Figs are among the best-tasting fruits you can grow right in your backyard. Trust me, I've tasted and grown them all, but don't just take my word for it. Many cultures have loved and fought over them for 1000s of years. Although figs have been used in countless culinary ways, when you eat a perfectly ripened fig right off the tree, there's nothing quite like it.
I often say the fig is nature's pastry. They're like eating a scoop of jam right off the tree wrapped in the perfect accompaniment, its skin.
And that leads us to the topic of this article, the texture of figs. When eating food, texture is an underrated element. Think about how a creamy soup can be smooth while croutons add a crunchy element, or how a silky chocolate mousse pairs with the crunch of toasted nuts. The texture doesn't just make our taste buds happy; it also adds a special feel to each bite, making it more interesting.
Figs are no different and with 1000s of varieties to choose from, each comes with a unique texture adding something extra to your fig-eating experience.
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I have found a common thread among new fig enthusiasts– they may not realize that fully ripe figs have a surprisingly soft texture, resembling the consistency of jam rather than the crunch of an apple. They can melt in your mouth like a well-ripened strawberry or raspberry.
While this uniqueness makes figs special in the fruit world, some may initially hesitate. However, with time and understanding, figs can become as enjoyable, if not more so, than common fruits like bananas, apples, or kiwis.
Similar to the different flavor profiles each fig variety can fall under, you will find a variation of textures within Ficus Carica. Some have a fluffy, meaty, jammy, cakey, buttery, or jelly-like/congealed gel texture.
My favorite fig variety to eat has a cakey or jammy texture. A fig is usually well-ripened, somewhat dried, and has the right genetics to achieve this texture. The Coll de Dama figs for example have a very thick pastry-like texture that I often compare to pancake batter. The Coll de Dama figs are a must-grow for those wanting to understand the genetic diversity of figs.
Other examples of unique textures are:
Related: Unique & Underrated Fig Varieties
Keep in mind, that growing practices, weather conditions, pollination or a lack thereof, and ripening duration, all contribute to the overall texture of a fig, not just the flavor.
For example, a question I’m commonly asked is…
Q: Why Are Dried Figs Crunchy?
A: Dried figs can have a crunchy texture stemming from their seeds referred to as the “seed crunch.” When pollinated, the seeds within figs become more noticeable.
This is particularly true for the Turkish Calimyrna, the most widespread dried fig globally, as it requires pollination for proper ripening. In contrast, homegrown figs that haven't undergone pollination won't exhibit the same pronounced seed crunch, as the seeds’ husks remain hollow without the pollination process.
The pulp is a fig lover’s favorite part of a fig. After all, that’s where most of the sweetness and flavor comes from. What I’ve learned after tasting hundreds of fig varieties is that not only does each variety taste different, but also has a different texture. The flavor is usually correlated with its flesh color, while the texture is largely determined by a fig’s female flower parts called achenes.
Did you know that a fig is a flower, not a fruit? Inside every fig are 100-500 achenes and each is considered an individual fruit. How amazing is that? Each each bite of a fig, you could eat hundreds of fruits.
The quantity and length of the achenes are what largely change each fig variety's pulp texture. A fig like the Coll de Damas contains short and much fewer achenes leading to the cakey texture growers love so dearly. I suspect that fig varieties with a meaty texture have more numerous achenes. Barbillone with its fluffy texture has fewer, but long achenes allowing for more air gaps in between each fruit.
However, achenes are not everything, which leads us to a fig’s nectar.
The nectar found within fruits is defined as a "sugary fluid." However, fig growers commonly mislabel it as "honey" or "syrup" instead of using the correct term, nectar. The nectar in figs not only mirrors the flavor of bee honey but also can mirror its texture.
When there is no space in the interior of the fig, the nectar can drip from the fig's eye and sometimes I've witnessed it permeate through the skin. Once it is exposed to the external environment, it solidifies, leading many growers to mistakenly refer to it as honey. Nevertheless, it's essential to note that true honey is exclusively produced by bees, making the use of the term "honey" for fig nectar somewhat misleading.
The quantity, flavor, and texture of fig nectar are largely influenced by photosynthesis, current growing conditions, and genetics. For example, some figs have a “drier” interior and don’t produce as much nectar as other varieties leading to a thick and jam-like consistency. Other fig varieties like Da Ponte, Dels Ermitans, Pastiliere, Black Madeira, and Castel Trosino all produce more nectar than your average fig, altering the texture to a “looser” or watered-down jam closer to thick syrup instead.
Don’t get me wrong, these varieties are certainly not watery by any means. However, that does bring up a good point:
Figs that are produced from young fig trees, figs that absorb too much moisture while hanging on the tree, or figs that are produced from fig trees grown in overly saturated soil can all have an unpleasant watery texture or a texture similar to applesauce. This is a clear sign that your tree or growing practices need improvement.
The skin of a fig varies in thickness and texture offering additional dimensions of flavor. You can find bitterness, spice, nuttiness, coconut flavor, or figgy essences within the skin of figs.
Is a Fig’s Skin Edible?
A fig's skin is edible!
Protip: Don’t peel the skin of your figs. Sometimes the skin is a major contributor of flavor, but depending on the texture and variety you’re growing it can also be a major detractor from the overall eating experience. My favorite skin texture is one that either blends so well with the pulp that it’s unnoticeable or a skin that contrasts with the pulp creating an interesting and unique mouthfeel.
A fig variety called Azores Dark has a skin that’s so thin that it’s almost nonexistent.
LSU Tiger and Black Madeira when well-ripened have a pleasant chewy and thick skin contrasting with the pulp. Think of a slipskin grape. Upon the first bite, the pulp slips away from the skin creating two different textures.