Figs have a long and interesting history going back some 11,000 years. The members of the mulberry family are native to Mesopotamia, the area rightfully known as the Fertile Crescent, which includes parts of modern Iraq, Kuwait and Syria. From there, they traveled to Greece and Rome, before blooming in Spain.
In turn, Spanish missionaries introduced fig trees to Texas—appropriately, that variety became known as the Mission fig. Although figs can be grown anywhere in Texas with the right care, they do especially well in our coastal areas.
There are more than 700 varieties of common garden figs today, but only a few flourish locally. Fig varieties grown in Texas include Texas Everbearing, Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Celeste, Kadota, Alma and Blue Giant, most of which are the most common breeds.
How to Buy, Store and Use Figs
When buying figs, look for soft fruit which isn't mushy. Bear in mind hard figs will not continue to ripen, and sour-smelling ones are overripe. You can keep fresh figs for up to a week in the refrigerator or else dehydrate them and they will keep for months in an airtight container. Rinse them and remove the stem and they are all ready to use.
Toss your figs into a salad; bake them in a pie, cake or cookies; turn them into jam; roast them with honey; use them to stuff pork loin; make fig chutney for a cheese platter; cook them in oatmeal; or enjoy simply these tasty fruits raw, perhaps cut in half with a soft, creamy cheese spread over them.
In a Starring Role at: Underbelly
If you are a fig fan, you have a couple of options at Underbelly. Consider the colonial-style sodas (shrubs) which have been enjoyed for more than a century as a digestive aid. Choose from Topo Chico, Bavik Pilsner or Moretto Frizzante, and ask for the fig, cardamom and sugar cane vinegar mixture to be added in. If you prefer to eat, rather than drink your figs, take home a jar of the fig jam and enjoy it on your toast or with cheese and crackers.
Recipe: Fantastic Fig Salsa with Avocado
The sweetness of fresh figs pairs beautifully with the nutty creaminess of avocado. We are adding lime juice, jalapeños and spices for plenty of contrast. Try this salsa with pork tenderloin or enjoy it with your favorite cheeses.
- 1 3/4 cups diced fresh figs
- 1 small minced garlic clove
- 2 seeded, very thinly sliced fresh jalapeños
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 diced avocado
- 1 diced fresh tomato
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
All you have to do is combine everything in a non-metallic bowl and stir well. Chill the fig salsa for a few hours for the best results, so the flavors can mellow. This recipe is low in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat, and you will get about 2 1/2 cups, which is enough for 8 to 10 servings.