Figs, higos in Spanish are a popular fruit all around the Mediterranean and Spain is no different. Figs have been a part of the diets of Mediterranean cultures since ancient times, and are often mentioned in the Bible. Spain, Italy and Greece are among the primary fig-growing countries in the world. In Spain figs are grown in several provinces, including Huesca, Lérida, Ávila, Cáceres (in the Gredos mountains), Murcia and Alicante. Like other fruits, figs are eaten fresh or dried, and used as ingredients in desserts and sweet-savory recipes.
The fig tree is somewhat unique in that it produces two crops of fruit every year. The first fruit that the fig tree produces every year is called la breva in Spanish and ripens in June and July in the Northern Hemisphere. These are the fruits that form on the old wood of the tree and actually spend the winter as small “bottons” on the branches. The second crop is simply called the fig or higo and ripens from August to October. Figs are actually the inverted “flower,” and contains hundreds of small seeds on the inside. Both crops of fruit are shaped like pears and can vary greatly in color. On the light side figs can be almost white to yellowish green to purple and almost black on the dark side.
There are many kinds of figs, but two varieties that Spaniards love to eat and they are both named Cuello de Dama. One is a white fig that is very sweet with a thin skin. It is grown in the central part of Spain in the Tiétar Valley of the Gredos Mountains. The other Cuello de Dama is a sweet black fig with a flattened shape, thicker skin and a pretty purple flesh. This variety is grown in Lérida y en Huesca.
Choosing and Storing Figs
When choosing ripe figs, look for soft, wrinkled fruit that yields to a gentle touch. Figs that are ripe are very soft and tender. Unfortunately, that also means that they only last 3 days in the refrigerator. So, it is important to buy them shortly before using them.
Freeze fresh figs in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer to store them for longer periods.
Dried figs can be purchased year-round, and should be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.
Figs are full of vitamins and nutrients. A large fresh fig has only about 47 calories, but 7% of recommended daily fiber, as well as plenty of calcium, potassium and magnesium.