Figs, Glorious Figs

“If I should wish a fruit brought to Paradise it would certainly be the fig.” – Prophet Mohammed

We don’t really “do” dessert. We really don’t. If we did we’d probably get a lot more hits from Tastespotting and Foodgawker, since they only seem to post chocolate flavored desserts topped liberally with powdered sugar and sprigs of mint. But bitterness aside, and in a kind of concession to both these photo sites and our own heavy bias towards savory dishes, we decided that it was time to make some sort of dessert, and a summery one at that.

Figs with Honey, Yogurt and Pistachio

Now, because we’re not bakers of any note, we decided to avoid baking, and indeed, cooking altogether, and simply arranged what nature and the bounty of our local grocery store had provided — namely, figs and greek yogurt decorated with honey and crushed pistachios. About as simple a preparation as you could imagine, right?

Serious About Figs

So, because there’s no recipe to speak of, I need to somehow extend this already overly long post, so here are some interesting tidbits about figs that I certainly wasn’t aware of, and I suspect, if you’re honest, you weren’t either.

Figs are the fruit of the ficus plant, or tree, and if you’ve ever had house plants, you’ll probably have had a ficus. While she was a student, my sister had one that survived heroically for six years on a steady diet of the dregs from cold cups of tea before meeting its tragic Waterloo being pulled out of her third floor window by an adventurous and powerful squirrel.

It is thought that figs (or ficus’) are among the most ancient genuses (genii?) of flowering plants being as much as 80 million years old, so it is little wonder then given the scientific accuracy of the Bible (note: this is irony) that they are described in its pages as the first fruit, and that it is with fig leaves that Adam and Eve hide their nakedness from the good Lord in the book of Genesis. In fact, contributors to the holy book were not the only ones to extol the virtues and practicalities of the fig, Roman poet, Pliny the Elder wrote, “Figs are restorative. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.”

Figs with Honey, Yogurt and Pistachio

In the intervening years, a wondrous variety of different kinds of figs have come into being — some through mutation, some by the hand of man, but today in the United States a couple of different kinds of fig predominate. The common or mission, fig is most, err common, and though, with its purple skin and pinky-peach flesh and yellow seeds it is at its best when fresh and ripe, sadly it is most often eaten dried. It was brought to North America by the Spanish and first planted in 1759 at San Diego Mission (hence the name). Later, the Smyrna fig variety arrived in California’s San Joaquin Valley from the eponymous town in modern-day Turkey in 1882 and was renamed Calimyrna later this century in honor of its new homeland. Other relatively easy to find varieties include the Kadota and Adriatic figs, the former is the American varietal of the Italian Dattato and is practically seedless, and the latter, well, is a variety originally from the Croatian coast, and is now very commonly made into, of all things, Fig Newtons.

Other interesting points about figs include: only the female fig is edible, and that figs are not really fruit as such, falling into the category of false fruits, (as indeed do strawberries, and many other berries) because the fig is, in fact, the flower and the seeds it contains are the fruit. Like I said, interesting, right? What? oh…

Anyway, it’s fig season right now through the end of September, so go get yourself some and enjoy them as if they were the first fruit! We have entered this simple and easy recipe in A Southern Grace’s Beat the Heat event since this is a great thing to make when it’s boiling hot outside.

Recipe (if you must have one) serves 4

12 ripe mission/common figs, split and spread as above

6-10oz plain Greek yogurt

2-3 tbsp runny honey

2 tbsp crushed pistachios

Assemble all these on plate and enjoy, perhaps with a chilled glass of dessert wine. We think something like a Pedro Ximenez or Moscatell would be rather nice.

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28 thoughts on “Figs, Glorious Figs

  1. As a kid figs freaked me out as my Dad would eat one after another off the tree in our yard. As an adult I love them, simple like this.

    I also love cooking with dried figs too. I think this dessert is spectacular.

  2. I love love love figs. I am ecstatic to see them in season, dripping their honeyed juices on the shelves at the grocery store. I hardly ever cook with them–they’re never around uneaten long enough! I really need to start cooking with them more–I love how you plated this dessrt!

  3. What a great collection of information about the beloved fig!
    I’m always thrilled to find figs at the market when they’re in season, and every year I try to find a new use for them. Last year, we put them into burgers!

    This recipe is classic (love that it’s simple, and not too sweet) — and I’ll bet it tasted as lovely as it looks.

  4. Way to respect the figs, guys 🙂 Thanks for the fig facts, and I think your dessert is great. It makes a nice, light, cap off to a dinner. You both have more than enough skill in cooking, so I’ll let you off the hook bake-wise 🙂 Oh, and by the way… I have never used a fig leaf to hide my nakedness… way too much chafing.

  5. Nice photo! thanks for the facts and I love the dessert – simple and delicious.

    It is astounding what a sweet tooth the food blogosphere has! It totally cracks me up. I’m like you, with a leaning towards the savory. Dessert does make really good food pr0n though!

  6. well now, here it is, 5 am, and i’ve already learned something today. thanks for the fig facts, and thanks for your entry! i’ve only eaten figs in fig newtons (sad, i know), so methinks i need to purchase some figs immediately. 🙂

  7. Theres nothing like the taste of a sweet fig! Your addition of the greek yogurt would be a lot healthier than my usual glob of mascarpone. I’m sure it taste equally delicious!!

  8. Dessert is completely overrated. Give me a hunk of manchego and some salami over cake any day! That said, I did pick up some figs the other day. They’re so tender, I cradled them gingerly in my hand through the entire shopping trip and drive home, not unlike the testicles should be handled. I think I’m going to eat mine on a lamb chop (actually, your whole dessert belongs on a juicy lamb chop, in my humble opinion).

  9. heather – why are you cradling testicles during your shopping trips? but, I agree all of this (minus the testes) on a lamb chop would be awesome, as it would also on a pizza.

    Adam – i hear what you say about the chafing, and you may be interested to know that in large quantities the skin of the fig can be mildly poisonous and has been known to bring some people out in hives, so you and Eve should also worry about the possibility of getting a rash in an inconvenient location…

    gif/ts – glad there are others out there who feel our pain on the dessert/savory issue of food p0rn. it’s immensely frustrating that a picture of a mundane pan of fudge brownies with powdered sugar gets posted, but a shot of an inventive and delicious dish gets ignored because it’s not all sharp brown and white color contrast… grrrr. i’ll stop there for now.

    loBurp/coco – figs in burgers? how – sliced, chopped, as a topping? baked figs in cream? again, whole, sliced as in a gratin… please let us know. we’ve got plenty of figs left and they won’t be good for much longer!!

  10. no, not rude at all. thanking you. we’ll have to try this, but i fear we waited too long — some of our figs are sporting white and green fuzz already…

  11. me encanta esa receta¡¡¡¡los higos son mi perdicion¡¡¡
    tienes un blog muy chulo,gracias por poner esas recetas tan especiales
    un saludo

  12. What a deliciously simple way to have figs! They are so abundant right now at the markets…the yogurt would really cut the sweetness of the fig….a perfect balance. Great job, guys! 🙂

  13. It’s a classic combination – delicious and healthy! When we have lots of figs at the grocers, I even go as far as to grill them, but that’s about all you need to do isn’t it? – just don’t mess with a fig.
    Regarding tastespotting/foodgawker – just remember how youthful and lovely you will be when all those dessert bloggers have no teeth and need to wear elasticated trousers. Your recipes are delicious – the people that visit here love you.

    x x x

  14. claudia! hey. thanks for the comment about the picture. i feel dejected and alone and loserish when foodgawker/tastespotting don’t take my pics (which those f-ers didn’t do for this post!!!! GRRRRRRRRRRRR). your comment made me feel whole again. thank you.

    maralco26 and canary girl: muchas gracias!!

    naomi: Your comment made my day… seriously. thank you so much – i hope you stop back again!

  15. Figs are my very favorite thing to grill. Toss a few fresh, ripe, washed figs on the grill, after they look fully warm turn them over and stick a fork in them. When the ooze coming out of the fork hole looks slightly carmelized they are perfect. If you feeling decadent, split them in half and melt a little goat cheese or mascarpone on top.

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