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How to choose the tastiest and sweetest figs when we go shopping

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The fig tree has the great virtue of being a tree that provides pleasure twice. On the one hand, its shade, which is capable of providing the most pleasant respite when the heat hits in summer. On the other hand, its fruits, the figs, which, at the end of the summer, ripen enough to become an essential ingredient in many dishes. Yes, they can also be eaten alone and they are to die for, but in salads, meat dishes and desserts they are unbeatable. Of course, the question is how to choose the best? Francisco Balas, head of production and R&D at Fiki, a company from Extremadura dedicated to the production and marketing of figs, both fresh and dried, helps us in this difficult task. It leaves us with no doubt.

You have to distinguish between varieties. Not all figs are the same. “If we have to say which fig is the sweetest, it is the ‘zucchini’ variety. Its skin is bright yellow and it has a rather small caliber. The pulp is amber, very clear,” explains Balas .

What if I want a medium sweetness? For all those who are looking for figs not to be so sweet – to use them in savory preparations or because they prefer them that way directly – Balas’ recommendation is to look for those of the ‘dalmatie’ species. “They have a green skin, with a purple flesh. The caliber is a little larger and it is very aromatic.”

If you are looking for texture, the ‘zucchini’ variety is also ideal. It is due to the seeds called ‘achenes’. In the case of this variety, they are “big and crunchy”, which makes these figs the favorite for those looking for a ‘crunchy’ effect when biting into them.

Beware of the season. The ‘zucchini’ variety will no longer be on the market this September, but there is no major problem: others come to the rescue. “As of September, ‘dalmatie’, ‘albacor’ or ‘black lady’s cabbage’ are available. This last variety is also very sweet for those looking for that flavour. The color of the skin is purple and the color of the flesh is deep red. They are a little smaller than the ‘zucchini’.

If they are light green, better discard them. Ripeness is a major issue when choosing the perfect fig. Color gives interesting information. “Except for the ‘dalmatie’, which is totally green, the fig should not be that shade. In the case of the ‘zucchini’ fig, you have to choose the one that is yellow. With the ‘albacor’, which is a intense purple, better if it has traces of green”, summarizes Balas. Another note: the national fig is usually sold in its optimal state compared to, for example, the Turkish one that is cut “very green because it has to be transported.”

If we have the opportunity to touch it… “it must be soft but not excessively. If it is liquid inside, what happens is that it is excessively ripe”. In this case, the overripeness of the fruit will make vinegary tones appear.

Figs with green skin are not usually ripe
Figs with green skin are not usually ripe

Cracked skin is not a defect. Although there are distributors who consider it a defect, “cracked skin is a sign that it is at its optimum moment”, explains Balas. Of course, we will hardly see it like this in large stores, but in small stores.

But without exceeding liquid. If the fig box is full of liquid, it is certain that the fruit is not at its best. “Another thing is that what protrudes from the hole in the base are some hardened droplets. In that case, nothing happens.”

If we buy them green… it is difficult for them to ripen. “There are fruits that ripen after being cut: they are called climacteric. Well, the fig is not climacteric, so it will be difficult for it to ripen in the home fruit bowl.”

They should not peel. Although there are many who have this custom, the figs, if they are ready, should not be peeled. “The fruit receives part of its flavor from the skin and, furthermore, it is where all the fiber is concentrated. For this reason, the fig should not be peeled,” says Balas.

To preserve them, better cold. Balas recommends placing them “in a cardboard or plastic tray and always in the refrigerator.”

They are very versatile. Figs can be eaten in various ways, including some curious ones such as “with sausage. With Iberian ham they are great but also with salami, the mixture of sweetness with the good fat of the Iberian is spectacular”. Balas also recommends using figs to make sauces to accompany game meats.

They don’t freeze very well though. Although we are tempted to freeze them, Balas advises against it. “The cold of the freezer does not suit them too well. This is because the figs do not have much water content, which means that the defrosting does not take place well.”

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