Living La Vida Local

Unripened Fig Preserves

By Chrys Napolitano / Photography By Chrys Napolitano | January 06, 2017
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One of the banes of my gardening existence is the gorgeous, huge fig tree that grows in my backyard.  Situated perfectly to receive year round full sun, it grows to over ten feet tall each year, branches filled with 1 1/2” diameter green fruit…that never ripens.  They mock me from my back door as I watch the leaves fall off it year after year, the fruit clinging on, growing dark and shriveling up before I finally venture outside, pluck the fruit off the branches and throw them in the compost.  The final insult was this past November when I found a beautiful oyster mushroom growing from the base of the tree.  

After 15 years, I harvested only about two dozen ripe edible figs from the tree—and 5 ounces of oyster mushrooms.

A few days before Christmas, the threat of freezing temperatures got me outside to finish winterizing the garden.  The figs were still green, not rotted or moldy or wrinkled, and so I picked them off the tree and brought them inside, determined that THIS was the year I could do something with them.  I did a bit of research about how to leach out the natural latex in the fruit, how to soften them and confirmed that they were even healthy to eat.

I had one and a half pounds of figs and trimmed the stem ends a half inch below the base of the stem.  I put them in a large pot and filled it with water, covered the pot, brought it to a boil and let it boil for 15 minutes, uncovered.  I let them cool down, drained the figs in a colander and repeated the process two more times, rinsing out the pot between turns, until the figs were soft.  Once they were cooled down, into a container and in the fridge they went.  

A few days after Christmas, I took the figs out and made this preserve, which cooked for about four hours and filled the house with a wonderful fragrance.  

Unripened Fig Preserve
1 to 1 ½ pounds unripened figs, stems trimmed to ½” below base
5 cups water
2 ½ cups sugar
10 Cloves
3 Allspice Berries
2 Star Anise Flowers

Juice and zest of one lemon, cut zest into 6 or 8 strips without pith
After boiling and rinsing three times, combine figs in an enameled cast iron pot with all of the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring often, for three to four hours, until the water and sugar have formed a syrup and the figs glisten like candy.  If you wish, use a potato masher to break up the figs to a chunky consistency.  This recipe made enough to fill eight 4 ounce jelly jars. 

I added some to ricotta and honey and had it with toast.  You could certainly use it on a cheese plate or baked brie.  I’m thinking about creating ravioli stuffed with ricotta, fig preserve, toasted pignoli nuts and imported prosciutto…to think of all the years, I threw figs in the compost!

Article from Edible Bronx at
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