Common figs, or Ficus carica, belong to the mulberry family of plants. The fig tree is a hardy but easy plant to grow, so you won’t have to exert much effort to get access to those fig fruits that everyone talks about. However, to access those fruits, you will need to time the harvest well to get the best quality of fig fruit you can get. If you are a novice on how and when to harvest a fig fruit, you will find this article helpful.
Originally coming from the Middle East, they can be currently found everywhere around the world. And this comes as no surprise, having in mind their wonderful, sweet taste and the versatility of dishes that can be prepared with them. In the Mediterranean region, figs are so common, both as fresh and dried, that they are referred to as the “poor man’s food.”
There are a lot of varieties of figs having different colors to choose from, some come in purple, yellow, and white. These different varieties also have different climates that are best suited for them. Typically, fig-trees grow best in warm, tropical, and dessert-like areas, so you will notice that a large number of figs are well suited for these types of areas. However, there are a select few that can grow in cold climates that can go as low as 40 °F (4 °C). Look into which variety is best suited for the climate that is in your local area, you can do so by checking your local almanac or by consulting your local nursery.
The bad news about figs is that they grow on fairly big trees – this means you need to have a rather large garden, or plot of land, in order to grow these delicious fruits. The fig tree usually grows up to 20 feet (6 meters), so you definitely need a vast amount of space if you plan on seriously growing figs. Your fig tree is not picky about the soil conditions it is living on. However, if you want optimal growth, then you also need to have the optimal soil condition. The ideal soil conditions for a fig tree to grow is a soil that is slightly sandy and has a pH of near 7.
However, there is plenty of good news about figs (apart from their great taste). One of them is that they do not have to be completely ripe to harvest them, as green figs are also edible – and usually preserved into marmalades. In this piece we will discuss when to harvest figs, when are figs ripe, as well as what to do with figs after picking them, so stay tuned.
When Are Figs Ripe?
One of the first, and most important, things you need to take into consideration when growing figs, is that not all the fruits on the tree will become ripe at the same time. This is completely normal, and you should definitely not worry about this.
Contrary to most of te fruits, the fig fruit does not continue to ripen after it has been picked. You will need to be vigilant in checking which fruits are ripe, and this is especially necessary as picking a fig fruit early will leave a horrible taste. Figs that are ripe is sweet and delicious.
The unripe and young figs are small and green – they are also more round, like a bigger green marble. As they mature, their color will change – first they will start getting a deeper, darker green color, and they will eventually get a brown-purple color. Their ripe color varies from the species of fig; some ripe figs are full brown color, some are having green notes, some are completely purple.
As soon as the figs are ripe, they will also start to look “droopy” on their branches. This is a definite sign that the fig is ripe and is ready to be harvested, even if the color is still green. Every time you are unsure about the color of the fig, check their appearance and how they hang on the tree. Ripe figs are also growing larger, so this is another sign that your figs are ready to be picked. In some cases, however, figs ripe without growing to their full size: this might be due to colder weather, or lack of water.
Take note to handle the fig carefully to prevent it from bruising. Pull or cut the fruit gently from the stem, and leave some of the stem attached to the fruit to enable it to have alonger shelf life. Store your figs in a way that they are not on top on each other, as they can get bruised easily.
The green figs are somewhat firmer – the ripe fruit is soft to touch and can easily be squeezed. The softness in the ripe fruit comes from the juices in it that appear in the final stage of ripening.
When to Harvest Figs
Figs are usually harvested in late summer/early fall. The exact time varies from the species, so make sure you are informed about the species you are planning to plant. What month are figs ripe? This vastly depends on where you live as well – in the southern parts of the Northern Hemisphere they might start being ripe as early as July, while in the more northern regions, they are usually ripe around late August, and even early September.
Figs will stop to ripen the moment you cut them from the tree. This means that you need to pay special attention to whether they are ripe before you start with the harvest. After going over the checklist we have mentioned above, you can go ahead and try one or several fruits – if they have a sweet, rich taste, the figs are ready to be harvested.
You can always download a fig ripening chart online and check the particular color, size, and look the ripe figs have, in particular, the species you are growing.
What to Do With Figs After Picking Them
There are plenty of opportunities after picking the figs. Take a note, though, that their shelf life is definitely not long after picking them, so you need to eat them right away or store them in the fridge for a few days, but not more. When it comes to how to eat figs – the easiest way is to divide them in half with your hands and eat each half. You can also use a spoon.
There are various fig recipes around the world. You can use them in salads (with avocados, for example), serve them with nuts and cheeses such as mozzarella and burrata, you can combine them with bruschetta and cream cheese, you can combine them with pumpkin or potatoes, or even put them on pizza if you would like to experiment with tastes. If you are a more conventional cook, you can use them in a fruit salad, make a jam, or use them as a cake or cookie topping.
You can also dry your figs, so you can enjoy their taste all year long!
What to Do With Green Figs
If you have harvested a certain amount of figs and they turn out to not be completely ripe – do not despair. Green figs are also used in various dishes. You can boil them, make marmalade, or various preserved sweets (such as compote).
Green figs are also considered healthy, as they help with various issues with the digestive system, however, their taste is rather sour or bitter, so they definitely should not be eaten fresh.
Figs have been around since antiquity. And people have been loving them throughout millennia, and we can easily see why. They have a remarkable taste, which cannot be compared to any other fruit out there. The crunchy seeds inside are just a splendid added benefit to the texture of this fruit.
The Ancient Romans believed that the figs have healing powers and that they restore and maintain the strength and the youth; young people were eating them, so they can retain their strength and become even stronger, while the older people were eating them to restore their youth, both in looks and energy. And we can definitely understand their motives and beliefs. Figs are very rich in fibers, potassium, and calcium and have great nutritional value. Even the Olympic athletes from antiquity were eating figs to regain strength before their competitions.
All this is a sign that if you decide to grow this delicious fruit, you will definitely not be wrong. Just make sure to follow the instructions for growing, and make sure to go over our checklist above to be certain when the figs have reached maturity and are ready to be harvested.
Hopefully we have helped you on how and when to harvest your figs, and if you have any more thoughts or questions feel free to comment them below! We also offer some other guides as well such as When to Harvest Fennel and When to Harvest Eggplant.