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Seasonal Produce Watch: Figs, Figs, Figs!

Having had some divine figs–right off a ginormous old tree–on vacation, I was debating whether or to write about the arrival of this fall’s fresh figs back here at home–totally worthwhile, yes–but necessary? And then I remembered that I’d never had a fresh fig until Mr. T brought some home one day not so many years ago. They were so novel and delicious I ate the whole pint myself… and spent the next two days in very close proximity to the potty. But the less said about that, the better.

So yes, anyway. On the off chance that anyone else is, like I was, not clued in to the manifest delights of fall’s fresh figs, let’s dish. A yielding, velvety skin surrounding lush, honeyed flesh? Yes indeed. While there are tons and tons of fig varieties, we’re most likely to see Black Mission, Brown Turkey, or green Calimyrna in markets here in DC. And, providing that you don’t eat them all at once, they’re as healthy as they are tasty; full of all sorts of needful vitamins and nutrients in addition to, *hem*, lots of fiber.

Regardless of variety, key to picking good figs–is to look for soft, yielding, fruit. If they’re a bit beat-up looking, that’s often a good indicator that they’re ripe. Also an excellent indicator is if they’re oozing a bit of sticky juice from their bottoms. This makes the best tasting figs frequently not the best LOOKING figs, particularly if you’re not plucking them, sun-warmed, from the tree yourself. Get over this, as I had to, and you will be rewarded.

While figs, with their jammy sweetness and tiny, snappy seeds are wonderful in sauces and stews, let’s leave those recipes to the dried varieties. Fresh figs are a fleeting pleasure for most of us and the less fiddling we do to them, the better.

That said, while they are very pleasurable just eaten out of hand, fresh figs are lovely accompaniments to cheese and charcuterie. Simply top and halve them and tumble them gently against a wedge of Manchego and you’ve got yourself a gorgeous appetizer or cocktail snack.

To up the game a bit, you could take those same halved figs and wrap them in jamon Serrano or prosciutto, or schmear them with a bit of herbed chèvre. You could go crazy, I suppose, and swipe a little goat cheese on, then wrap them in some fine aged ham, and that would be just ambrosial. Figs are also a delicious addition to salads, both savory and sweet. The latter, a fall fruit salad, is really not to be missed in this short window when all the requisite fruits are available.

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