Maybe not, but those delicious little fruits can’t wait and are ripe and ready for eating now. Once picked however they go off rather quickly which makes it difficult to find good fresh figs in the shops or even markets. Your best bet is to find yourself a tree and have a little munch there and then. Make your way around and have a little squeeze.

You are looking for a droop. If they are still a little too perky they aren’t ready yet and are even liable to spill out a milky white sap called ‘fig latex’ that can irritate your skin. They should drop off easily into your hand. Best to be on the safe side and open them up to make sure nobody is living inside (not that I’ve found anybody yet) and then enjoy.

But, maybe I shouldn’t call them a fruit, although it would be a little odd to start calling them a ‘syncomium’ or inverted flower, which is what they apparently are. Within the globe of the "fruit" are little clusters of flowers that look similar to threads. Not being exposed to the outside world you might think that this makes it a little difficult for them to get pollinated but figs get around this in two ways...

For a few species, there’s a tiny specialised little 'fig wasp' that burrow their way through a small opening into this interior inflorescence and pollinate the hidden flowers. This leads lots of people to worry that they are eating a dead wasp that might be trapped inside. However, this generally isn't the case, as the wasp is tiny and soon gets dissolved by that ferocious fig latex. And anyway, this isn't even an issue most of the time as the majority of fig species are self-fertile and get ripe on their own.

There are a few different varieties and colours growing here in Portugal. You can find green and yellow ones but my favourites are the ‘classic’ purply black ones. You can probably get away with storing them for a day or two and so taking them in the house to eat with cheese or 'presunto' (cured ham) is not a bad idea either. However, if you wish to ensure that they make it to yuletide feast when everybody starts demanding them in their Christmas carols, you can dry them to preserve them and the Portuguese even make a delicious 'doce de figo' (fig jam) with them.

All the best pastelarias have rolls, biscuits and other delicious desserts that are made out of them. They also, as luck would have it, go extremely well with lots of other things that grow on the trees around here, and recipes normally include 'alfarrobas' (carobs) and almonds as well.

These ancient drooping balls of deliciousness are full of fibre, vitamins and minerals and are very healthy. They have been around for a long time. You probably wouldn't, as the cockneys would say, "Adam and Eve it" but the leaves were humankind's first clothes. After all, even now, you won’t find that many other leaves big enough to cover yourself up with in the garden.

Looking for a different way to use your figs? Why not try one of these recipes?

Candice Brown’s fig and brazil nut chocolate mud cake recipe


(serves 8)

150g unsalted butter, plus extra melted for greasing (optional)

150g dark chocolate chips or chunks or dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped

150g dark soft brown sugar

4tbsp golden syrup

2 eggs

100ml hot whole milk

2tsp good-quality instant coffee

20g cocoa powder

150g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

100g dried figs, chopped

100g Brazil nuts, chopped, plus a handful to decorate

3 fresh figs, quartered

For the ganache:

200ml double cream

150g dark chocolate chips or chunks or dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), chopped


1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan (180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4) and grease a 23 x 8cm rounded Bundt tin with melted butter, or line a 23cm round cake tin with greaseproof paper.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over a low heat. Remove from the heat when nearly melted and stir until glossy. Mix in the sugar and golden syrup, then beat in the eggs.

3. Mix the hot milk, instant coffee powder and cocoa together in a jug and then mix into the melted chocolate mixture. Add the flour and salt and mix well until combined. Stir in the chopped figs and nuts.

4. Pour into the prepared tin and level out. Bake for 30–40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then carefully turn out on to a wire rack.

6. To make the ganache, pour the cream into a saucepan and heat over a low-medium heat until bubbling. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and leave for five minutes, then stir until glossy. Leave to cool to a thick pouring consistency.

7. Use a chopstick or skewer to make some holes in the cooled cake and then over the ganache, so it seeps into the holes and drips all over the sides. Top with the fresh figs.

Rick Stein’s fig and frangipane tarts


Ready made shortcrust pastry for 6 tartlets

For the filling:

100g butter, at room temperature

100g caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2tsp almond extract

100g ground almonds

9 figs, quartered

1tbsp flaked almonds


2. Put the dough on a floured work surface, roll it out and line six loose-bottomed 10–12cm tartlet tins. Chill for about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C.

4. Line each tin with a circle of baking parchment or foil, add baking beans and bake blind for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, then put the tins back in the oven for a further five minutes. Turn the oven down to 190°C/Fan 170°C.

5. While the pastry cases are cooking make the frangipane. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until you have a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the eggs and almond extract, then stir in the ground almonds and mix well. Divide the mixture between the pastry cases and arrange six fig wedges on top of each tart. Scatter with some of the flaked almonds and bake for 20–25 minutes until golden.