Figs are not only exotic, they mostly come in dried form too. This begs the question, “are figs shelf stable?” Unfortunately, no! Figs are delicate and perishable. Read on to find out more!
A Brief History of Figs
For any Bible reader, you have likely come across the term ‘figs’. This goes to show you that the history of these fruits dates back to antiquity.
The tree Ficus Carica has its origin in Western Asia, where it existed for thousands of years. It was later distributed to the Mediterranean regions, where massive cultivation is still done up to now.
Nonetheless, fig cultivation is a thriving horticultural endeavor in tropical as well as mild temperate climates.
There are close to 700 known fig tree varieties. However, the most notable ones that any home gardener can plant include: Brown Turkey, Alma, Cardatia, Marseilles, Celeste, Black Mission, Kadota, Calimyrna and Poona.
Description and Uses
Whereas you may be more familiar with dried figs, fresh ones are also readily available. Both versions are sweet to taste.
When cutting through a fresh fig, you are met with seed-studded, juicy flesh. The color of the flesh can range from rose, amber or red-purple.
Depending on the fig variety, some can have thousands of seeds within a single fruit. Sizes also vary, from small to fairly large figs.
Savor the sweetness of figs by incorporating them in your diet. Besides munching them by hand, figs are a perfect addition to any savory or sweet dish. For instance, toss them in fruit pies, tarts, fruit stews, cakes, bread and puddings.
You can also puree them and use on sorbets, ice cream and smoothies. Additionally, go an extra mile and make fig preserves like jam, marmalade and pickles. Chop up some dried figs and add to your morning cereal or granola.
Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Figs
As you have already guessed, figs are rich in fruit sugars. Additionally, they are loaded with minerals, vitamins and fiber which nourish your body immensely. Specifically, figs have potassium, iron, vitamin K, A, calcium, copper and magnesium.
Adequate intake of potassium regulates blood pressure levels.
On the other hand, iron is beneficial for transportation of blood, hence maintaining energy levels.
Vitamin K prevents blood clot formation.
Additionally, vitamin A works as an antioxidant which promotes eye health, preventing age-related eye diseases.
Calcium is important for healthy bones, teeth and body development.
Moreover, magnesium is beneficial for numerous chemical and biological body processes like nerve function, regulation of heartbeat as well as blood sugar level.
Lastly, copper works with iron in red blood cells formation, prevents bone and heart related diseases. It also facilitates healthy tissues and immune system.
Figs, especially dried, are also one of the richest sources of dietary fiber. This element works as a laxative which aids in bowel movement. It also releases slow energy, hence creating satiety.
Shelf Life of Figs
Like other fruits, figs deteriorate quickly. Here is how you can gauge their shelf life in various forms:
How long do fresh, ripe figs last? (At room temperature)
At room temperature, fresh, ripe figs keep well for up to 5 days. Store in a cool, dry place, separate from other vegetables and fruits.
Shelf life of fresh, ripe figs (In the fridge)
Cool temperatures reduce metabolism in stored foods. This prolongs their shelf life. Use the vegetable crisper of your fridge.
Under favorable conditions, firmer figs have a shelf life of up to 10 days, whereas overly ripe keep well for 1 week.
How long do fresh figs last? (In the freezer)
For long-term storage, freeze your fresh figs. This is best achieved by placing them on a sheet, freezing for a few hours, before final storage in the freezer.
You can freeze whole, pureed or chopped figs. Use airtight containers and heavy duty wraps to prevent freezer burns.
Well frozen fresh ripe figs keep well for up to 8 months.
How to Preserve Figs for a Longer Shelf Life
Dried figs are extremely popular, as opposed to fresh ones. You can use natural sunlight, oven or food dehydrator. In ample sunlight, they dry well within 3 days. On the other hand, the other two mechanical methods take anywhere between a few hours and overnight. Well dried figs are leathery and brittle. Store them in airtight containers.
Are dried figs shelf stable? (In the pantry or freezer)
In the pantry, unopened jars keep well for up to 1 year.
You can opt to freeze, whereby they can stretch up to 18 months.
Another great preservation alternative – canning guarantees all year round fig consumption. You can easily can your own figs at home. To do this:
- Prepare jars by sterilizing them in hot water.
- Make a simple syrup of water, sugar and lemon juice. Let it reduce slightly before adding in the figs. Allow the mixture to boil for a few minutes.
- Pour into jars, leaving enough headspace. Place the lids on, but don’t seal.
- If you don’t have a canner, simply process them in a hot water bath. The lids ought to give a popping sound, due to pressure.
- Once cooled, the lids will lock automatically.
- Leave them on the counter for 1 day or more, without interfering.
Store unopened jars in the pantry.
Are canned figs shelf stable? (In the pantry)
Use within 2 weeks of opening. Store-bought ones last fairly long, due to preservatives. They remain in good quality for up to 18 months.
Making fig preserves
This process is similar to canning. You can preserve figs in honey, alcohol or sugar. The end results can be used as jam, jelly or marmalade.
Store unopened jars in the pantry, away from direct light and heat.
Shelf life of fig preserves
Use within 8 months. Avoid storing in tin jars – they oxidize easily and are susceptible to molds.
How can you tell if a fig is rotten?
Your sense of sight, smell and touch go a long way in identifying spoiled figs.
Here is how to tell if dried figs are bad:
- Visible mold growth
- Change in appearance
As for fresh figs, be on the lookout for:
- Sunken, mushy flesh
- Pungent smell
- Unusual discoloration on skin and flesh
How do spoiled canned figs look like?
- Hazy, cloudy appearance
- Separation of contents
- Rotten smell