Drying Figs - A Colorful Tale

How to Dry Fresh Figs

Drying figs in a dehydrator, oven, or the sun. How to dry figs. Fig oven drying. What to do with dried figs. When have the fresh figs dried enough? When is a dried fig too dry?

Brown Turkey Fig
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.

Peter's Honey Green Fig Tree
from: Nature Hills Nursery, Inc.

Drying figs is a simple way to preserve your harvest through the winter. There are several ways you can go about it. I'm going to tell you the fastest, easiest way to do it.

But, first, I'd like to give you the opportunity to read the most colorful account I've ever read about figs drying.

This story was emailed to me by a friend who grew up in India--I don't know the town, but it was somewhere in the countryside. Sariga's childhood home had a huge courtyard full of all kinds of fruit trees. This courtyard was so bountiful that her family almost never purchased fruit at the market. Sariga developed a love of plants that remains with her to this day.

What follows is her recollection of how she and her grandmother used to dry figs. I'll add my two bits at the end.


Fig Tart
Fig Tart
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Dried figs can be used in a variety of dishes. Think of the mouth-watering desserts or drinks that can be made of dried figs. Sorry for increasing your appetite, I myself couldn’t resist the thought.

Be it in cookies or just pop them into cereals, they taste great. Powdered dry figs can be used to make milk shakes also.

Drying figs was a laborious process, as I never liked to sit and guard for the ones getting dried on our terrace on a sunny day. My duty was to prevent squirrels from eating the figs. We had a lot of squirrels at my home to eat a share off us. They were smart enough to run away with the washed and cut figs left out to dry.

Of course you could use a microwave, but my grandmother was particular about the slow drying process.

Figs dry well, but you need to be sure that these figs are fully ripe.

(1)Harvest just after it falls or chances of them rotting are high. As soon as the ripe figs fall, wash and cut them in half.

Place them, skin side down, to dry on a rack or a large plate if you intend to dry it in the sun. Two days of moderate sun is enough to dry the figs.

We had this wooden platform built above the fire to help them dry further. It was built of beetle nut tree trunk and had gaps between two plates so that hot air from burning wood touches the wooden slab to further dry the figs. Sun drying by day and by late evening on the wooden slab was the norm for fig drying. I am just telling you what it was like drying figs in the countryside without spending much on the electricity.

Figs can also be dried in a microwave but it will be a shocker when you get the electricity bill.

Also you can dry a lesser number of figs in an oven or on a stove, so the more figs you have the more time it will take them to dry.

Figs are dry if the outer skin is leathery and inner portion is soft but not juicy.

To get the figs dried in an oven, you need to set the temperature to the lowest say 55 degree Celsius will be an ideal temperature. It takes around 40 hours to get the figs dried.

To prevent the figs from getting cooked, it is better to keep the door of the oven a little open to let hot air escape. The next step is to freeze the dried figs for a few days say 5 days.

(2)It helps to kill any germs that may be on them.

(3)Figs so dried can be kept in the refrigerator for almost a year and if kept in the freezer, it lasts for more than five years.

Try drying figs and making innovative dishes with them. To start with, try sweet chutney made of dried figs or blend some into a smoothie. Dried figs can also be eaten just as snacks. In so doing, you keep a tab on your health as well.

Now, my two bits:

(1)I wouldn't suggest drying figs that have been in contact with the ground. The chance of bacterial contamination is too great. Spread an old clean sheet under the tree at harvest time. Go out and collect the figs daily as they spoil quickly.

Personally, I just hand pick the fruit. I doubt that any fig left laying on the ground in my yard would lay there long given the proclivities of the local wildlife.

(2)Freezing the dried figs probably is a good idea as it slows but does not stop the process of decay. Freezing will not kill germs. It may slow their efforts to multiply.

(3)I would never encourage anyone to keep food for this length of time. Though I must admit to having a jar of dried banana slices in my cupboard which is still good after four years. My definition of good is that it looks and smells the same as it did when I first dried it. I also ate a piece of it recently to no ill effect. It still had the same, almost too sweet, taste.

Consider yourself duly warned.

Drying Figs in a Dehydrator

electric food dehydrator image

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This is what I do.

  1. Gather the figs. Rinse them off and leave them to air dry on a clean dish towel.
  2. Cut each fig in half and place skin-side-down onto dehydrator trays.
  3. Stack the trays. Put the lid on and plug the dehydrator in.
  4. Check the figs every few hours. When they meet Sariga's criteria (leathery outside, soft but not juicy inside) they're done.
  5. Pack them into clean jars or plastic bags and store them in the fridge or freezer.

When is a dried fig too dry?

A fig dried for too long will become hard whereas a properly dry fig will be chewy. If you overdry them and your figs turn crisp, powder them in the blender and add them to shakes and cookie recipes.

I hope you enjoyed Sariga's childhood tale and found my instructions for drying figs to be helpful as well.

More Fig-flavored Fare:

Fig Tree Care
Fig tree care is a happy process for any fruit grower. This is because taking care of fig trees is easier than caring for many other fruits. They can be easily grown in pots or in ground.

Celeste Fig
There are several different types of Celeste fig trees: Improved, Golden, Blue, and Giant to name a few.

This is further complicated by the fact that it is also called by several different names like: Malta, Sugar, Violette, Celestial fig and Honey fig.

And I know I'm forgetting some.

Growing Fig Trees
How to grow fig trees that produce abundantly.

Growing fig trees at home is the only way to sample the many delicious varieties of this nearly perfect fruit.

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