple flesh. Figs are very delicate and need gentle handling. You can also buy them dried.
Dried are available year round.
Choose the best
Go for plump examples that feel soft (but not too liquid) with no bruising or splits. At the peak of their ripeness they will have a faint bloom. If they smell sour, they’re past their best.
Gently wipe the skins with a damp cloth, trim off the stem if it’s hard, then either keep whole or cut in half from top to bottom. Alternatively, you can make a fig ‘flower’. Make a deep cross at the top end of the fig, cutting almost but not all of the way through. Then squeeze at the base with your fingers – the four quarters should open out like petals.
Figs are best at room temperature, so take them out of the fridge an hour before you eat them.
If you buy slightly under-ripe figs, keep outside the fridge to ripen up. Otherwise, store in the fridge, each one loosely wrapped in kitchen paper. Figs perish very quickly, so eat within one or two days of buying.
Eat raw, drizzled with honey, a scattering of toasted nuts and some clotted cream, or in a salad with Parma ham or goat’s cheese and rocket. Alternatively, halve and grill (2-3 minutes); roast whole (8-12 minutes); poach whole (5-8). You can also use dried figs in baking or as a snack.