A trip to the farmers market yesterday reminded us that brown turkey figs are in season (June through September). Other nice surprises were fresh lychees and okra, but our pitch today is for the figs.
Figs are a “locavore” food: The fresh-picked fruit neither keeps well nor transports well. That’s why most figs on the market are dried, and you should enjoy the fresh ones while you can.
There is nothing more special than a sweet, tree-ripened fig. Different species have skins that range from dark brown to green to purple. The brown turkey fig has it all: a beautiful purple brown color with a green collar surrounding the stem. The flesh is amber color with a mild flavor.
The brown turkey fig (Ficus carica)* is an all-purpose fig, delicious fresh and in preserves and other recipes (see recipe ideas below).
Brown Turkey figs were first cultivated in Provence, France, bread from earlier varieties. Today, they grow best in Southern California.
‘Tis the season for brown turkey figs. Photo courtesy Melissas.com.
*Other names include Aubique Noire, Negro Largo and San Piero.
TOO MANY FIGS
If you have too many ripe figs, you can place them on paper towels, covered with plastic and refrigerate them for a few days. Or, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to six months.
Or, purée the ripe figs and use the purée in cocktails (mixed with white spirits, for example), smoothies, or as a topper for ice cream or sorbet (add sweetener if necessary).
Figs have been a food source for man for more than 11,000 years. They were first cultivated in ancient Egypt, though they are believed to be indigenous to Western Asia.
The fig is one of man’s first cultivated crops—perhaps the first. Archaeological evidence finds that the fig predates the domestication of barley, legumes, rye and wheat, and thus may be the first example of agriculture. In fact, archaeologists propose that the fig may have been cultivated 1,000 years before the next crops—rye and wheat—were domesticated [source].
Roasted fresh figs with honey and hazelnuts:
a simple, elegant dessert. Photo by Karcich |
Dreamstime. Here’s the recipe.
Native to the Middle East and western Asia (it grows wild in dry and sunny climates), the fig is now widely grown throughout the temperate world.
The fig is a member of the Moraceae binomial family, sometimes called the fig family. Other members include the banyan, breadfruit and mulberry. There are almost 200 cultivars of figs, in a wide range of shapes, colors and textures.
Figs are among the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber. They are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and K and are a good source of antioxidants, including flavonoids and polyphenols. They are sodium-free and cholesterol/fat-free.
Today, the top 10 fig producing countries are (beginning with the largest) Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Iran, Syria, United States, Brazil, Albania and Tunisia.
Cultural trivia: The word “sycophant” comes from the Greek word sykophantes, meaning “one who shows the fig.” “Showing the fig” was a vulgar hand gesture.
RECIPES WITH FIGS
Don’t peel the figs. Enjoy them with breakfast cereal, yogurt or cottage cheese; sliced on sandwiches with fresh or aged cheese; chopped and added to rice; stuffed with cream cheese or goat cheese as an hors d’oeuvre; or raw or grilled as a side dish, cut in half and served with grilled meat or poultry.
Here are a few recipes from THE NIBBLE’s collection: