How And When To Pick And Store Figs

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This article provides tips and instructions for how and when to pick and store fig fruits
by Brett · All Zones · Techniques & Methods · 0 Comments · October 12, 2013 · 5,899 views

Picking figs is very easy to do. Before we get into how and when to harvest and store figs, here's some reasons why premature fruit drop or absence might occur:

  1. Young, vigorous plants will often produce figs that do not ripen. If the plants are excessively vigorous, stop fertilizing them. Quite often, it may be 3 or 4 years before the plant matures a crop because most figs have a long juvenile period before producing edible, quality fruit.
  2. Dry, hot periods, which may occur prior to ripening can result in poor fruit quality. If this is the case, mulching and supplemental watering during dry spells will reduce the problem.
  3. Some fig varieties, such as ‘Celeste’, might drop fruit prematurely in hot weather, regardless of how well the plants are cared for. However, 'Celeste' it is still one of the best, most cold hardy varieties.
  4. An infestation of root-knot nematodes can possibly intensify the problem when conditions are as described in #2 and/or #3 above.
  5. Some varieties of fig require cross-pollination by a special wasp, but this is a very rare problem. If this is the case, then it will never set a good crop. One way to resolve this is to replace the plant with a popular variety not known to be effected by this problem.

When To Pick Figs

There are few basic indicators as to when a fig is ripe and ready to pick. Figs must be picked ripe from the trees, since they do not ripen once picked. When a fig is ripe it will seperate easily from the tree. The ripe figs will separate easily from the tree when you lift them upwards from their normal drooping position.

Color - Figs come in all colors from yellow, brown, red to purple, black and others. So you need to know what color of the ripe fig is of your specific variety. The most commonly grown figs, Brown Turkey and Celeste are a golden yellow when ripe. Do a little research to find out what color the variety you have is when ripe.

Texture - Ripe figs become soft like a peach when ripe, but they should not be mushy or fall apart. Unripe figs are harder

Fruit Position - The fruit stem of a ripe fig will definitely droop a bit. Unripe figs are more firmly attached and do not droop.

Storing or Freezing Figs

Fresh Storage
Figs won't last long at room temperature, but a mildly cool refrigerator will keep them several days for fresh eating.

If you can't use all the figs within a few days you can freeze them. This is best done within 12 hours of picking time.

Before freezing, wash ripe figs thoroughly, remove stems, remove soft spots, peel if desired, and leave whole or cut in half or slices. If you intend on making figs later freeze then whole.

Figs freeze well with or without sugar, peeled or unpeeled. They should be fully ripe for best flavor.

In sweet syrup:
- Mix 1 cup of sugar in 2 cups water. Some folks use 3 cups of sugar to 4 cups water. Allow 1 cup of syrup for each quart of figs. To keep fruit from darkening, stir 3/4 teaspoon of crystalline ascorbic acid into each quart of syrup, or use a commercial ascorbic acid mixture according to instructions on package label.
- Slice figs in half or about 1/4-inch thick, or leave them hole.
- Fill polyethyene container, ziploc bag, or vacuum freezer bag about 1/4 full of syrup, then packing fresh figs solidly in container. Pack the containers to force out as much air as possible since air dries out the figs when they freeze. Cover again with syrup, leaving about 1-inch of headspace in the container. Be sure to label and date containers.
- Place containers as quickly as possible into the coldest part of your freezer, allowing room around the containers to promote fast freezing. Containers can be packed more economically after they are frozen solid, usually 24 hours.

When you are ready to eat them, thaw the frozen figs in the refrigerator in the container.

Without syrup:
- Sprinkle figs with ascorbic acid mixture dissolved in a little water.
- Place figs on a baking sheet and freeze quickly.
- Remove individually frozen figs and pack tightly in freezer bags or containers, avoiding airpockets between figs as much as possible.
- Crumple wax paper and place in 1-inch headspace, or cover surface snuggly with plastic film. Seal airtight and store in freezer at zero degrees F.

Drying Figs

Sun Dried Figs

  1. Wash your fully ripened figs with water. The best indication that a fig is fully ripe is when it falls to the ground.
  2. Cut the figs in half, just up to the stems.
  3. Lay them, cut side up, on a drying rack.
  4. Place the rack in an area with full sun. You can also dry figs inside a car that is parked in the sun.
  5. Cover the figs with a cheesecloth to protect them from insects.
  6. Allow the figs to be in full sun for 2 to 3 full days, bringing them inside after dark and then returning them to full sun in the morning. The figs will be dry when the outside feels leathery and no juice can be seen on the inside when squeezed.

Oven Dried Figs

  1. Preheat your oven to 140 degrees F (60 degrees C).
  2. Wash your figs thoroughly with water.
  3. Pat the figs dry and cut them in half.
  4. Lay them cut side up on a rack and place into the oven.
  5. Prop the oven door open slightly to allow the moisture to escape and prevent the figs from getting too hot and cooking instead of drying.
  6. Turn the figs occasionally during the drying process.
  7. Allow the figs to stay in the oven for 15 to 36 hours or until the outsides are leathery and no juice can be seen on the inside. If you don't want to leave the oven on continuously, you can turn it off for up to 8 hours at a time.

Storing Dried Figs

Store your dried figs in air-tight containers or freezer bags and keep them in the refrigerator or the freezer. Dried figs will keep for approximately 18 to 24 months when properly stored.


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