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Fresh Figs?

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Ok, what's with the figs? Fresh figs seem to be the goodie of the moment. I see more fig recipes in the paper, in mags and online than I ever remember seeing.

My husband works at a well-known historic house site, replete with 18th century gardens. He says there is a huge bumper crop of figs this year.

Is there some worldwide explosion of fig production, leading to a plethora of fig recipes?

Anybody know?

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  1. I just went to a friend's house to water her plants while she's a way and was saddened to see a mass of figs rotting on the ground! If only I'd known. Still the tree had a ton of ripe fruit on it. So you seem to be correct!

    1. I think people are more open to trying new foods. Figs weren't all that common say 10 years ago. What was in supermarkets was $$$$$ ... $$$.

      The growth of farmers markets contributed to an increased popularity in figs. They were fresher, less expensive and came in a number of varieties. So many restauramts now a days have farmers market driven menus that people who might not try figs in any other way, will order a dish with fresh figs at their favorite restaurant.

      1. I heard on The Splendid Table that at one time most of the US fig crop went into Fig Newtons. With a decline their popularity growers sought new markets, leading to the increased availability of fresh ones. Faster and better distribution has probably helped, since fresh ones are so perishable.

        I finished up the last batch that I purchased by cutting them into quarters, adding some brown sugar syrup, and microwaving them. I served them warm with ice cream. I was inspired by a Spanish recipe that roasted figs with honey.

        In South America (Ecuador especially) green figs are simmered for a long time in a syrup (using raw brown sugar and cinnamon), and served cold with fresh cheese. They are called dulce de higos - fig sweets.

        1. It's a short season, and it's now, those little beauties are fragile and don't hold up well for more than a day or two. Try eating them just the way the come, pretty tasty.

          1. My market had Mission Figs -Buy one get one free- so 2 little plastic baskets for $6
            I picked them up for a sniff but I put them back down, unsure if we would eat them. I've never played with them before. These were yellow and cute. They also had champagne grapes (tiny, deflated looking grapes of wrath) and enormous grapes that I can't remember the name of- they were BIG and my friend told me that they have seeds, which I dislike because I don't like to spit.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Boccone Dolce

              Should have tried the champagne grapes, I had some last week, pretty awesome. As for the figs, a little gorgonzolla in side of the figs, wrapped in Prosciutto and grilled.

            2. I have a fig tree (yes! in Westchester), and this year I can't keep up with the figs. There have been so many, that I am constantly calling friends to come & pick.

              1. Get some figs and split them almost through. Stuff a piece of goat cheese in the middle. Wrap with prosciutto and broil until crisp. This is one of the most delicious things I've ever put in my mouth.

                1. They're in season.
                  They're considered gourmet.
                  They're timeless.
                  They're delicious.
                  They're sexy.
                  They make great easy appetizers with a ribbon of prosciutto or creamy blue cheese.

                  1. What's with the figs? Well, when I was eleven, and didn't care a fig for figs, and indeed had never heard of them except from the Bible, I and my parents were touring Greece and our bus broke down near a fig tree, and I picked a fig and ate it and oh my God... the taste was an explosive revelation! Truly heavenly.

                    And a few years later this longing was cemented when I saw this scene from a Ken Russell film. (I don't think it's in the D H Lawrence book, just the movie)

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Brian S

                      About those Greek figs... in the glory days of Athens (450 BC), the city lived by trade and Athenian boats carried back ivory from Ethiopia and maybe even tin from England. But the export of figs was illegal! The Athenians wanted to eat every last one of those figs themselves.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        Oh, this is a great story. Or maybe I'm just a nerdy food historian.

                        First, a myth. Zeus was chasing one of the Titans, Syceus (Sykeus) and his mother Ge (or Gaia, "Earth"). To protect her son, Ge metamorphosized into a fig tree and hid her son amidst the branches and greenery. The ancient Greek city of Sykea is named for for this myth, and the Greek word sykea/sycea means "fig tree." Lots of fig trees in Sykea.

                        Flash-forward to 7th century B.C, the region of Greece that contains Athens -- Attica -- became famous for their figs. The ruler Solon (639-559 B.C.) decreed that figs could not be exported, that only Greeks could eat them. Figs were extremely important for the diet of both rich and poor Greek citizens at the time, and those who were fond of figs were called "sycophants", which means literally "to show the fig."

                        However, after Solon's decree that figs could not be exported, they of course *were* exported, and loyalists to Solon tattled on the exporters, which is how the present day meaning of sycophant -- a servile flatterer of influential people -- got started. Whenever you see a word with the prefix syk- (Greek) or syc- (Latin), the word is somehow related to the fig.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Thank goodness the ban on fig export is no longer enforced! I have been gorging on the Greek figs for the last few months. The Royal fig season was way too short and is now over, but the large black figs from Greece have also been excellent this year. I love all things made out of fresh figs, and I am enjoying this trend. However, when a fig is really delicious, there is nothing like eating it straight out of hand. Or raw with proscuitto. Or in an arugula salad. So many ways to enjoy fresh figs.

                          Oddly enough, as much as I adore a fresh fig, I am quite turned off by dried figs. I can tolerate them in fig newtons, but overall, they really don't turn my crank.

                          I think as more and more people discover how wonderful fresh figs are, the more market there is to sell them fresh. I suspect there are others like me who assumed they would not like fresh figs based on the dried fig experience. It takes time to change market perceptions, and I think perceptions have finally changed enough to make it economically worthwhile to sell them fresh.

                          1. re: moh

                            I also think that it is a result of better storage and handling techniques, a fresh fig is an extremely fragile thing - you only have to look at one a bit sternly and it'll bruise all over and after picking they have a remarkably short 'shelf' life.

                            I've always loved fresh figs far more than dried but then again I've always had access to fig trees laden with the fruit cutting down on a. the cost I've seen the saddest looking bruised things sell for anything between AU$20-40 a kilogram (sorry don't know the conversion) at my local market - b. the blemish bruise factor that occurs in picking, storing, transport and displaying the fruit 'commercially'.

                            My sister's house used to (until a storm tore it down - the tree that is) have access to the most robust fig tree I've ever seen. Every morning in from late summer I would just go outside and pick some fresh figs for breakfast, some of them would be nearly as big as my fist (although I do have a small fist). Every season this fig tree (which actually grew in a neighbors backyard - but they're very understanding neighbors who lacked our affinity for figs) would produce enough fruit for; myself to eat fresh; my parents to make several batches of 'dried figs' (although they never got a chance to dry - my parents would eat them all); my aunt and uncle to also make dried figs; another sister to make fig jam; for the local fruit bats to raid at dusk. Oh how I'll miss that tree next season!

                    2. I noticed this trend as well. On every menu lately in NYC there are dishes with figs. Appetizers, main courses and desserts. Good thing they are very tasty.

                      1. Ah...and there are those that claim it was a fig with which the serpent seduced Eve, not an apple.

                        Here's my version of the fig suggestions above. Slit the figs, stuff with some feta, wrap in bacon, broil and then drizzle with a bit of Lyle's Golden Syrup. Sweet and salty, soft and chewy, altogether very sexy on the palate.