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Do Figs Ripen After Picking ? Here’s What Really Happens

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Are you wondering if those figs you bought are ripe ? That’s a valid question, because underripe figs aren’t that delicious and there’s not much flavor in them.

Of course, some farmers may decide to harvest the figs when they’re not 100% ripe, because they’re easier to transport. While that’s true, it can have an impact on the overall quality and flavor of the figs. So let’s see if they ripe at all after they’re picked.

fig ripe tree

Do figs ripen after picking ?

No, figs do not ripen after they’re picked off the tree. This is why figs need to be droopy and soft when harvested. That is a perfectly ripe fig, and one that will not last more than 2-3 days until it starts to rot.

Unfortunately there is no way to make figs truly ripen after picking. Figs will soften after a few days, but that does not make them ripe. A truly ripe fig is wrinkly, has a dark color (except Calimyrna), and is soft.

A slightly underripe fig will still have some firmness to it, and leaving it on the counter will not develop the flavor any further, but it will become softer.

Read also: Why Are Figs So Expensive ?

Can you ripen figs off the tree ?

No, you can ripen a batch of figs after you’ve already picked them. What you can do with underripe figs is a nice preserve. You need to cut off the stem, slice them in 4, and dunk the figs in a pot of boiling water.

Boil the figs once for about 5 minutes, drain the water, and boil again for 5 minutes with new water, then drain again. Finally, add 1:1 water to sugar until the figs are all covered. They should be very soft by now.

Boil the figs again for another 5 minutes, then transfer them to clean, warm jars. Leave 1-inch headspace, and put a lid on. These will keep for 12-24 months, in a cool, dark place.

If you were thinking of the paper bag trick, that only works a little, and only with figs that were picked almost ripe. And again, it won’t ripen the figs, it will only soften them.

How can you tell if figs are ripe ?

If you’ve got a fig tree, you’re going to have a very easy time telling when the figs are ripe. We’re not going to look at the color, because there are different fig varieties and each has a different color when ripe. For reference, Black Mission and Brown Turkey should have a very dark purple and brown look. Calimyrna is still green when ripe.

black mission fig

Black Mission

The best thing to look at is the stem of the fig. Is it bent over ? Is the fruit drooping, and looking a little saggy ? If yes then that’s your perfect fig right there. It may not be already wrinkly, but a saggy fig is a sure sign.

If you’re in the supermarket, there’s no tree to look at. But you can feel the figs. Are they soft ? Ideally they should be a little squishy, kind of like an overripe avocado but with a soft skin. If they’re wrinkly they’re still fine.

All that being said, your chances of finding fresh, ripe figs in a store or market are almost zero if you don’t live in a fig-producing country, or are bordering one.

When is fig season ?

The best time to go looking for figs is from late spring to late summer, even early fall if you’re in California. When in season figs should be readily available in fair amounts, but often there’s not enough for everyone.

If you’re looking for the best-tasting figs, those are usually towards the end of the season. Not all fig types ripen equally, and of those not every tree ripens at once. Some trees ripen over the course of a month.

The more fruit on a tree, the more difficult it will be for it to properly grow and develop those sugars. So if your figs are in the middle of the season but aren’t still droopy, cut a few off each tree to let others ripen.

Out of season you’ll find dried figs and that’s about it. You can always rehydrate these, and they work just as well for a fig jam or stuffing as fresh figs.

Read also: What Fig Is The Sweetest ? 

Are unripe figs poisonous ?

Unripe figs produce a milky sap that irritates the skin, which is why workers have to wear gloves when picking figs. Only the fully ripe figs don’t produce the sap, and those are not really good for transport, only local sales.

unripe figs

Back to unripe figs, we’re talking about perfectly green, firm figs. They haven’t been proven to be poisonous, but we wouldn’t advise anyone to give them a try.

Figs that are just a little firm and underripe are still okay. Those were close to being ripe when harvested and they can be safely dried and eaten later.

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