Why I Love Figs

Have you noticed the new clamshell packages of fresh figs appearing at the grocery store? If not, keep your eye out for figs hidden among the berries in the produce aisle from May through fall and buy them ASAP. "The fig category is booming right now..." according to produce journal The Packer, and that means you'll have a better chance of finding them in stores. Why give a fig about figs? I'll tell you.
Illustration by Steve Asbell

Figs are Delicious

If the only fig you've ever tasted is a Fig Newton, you're in for a delectable and juicy treat. Creamy, sweet and somehow still juicy, they're high in natural sugars but low in acid. Eat the whole fruit fresh, include it in tarts and compotes, or use them in smoothies. Still not sold? Here's a quick and simple recipe that I think could get anybody hooked on figs in no time:

Bacon Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese

You'll need:

6 - Fresh Figs
6 oz - Goat Cheese (Bleu or gorgonzola will do)
6 Bacon Strips
12 Toothpicks

1. Slice figs in half.
2. Fill each half with goat cheese.
3. Preheat oven to broil.
4. Cut bacon strips in half
5. Wrap bacon around fig halves, secure with toothpicks.
6. Arrange wrapped figs on baking sheet, face up.
7. Broil 5 min or until bacon is crispy

The sweetness of the figs, sharpness of the cheese and the savory salty flavor of the bacon combine to create something so rich and satisfying that I can only describe it as "better than chocolate."

Other Variations of Delicious

If bacon just doesn't fit into your diet, try this variation by Carolyn Binder. She made prosciutto wrapped fig kabobs served with grilled pork chops and a fig-limoncello jam! My wife and I will have the honor of visiting her farm this fall, and my fingers are crossed that we time it right for another crop of figs.

My friend Stevie of Garden Therapy fame has a bunch of other ways to use figs, including fig jams, fig balsamic vinegar and caramelized figs! Swoon...

Figs are Healthy... and Sexy Too!

Flavor is just the beginning. High in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, figs have also been attributed aphrodisiac properties. Don't gorge yourself just yet, guys. As a natural 'Viagra' it's no stronger than a big soft sugar pill, and the fruit's laxative effects will kick in before you feel any hint of arousal. It's all about looks. The suggestive appearance of a fruit sliced lengthwise was all it took to get Renaissance men back in the game.

Figs are Sacred

Figs have so much more to offer than immature fits of giggles; they're actually pretty sacred. If eating a fresh fig feels like a religious experience, it's no wonder. It's the most mentioned fruit in the bible, and is sacred in both Islam and Judaism. When Jesus was in the wilderness, he cursed (yes, cursed) a barren fig tree which soon withered and died. As it turns out, Jesus understands the trials and tribulations of gardeners too.

Underwear DOES grow on trees!
Scholars believe that the forbidden fruit of the bible was in fact the fig, which would have explained the availability of the fig leaves that Adam and Eve used as makeshift clothes. Apple leaves would have been way too small. Clothes made of fig leaves seem fashionable enough Project Runway episode, and apparently fig leaves were even cool enough to make a comeback in the art world. Thanks to widespread censorship over time, other nude subjects besides our original sinners were defaced with the addition of fig leaves to appeal to a more squeamish and devout audience. I've been seeing a lot of lewd drawings in public restrooms lately... maybe I'll draw fig leaves over them.

Just as the fig became an important fruit in Western faiths, its big brother became a VIP on the other side of the silk road. A related tree, Ficus religiosa has long been revered by Hindus as a place for meditation. As the legend goes, the Buddha himself became enlightened under the sacred fig, and plants propagated from the original tree are considered sacred to those of the Buddhist faith. That's right: The fig tree is so cool that Gautama Buddha chose to spend 49 days in it's company before he attained enlightenment.

Figs are Relevant

Figs were important in ancient times, and they're important now. Figs were one of the most important foods in ancient western civilization, eaten by both kings and slaves for as long as 6,000 years. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans alike all loved a good fig. According to Wikipedia, Christopher Columbus spent a whole page of his journal fantasizing about eating figs in the Orient. I can't find anything to back that fact up, so I can't help but think it was just a euphemism.

Carolers sing "Now bring us some figgy pudding" in the Christmas carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas, referencing a 16th century English dish made of mashed figs that resembles bread pudding. It seems like it would be a pain to go through all of that trouble for total strangers, especially considering that they "won't go until they get some." I can't help but hope that's not a euphemism.

These are much better than Fig Newtons.

Fig Newtons are far more familiar to the typical American than figs themselves, yet the basic recipe has been around since the day of the ancient Egyptians. It wasn't until 1891 when Charles Roser introduced the Fig Newtons we know today when he began mass producing a cake-like version of the fig roll and named them after the town of Newton Massachusetts.

Where to Find Figs

There's never been a better time to find fresh figs in America and Europe. Every year they become more popular, and hence, easier to spot at your local grocery store. Look for fresh figs in plastic clamshell cases along with the berries at your local grocery store from summer through fall.

Choose figs that are soft but not mushy, and avoid cases with syrupy nectar pooling at the bottom. Ask the grocer if you can check yours first and gently break one open with your fingers. The insides should be pink or red, juicy and plump, not dry or brown. Since figs are highly perishable, plan on eating or cooking them within a day of purchase for the best experience.

You can tell the fig is ripe by the drooping of the stem

If you live in a warm climate like I do (zones 7-10) then you're in luck! You can plant a fig tree in your own backyard, and they just so happen to be really easy plants as long as you don't mind fighting with the birds come harvest time. Fig trees are drought tolerant once established and they lend a lot of interest to any landscape with their bright green lobed leaves. In northern parts of their growing range, mulch the base heavily in winter to protect the roots.

So... would you eat a fig if you had the chance?


  1. Thanks for including my photo, Steve! We're looking forward to your visit in the fall.


    1. Thanks for letting me use it! Hopefully everyone checks out the link and salivates over those recipes. :)

  2. Love figs too! Soo delicious and yummy and always look forward to picking off from our own tree (if the squirrels don't get them first!) :)

    1. Isn't it rewarding? The best part is that they're so incredibly carefree that anyone with a container or a warm climate can grow them. They take droughts really well once they've hit their stride.

  3. My favourite fruits, figs. I have a fig tree in a pot that is not doing so well - not sure what it needs, but I will hang in there.

  4. I got a very small Kadota fig tree at a plant swap about 4 years ago. Once it broke through it's pot, it grew like crazy and this year had fruit - that dropped off about large marble size. I reasoned it wasn't getting enough sun so have arranged to have it dug up and transferred to a humongous pot so I can move it to the farm at an appropriate time. BTW, check the latest Southern Living for some yummy fig recipes. cora

  5. Steve, thanks for sharing a link to my fig recipes. I will eat figs and love them forever. Thanks for all the interesting information I never knew!

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I'm a fresh figgy freak love your illustration and the recipes are an added bounce

  7. I LOVE figs!!! My tree is 3 years old & finally giving off ripe fruit. Im in TN. In LA where I grew up they were everywhere & I gorged myself on them. Here they are more rare but Im happy to find out that they are easy to grow & look foward to many happy figgy years ahead. Figs make a body healthy and are great for digestive system;)


Please feel free to share your questions, ideas and suggestions!