Figs, fico in Italian, Ficus carica -- Family Moraceae. The world's oldest known fig tree is said to be growing in a particular garden in Sicily.
Fresh or dried, figs complement both sweet and savory dishes. Figs come in three main varieties -- white, black, and red, with color ranging from pale green to dark gold, golden brown, or deep purple, though skin color hardly makes a difference in taste. Ripe figs are not juicy in the conventional sense, nor do they have a strong flavor. Figs should be soft to the touch with a pleasant aroma. Figs spoil quickly and bruise easily, which explains why only 10% of the crop are shipped fresh while the remaining are dried, canned or jarred. Store fresh figs in a paper bag or shallow bowl lined with a paper towel. Come summertime, I like to pair sweet figs with slices of Parma's best pork product – culatello.
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