Wondering how to pick the perfect fig? Learn how to find the ripest, sweetest figs with One Quick Tip, how to store them, and how to eat figs, too!
Well, as an outsider coming into fig country, I will confess that it took me a while to figure out how to pick the perfect fig, how to store them, even how to eat them! I used to buy figs based on their outside appearance — I used to buy figs that were unmarred and firm to the touch, assuming that the soft, blemished ones were past their prime. And I used to get so frustrated when the figs I bought and left on the counter would look so beautiful one day and moldy the next. So here is One Quick Tip (ok, maybe more than one) to help you pick the perfect fig.
There are a few things to understand about figs. In this example, I am sharing with you Black Mission Figs, one of the most common varieties you can find here in California. But this applies to all figs.
First, consider the appearance and color. Lighter figs are still young — instead, look for deeper hued figs. You can see how these figs get deeper and deeper in color as they ripen, to an almost midnight purple shade. They may not be as photogenic as their lighter purple counterparts, but they are a good indication that they are riper.
Second, touch the figs. They should very soft and plump. You will notice that the softer they are, the juicier the fig. Unripe figs are firm to the touch because they lack the sugars and juices that are produced as figs mature on the tree. The challenge for farmers is picking figs at their peak but getting it to us at the market without going to mush, so often, they are picked a little early. If that’s the case, they will continue to ripen after being picked, so give them a couple of days before eating them.
I learned that in France, the figs I would find at the market were picked just at the optimal time of ripeness, making them very delicate — often, there would be a sign next to the figs, “ne pas toucher” – do not touch! Understandably so.
Since perfectly ripe figs are so tender, they are prone to bruising, so seeing little pockmarks, wrinkles or even stretch marks in the fruit as they ripen to burst is ok! Between you and me, I’ve learned that the less photogenic the fig, the more beautiful they are on the inside. You can see how the color deepens inside as they ripen!
How to Store Figs
Handle figs with care since they bruise easily! If they are very firm, it is ok to leave them at room temperature to ripen. But once they are at peak ripeness, store them in the refrigerator, lightly covered with a thin cloth to keep them from getting moldy.
How to Eat Figs
Let me count the ways! If a fig is perfectly ripe, eating them just as they are is my favorite. All they need is a quick rinse! But figs are one of my favorite ingredients. Here are a few recipes to help you enjoy figs!
Fig Balsamic Jam
Fig, Honey and Goat Cheese Galette
Roast Chicken with Fig Chutney Sauce
Honeyed Goat Cheese and Figs
Overnight Oats with Figs, Honey and Toasted Coconut
Honey-Balsamic Figs with Burrata
Chocolate Banana Fig Bread
How to Pick the Perfect Fig
- Look at the fig's appearance and color. It should be deep in color.
- Touch the figs. They should very soft and plump, and almost ready to burst.