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In Season: Figs

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[photo courtesy of xerones on flickr]

Those who grew up knowing only the figs that came in Newtons have a lot to learn. Figs are undoubtedly one of the most luscious fruits on earth, and they're now in season--get 'em while they're ripe.

Rich in taste, figs are even richer in history. The fig tree was a common theme in the Bible, and the Egyptians considered figs to be sacred, often burying the dead with baskets of figs. In ancient Greece, Plato wrote that athletes were fed figs to make them stronger. Fig culture spread to the northern Mediterranean and Adriatic shores until it reached southern Italy, and then the rest of Europe. When the Spanish planted figs in Mexico, and the Franciscan monks moved northward with pockets full of figs--that's when they came to the States.

Some figgy recipes, after the jump.

Figs are highly perishable, so only purchase them when you know they will be eaten within a couple of days. There are several different fig varieties. The most popular, the Black Mission fig, has blackish-purple skin and that stunning pink flesh we are most familiar with. The Dakota fig has green skin and purple flesh, and the Calimyrna, a greenish-yellow skin and amber flesh. The Adriatic, which is used most commonly to make fig bars, has a light green skin and pink-tan flesh.

When selecting your figs at the market, look for a deep, rich color, a plump, but not mushy appearance, and a sweet fragrance. When storing figs at home, make sure that they are refrigerated and stored in a safe place where they cannot be bruised or crushed. Take advantage of the tail end of the fig season and stock up on this delicious fruit. Here are some recipe ideas to celebrate the fig.

Recipes

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