How to Tell When Figs Are Ripe: A Delicious Guide

Figs are one of the oldest fruits in the world and have been enjoyed for thousands of years. They are a delicious fruit that can be eaten raw or used in various recipes such as jams, desserts, and even salads. However, knowing when figs are ripe can be tricky, especially for those who have never eaten or harvested them before. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to tell when figs are ripe.

Understanding Fig Trees

To know when figs are ripe, it is essential to have some basic knowledge about fig trees. Figs grow on deciduous trees that can reach up to 50 feet in height. The trees are hardy, long-lived, and generally produce two crop seasons each year. The first crop is known as the Breba crop, and the second is the main crop, which is usually the larger of the two. Fig trees thrive in warm, dry climates and prefer well-draining soil with moderate fertility.

Types of Fig Trees

There are over 750 varieties of fig trees, but they can be categorized into four groups:

  • Smyrna
  • San Pedro
  • Common fig
  • Caprifig

The most common variety of fig tree is the Common fig, which is primarily grown in Mediterranean regions. The fig fruit of the Common fig is parthenocarpic, meaning it can develop without the need for pollination.

Figs Ripe Indicators

There are a handful of signs that indicate when figs are ripe:

Color Change

One of the most common signs that figs are ripe is a change in color. Figs generally start out green and change to brown or purple as they ripen. The color change is often accompanied by a slight softening of the fruit.


Figs that are ripe will be soft to the touch. One way to check for ripeness is by gently squeezing the fruit. Ripe figs will give slightly when you squeeze them, and they may even feel a little bit squishy.

Skin Texture and Appearance

The skin of a ripe fig should be thin and smooth, without any bruising or cracks. A ripe fig will also have a slightly wrinkled appearance when you touch it gently.

How to Harvest and Store Figs

Harvesting Figs

Once you have identified that your figs are ripe, it is time to harvest them. When harvesting figs, it is essential to be gentle as the fruit can be easily damaged. The best way to harvest figs is by gently twisting the fruit, which should detach easily from the tree. Alternatively, you can use pruning shears to cut the stem above the fruit.

Storing Figs

If you are not planning to use your figs right away, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to five days. To store your figs, place them in a plastic container lined with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Make sure you do not overcrowd the container, as this can cause the fruit to become squished and spoil faster.

Cooking with Figs

Figs can be used in a variety of recipes, from sweet to savory. Try adding them to salads, roasting them with balsamic vinegar and honey, or making a fig jam to spread on toast. Figs can also be used in desserts such as cakes, pies, and tarts.

Recipes with Figs

Roasted Fig Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients Directions
1 lb figs, cut in half Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss figs with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10-12 minutes, or until caramelized.
4 cups mixed salad greens Divide greens evenly among four plates.
4 oz goat cheese Crumble goat cheese over the salad.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar In a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the vinegar has thickened and reduced by half. Drizzle balsamic reduction over the salad.

Fig and Honey Tart

Ingredients Directions
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and mix until the mixture is crumbly. Add ice water and mix until the dough comes together. Roll the dough into a disk and chill for 30 minutes.
1/4 cup sugar Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll the chilled dough into a 1/8 inch thick circle and place it in a 9-inch tart pan. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Arrange sliced figs over the bottom of the dough. Drizzle honey over the figs and sprinkle with sugar.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the figs are caramelized. Serve warm or at room temperature.
1/4 cup ice water
6-8 ripe figs, sliced
3 tbsp honey

The Bottom Line

Knowing when figs are ripe is essential to enjoy this delicious fruit properly. Keep in mind that different fig varieties can have variations in the color, texture, and taste of the fruit. By following the tips in this guide, you will be able to identify when figs are ripe and ready to eat or use in various recipes.

Common Questions on How to Know When Figs are Ripe

  • Q: How long does it take for figs to ripen?
  • A: It usually takes between two and three months for figs to ripen from the time they start forming.
  • Q: Can you eat unripe figs?
  • A: Unripe figs can be eaten but are less sweet and more firm than ripe figs. If you plan to eat unripe figs, it is recommended that you chop them and use them in a recipe.
  • Q: Should figs be refrigerated?
  • A: Figs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days, but it is best to eat them as soon as possible after harvesting.
  • Q: How can you tell if a fig is bad?
  • A: A bad fig will have a sour smell, soft spots or bruises, and will feel mushy to the touch.


How to Harvest and Store Figs:

Fig Recipes:

Types of Fig Trees:

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