Figs. What’s not to love about figs? They may not look so special on the outside, but slice them in half and you’re in for a treat. The ruby-red center is soft, sweeter than sugar, and nothing short of pure bliss. Indigenous to Asia and the Mediterranean, figs have been grown in the United States since the mid-1700s when Spanish missionaries brought them to California. Today, figs are grown all over the United States, particularly in warmer climates. They are harvested in late summer to early fall (usually through about mid-October), but only keep for about a week in your refrigerator, so when you see them in your local stores, buy them, and eat them fast!
Figs, commonly known as a fruit, are actually the flowers of a fig tree that inverted into themselves. There are many varieties of figs, including Common fig, Black Mission, Italian white, Italian black, and Kadota (the kind used in Fig Newtons). Figs not only taste delicious, but are extremely healthy. They are high in antioxidants, calcium, and fiber. In fact, figs have the highest fiber content of any fresh or dried fruit! So, eat up without a hint of guilt!
As a child, my grandfather kept a fig tree in his small, Brooklyn backyard, which was surrounded by full hydrangea bushes, heavy with pink and blue blooms. I remember my grandmother placing platefuls of halved figs on the dining room table, and my relatives devouring them, because they knew once they were gone, another year would have to pass before they could indulge once again. Once the season was over, he would prune, wrap, and cover the trees, to safeguard against the winter weather. To this day, I regret not appreciating how special it was to eat delicious, freshly picked figs grown by my grandfather. Now, as an adult, I’m certain to buy fresh figs the moment they hit the store shelves, and remember my grandparents as I savour each succulent, juicy bite. They are excellent on their own, but my favorite way to eat them is wrapped in prosciutto, a classic Italian preparation. By adding a drizzle of truffle oil, you turn a simple, ancient food into something spectacular.
Fig season is almost over----so hurry! You will be happy you did!
Fresh Figs with Prosciutto
8 fresh black mission figs (or other variety of fresh fig)
8 slices of Prosciutto di Parma, halved lengthwise
16 small pieces Parmesan cheese
Truffle oil, for drizzling (available at grocery and specialty stores)
Coarse Kosher Salt
Gently wash figs under cold running water. Pat dry and halve each one.
Place a small piece of cheese on top of each half, and wrap in a strip of prosciutto.
Place wrapped figs on a platter, seam side down, sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle with truffle oil.
Serve at room temperature.
Note: This recipe can also be made with dried figs in the off-season.