Late August is the time of year when black Mission figs are in abundance at the farmers market. I learned a nifty trick about keeping these delicate beauties from getting squashed in your bag: place them in an empty egg carton. It protects the fragile skins from splitting and each fig is gently cradled in its own container.
Here are some interesting facts:
- Figs are members of the mulberry family.
- The fig tree is the symbol of abundance, fertility, and sweetness.
- Dried figs were first used commercially in the Fig Newton cookie in 1892.
- Due to the high alkalinity of figs, people may eat them to help them to stop smoking.
- In ancient Egypt, figs were used as a mouth cleanser and as a facial mask to tighten skin. The juices from the fig leaves were used to treat insect bites and stings.
- Fig trees can grow up to 50 feet tall.
- You’ll never see a blossom on a fig tree because the blossom is inside the fruit.
Mission San Diego was the first place Spanish Franciscan missionaries planted fig trees in 1759, hence the name Mission figs. As the missionaries moved north they continued to plant fig trees in Ventura, Santa Clara and Sonoma. Today California is a leading producer of Mission figs.
Mission figs are a deep purple-black on the outside with a luscious reddish-pink flesh and an intense earthy flavor. Other figs available at the farmers market right now are the green skinned Kadota figs, with a creamy amber flesh and a light delicate flavor.
One large fig is about 47 calories. They are very high in fiber and are a good source of calcium.
How to Select: Figs are highly perishable and should be purchased one or two days before you are ready to consume them. They should be plump and not mushy. Look for skins that are not broken and check for firm stems.
How to Store: Figs are very delicate. Store them on a paper towel in a sealed container to avoid bruising. If the figs you’ve purchased are slightly underripe, place on a plate away from direct sunlight for a day. Another great way to store the figs is in an egg carton in the fridge.
RECIPES: Fresh Fig Chutney