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Fall fruits: fresh figs


Dinah Grossman

Until about two years ago, I had never tasted a fresh fig. Dried figs were only mildly appealing, as likely to be sweet and pliable, as they were to be tiny, leathery pouches filled with lots and lots of texturally problematic seeds, small and crunchy and generally unappetizing.

Then I took a trip to Turkey, and everything I thought I knew about figs was reversed with my first bite. This is what figs were supposed to taste like, sweet and run-down-your-wrist juicy. These figs were deep purple, heavy in your palm, and so ripe the sugars were beginning to seep out and turn to a sticky syrup on the skin. In Turkey figs are peeled before they are eaten. Using your fingers you peel back the skin in strips starting at the stem end, leaving the strips intact at the bottom until you have what looks like a star of flower petals with the bare fruit at the center. The fruit is eaten off the peeled back skin, and then the skin is discarded.

If you are lucky enough to find good, ripe figs in this part of the world, they are best eaten as is. Leave them on the counter for a day or two to ripen if they are still a little hard or don't have any smell. Less than optimal figs are great baked into pies and tarts.