For a long time, figs were a very mysterious fruit to me – and I’m sure they were to many others who did not see them regularly. Although many people in my area had fig trees, I rarely saw anyone harvesting or eating the fruit when I was growing up, so the first item I was faced with a basket at the farmers’ market, I hesitated before picking them up. Figs are actually not berries, as you might expect. They are the flowers of the fig plant, where the seeds and petals grow together into the edible fruit that we recognize.
There are many different varieties of fig, each with a slightly different color of skin and flesh, but all can be handled in pretty much the same way. Figs are eaten whole (after washing, of course). There is no pit or other large seeds to get in the way of their sweet, jammy flavor. Their skin is very thin and tender and puts up basically no resistance. A ripe fig is slightly soft and gives under light pressure. Figs can be used whole in recipes, can be cooked down into a jam with sugar and water, or can be dried and used in recipes that way.