The Guardian - Meaty, jammy and very Instagrammable: why figs are having a moment

A hit with foodies, wellness fans and social media stars, figs may well steal the avocado’s crown this year. Here’s how to eat them – for breakfast, lunch and dinner by Lisa Markwell

Is it because when pulled open, they look like the mouth of the demogorgon from Stranger Things? Is it because they are slightly sexual to touch? (The legend being that a ripe one feels like a perfect testicle …) Or is it because, like the avocado, the fruit that went before it as one of the most photographed foods on the planet, there’s an element of jeopardy to buying one: you’re never sure that it’s a good ’un until you get inside it?

The fig is having a moment, which may turn into a permanent place in our hearts and on our plates (as well as our social media feeds). But if your experience is of a dried one, gritty and greyish, or wedged into a rather dry fig roll, the fresh fruit is a very different beast.

In fact, as Nigel Slater informs us in his book Tender: Volume II, it is not a fruit at all, but an “inflorescence, where flowers and seeds have grown together to form one mass”. This pre-ice age Middle Eastern/Mediterranean plant has plenty of varieties, from blue-black to pale green, and the season lasts from July until October (although, should you want to jump on the fig trend, Waitrose is selling small Peruvian ones at £4 for six, while Tesco black figs and Asda Grower’s Selection are both four for £2).

Figs are like avocados in more ways than one: they must be handled gently and they don’t respond well to fiddly preparation. (Does anyone really like cooked avos?) But while no one in their right mind would eat the black, gnarly skin of an avo, it’s absolutely disastrous to peel and/or discard the skin of the fig. The gentle chew of the skin yielding to jammy, soft flesh is quite the experience.

What makes the fig favourite for food trend of the year is its photogenic look and its heritage. As the Swiss flavour company Firmenich describes figs, in naming them the flavour of the year, they are “artisanal” and complex – rather like our old friends pomegranates, figs speak of ancient times and a rustic, hand-farmed product that is just exotic enough.

They are at once grainy and smooth, meaty and delicate – a bite into a ripe fig is extremely rewarding because it is more textured than, say, a strawberry or a peach. They are, of course, a favourite with the wellness crew for being packed with nutrients, antioxidants, fibre and their, uh, laxative properties, but don’t let that put you off. Figs are fantastic to eat, not worthy at all. The gritty inside can give you the same culinary hair-shirt effect as chia seeds, but oh so much tastier.

Let’s get back to its good looks (after all, no food gets to be an Instagram star unless it looks good, like a pert #avocado – 7m Instagram posts – or oozy #eggs, 8.7m). #Figs, at 645,000 and counting, look best either cut halfway down lengthways and squeezed at the waist, to fan out, or sliced thinly with a fruit knife to fan over a tart or a slice of sourdough. Dark purple, milky white and all shades of red from blush to ruby … phwoar!

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