Figs: The Treasured Fruit of the Mediterranean

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The fig fruit is a sweet and nutritious fruit native to the Middle East and Western Asia. It is commonly eaten fresh, dried, or as a filling in various desserts and is known for its high fiber and mineral content.

What is a Fig?

A fig (Ficus carica) is a fruit that develops on the Ficus tree botanically categorized as an inverted bloom. It is a tiny, round, pear-shaped fruit eaten fresh or dry. Fig is also known as Anjeer or Common Fig. It has a distinct flavor and texture with soft flesh and tiny, crunchy seeds that add a subtle crunch.

Figs have been grown since ancient times and are said to have originated from the Middle East and the Mediterranean regions. In the modern era, they are grown worldwide, notably in Spain, California, Greece, and Turkey. The fruit is often in the season, from late summer to early fall.

Fig plants thrive in warm climates. Fruit trees can grow as high as 30 feet and have large, rough leaves. The common fig, such as Brown Turkey and Celeste, has all female flowers, so it doesn’t need pollination. The other three popular cultivars, Caprifig, Smyrna, and San Pedro, depend on pollination to produce edible figs.

Fresh figs have a mellow, sweet flavor with a tinge of earthiness, while dried figs are chewy and sweeter. The fruit’s interior is pinkish and has a thin, delicate exterior ranging from green to purple. Although figs are frequently consumed raw, one can also incorporate them into various sweets, jams, and chutneys.

The History of Figs

The fig fruit first appeared in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. Ancient Greeks and Romans placed great importance on it, and throughout history, it has been a significant food source for many peoples. 

Figs are a common crop cultivated today all over the globe and are a valuable export. Figs are valued culturally in many areas in addition to their economic value. 

They are frequently utilized in regional cuisine and are part of religious holidays and festival celebrations. In Babylonian mythology, fig trees were linked with female sexuality. In Christianity, there are several mentions of the fig tree.

For example, Micah 4:4 “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree,

and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.”

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Fresh figs ready to be harvested.

What Does a Fig Taste Like?

Figs are chewy and have a sweet, faintly nutty flavor when raw. Cooking makes them softer, sweeter, and jam-like in consistency.

How to Tell When a Fig is Ripe

Follow these tips in order to find ripe figs.

TextureMature fig fruit has a soft, chewy, and somewhat grainy texture due to its tiny seeds.
FirmnessA ripe fig is soft and yielding to the touch.
ScentRipe fig fruit has a sweet, fruity, musky aroma with hints of honey and caramel.
Roughness / SmoothnessThe interior of a ripe fig fruit is slightly soft and tender, with smooth skin.
ColorA ripe fig fruit typically has a brownish-purple or deep purplish-black exterior and reddish-pink inside flesh.

Select ripe, tender figs, and barely soft to the touch. Avoid figs that are hard, dry, or bruised. 

Can I Eat Raw Figs?

When figs are ripe and tender, you can eat them raw. They are an excellent source of nutrients, vitamins, and fiber. You can consume raw figs in various ways, including sliced in salads, garnished for yogurt or oatmeal, or simply as a nutritious snack.

Cooking with Figs

Here are the steps to prepare fresh figs before incorporating them into your meals.

  • Rinse the figs in cold water and dry them with a fresh cloth.
  • Removed the stem and cut it into half
  • Remove any hard, white flesh from the fig’s center if desired.
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Figs are a popular ingredient in salad as they help add a natural sweetness.

Figs are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisines and can be eaten raw or cooked. Here are four recipes using figs:

Fig and Goat Cheese Tart: This is made with a flaky pastry crust, creamy goat cheese, and sliced fresh figs. It’s perfect for a light lunch or as an appetizer. 

Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Salad: This salad blends sweet and salty flavors perfectly. Fresh figs are grilled with salty prosciutto, creamy burrata cheese, and arugula. Add blueberries for extra fruity sweetness!

Honey-Roasted Figs with Yogurt: This simple dessert is made by roasting figs with honey and serving them over Greek yogurt. It’s a healthy and delicious way to end a meal.

Fig and Almond Cake: This dessert is a moist and flavorful cake made with almond flour and fresh figs. It’s perfect for a special occasion or as a sweet treat anytime.

How to Store Figs

Fresh figs stored in a fridge can prolong their shelf life by up to a week. If you prefer a soft and tender texture, keeping them at room temperature for a few days can help them ripen. 

Dried figs can last for many months in an airtight container that’s placed in a cool, dark place. Canning or preserving figs can also extend their shelf life by up to a year. 

Frozen figs can last up to a year if stored properly in an airtight container. If you have the Kadota or Black Mission figs, slice and layer them with sugar or freeze them whole in syrup.

Nutritional Benefits of Figs

Figs are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. A serving of 3-5 figs has roughly 110–120 calories, 3g of fiber, and 1g of protein. 

Additionally, they are abundant in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K. These nutrients improve digestive health, decrease blood pressure, support bone health, and strengthen the immune system.

Figs contain anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols and flavonoids that help prevent chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Overall, consuming figs alongside a balanced diet can offer several health benefits.

Where to Purchase Figs

Fresh figs are usually in season from late summer to early fall, depending on the type and location. You can find them at farmers’ markets, specialty grocery stores, and supermarkets during this time. 

One can find figs throughout the year in some regions, but they are most abundant and at their peak flavor during their peak season. However, you can get dried figs and fig products, such as jams and spreads, throughout the year from various retailers.


Tabitha is a freelance writer with love for food and drinks. She loves gardening and is always looking for new ways to get more fresh produce. She also loves animals and has dairy goats, chicken, sheep, a dog, and a cat at her home.

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