fig skin

Can You Eat Fig Skin? Should You? (It Depends)

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Figs are an incredibly sweet and healthy fruit that can be consumed whole when they are fully ripe, but when they aren’t ripe, they can cause digestive issues for some people.

Can you eat fig skin? Should you? Ripe figs can be consumed whole, including the skin, without an issue.

However unripe figs need to be eaten without the skin since the skin contains a proteolytic enzyme called ficin that can cause a burning or itching sensation in the mouth and may also lead to digestive issues.

Read below to learn more about what to look out for when eating fresh or dried figs!

Ripe vs. Unripe Figs

Figs are a delicious fruit that is produced and sold in fresh or dried varieties around the world. Packed with healthy nutrition, figs are grown on trees and can be harvested when the fruit reaches a certain size and color.

Here are the characteristics of ripe and unripe figs:

Ripe Figs Color and Flavor

Ripe figs turn light yellow before turning brown or even purple. Once the fruit ripens, it generally does not last long and its texture can deteriorate within 2-3 days. This is why most producers harvest figs just before they begin to ripen.

By the time they reach stores, they usually become ripe enough and can be enjoyed on their own by simply washing them and then eating them whole.

ripe figs

A light green fig is considered to be fully ripe and will produce a deliciously sweet flavor that is comparable to honey!

As the fruit continues to ripen, it goes through several natural chemical changes that affect its overall color, shifting it from light green to brown or purple.

As this happens, the fruit begins to take on a more caramel-like flavor with a more rounded sweetness. The fruit will remain predominately sweet, but it will taste less intense compared to light green figs. 

Ripe Fig Texture 

Ripe figs can have a variety of textures but they are usually found to be tender and easily chewable.

Fresh figs have a reddish interior and contain several crunchy seeds that can be consumed with the fruit.

The seeds add an interesting mouthfeel to an otherwise smooth-tasting fruit.

The skin of fresh ripe figs is thin, smooth, and supple but they are also known to prune as they continue to ripen.

Light green figs offer the most pleasing mouthfeel, followed by the slightly overripe brown and purple variety.

Ripe Fig Uses 

Ripe figs can be used in several ways.

Due to their sweet and pleasing flavor, they are revered in the culinary world and can be used to make all sorts of dessert-related foods like cakes, jams, tarts, and pies – they can even be roasted or grilled to enhance their delicious flavor!

Ripe figs can also be sun-dried which greatly increases their shelf life and concentrates the sweet flavors.

Dried figs are usually compressed and then tied together from the center to form a ring with individual figs. 

Dried figs can be used in desserts, and salads or they can also be roasted and served as a side in vegan or even non-vegan recipes. Dried figs are also a great source of nutrients and are a convenient and very healthy snacking option!

Now that we know the many beneficial characteristics of ripe figs, let’s take a look at the qualities of unripe figs and how they can cause stomach issues.

Unripe Fig Color and Flavor

Ironically, a fruit that tastes so sweet when ripe can also taste like a cucumber when unripe! That’s right, when figs aren’t ripe, they start as small and rounded pieces of fruit that grow along the branches of a fig tree.

Unripe figs have a dark green color and a very vegetal flavor that is not appetizing at all. In fact, unripe figs are not meant to be eaten at all! 

See, when unripe, these fruits contain a proteolytic enzyme called ficin, a compound that breaks down protein.

This protein protects the fruit from predators who would otherwise eat the fruit before it is given a chance to ripen.

Ficin appears as a white sap that can escape through the stem of the fruit.

This sap is known to cause skin irritation and can also cause a burning sensation in the mouth if you attempt to eat it.

This is because ficin begins to break down the proteins on your tongue which leads to irritation.

But as the fruit begins to ripen and grow, the ficin content in the fig decreases which makes it easier to digest and enjoy.

Unripe Fig Texture 

Unripe figs have a firm and almost rubbery texture.

When the fruit is small, it is tightly connected to the branches of the fig tree through the stem which makes it appear like it is protruding from the branches.

But as the fruit grows, the stem relaxes and the weight of the fruit allows it to hang down.

The only textural benefit that unripe figs provide is that they allow farmers to gauge how long the fruit will take to ripen. This information enables farmers to plan out when to harvest the fruit to retain its freshness.

This color-gauging strategy also allows the fruit to ripen en route to the store so that you get just-about-ripe figs that you can enjoy at home!

Unripe Fig Uses

Unripe figs don’t provide as much utility as their ripened counterparts but they can still be used depending on how unripe they are.

If they are too small, rubbery, or green then they will not be suitable for any type of use, and it’s best to leave them until they grow.

Almost ripe figs, on the other hand, do provide some culinary use.

While they aren’t sweet enough to be used in jams or dessert recipes, they can be used for pickling!

These figs can be used in chutneys and they can also complement cheeseboards too!

We highly recommend that you avoid consuming fully unripe figs, especially if you previously had a bad reaction after eating them.

How to Eat Figs  

Eating figs is very simple. Here are a few step-by-step instructions for how to enjoy different types of figs:

Ripe Figs 

fig skin

Step 1) Wash the ripe figs to remove dirt and debris. Once washed, avoid storing them since they can go bad quickly due to the added moisture. 

Step 2) Remove the stem of the fruit. Keep in mind that while ficin can’t be found in the skin of ripe figs, it can still be found in some concentrations in the stem. This is why we highly recommend that you break off the steam and optionally wash it with water to avoid any issues.

Step 3) Break the fig open using your fingers or just eat them whole! 

Dried Figs

Dried figs can be enjoyed in two ways:

dried figs

Direct Method:

Step 1) Dried figs are usually looped by inserting a rope from the center of the fruit. Gently swivel the fig and pull it across the rope to remove it from the loop. 

Step 2) Simply bite into a dried fig and enjoy! Make sure that you chew them properly before swallowing them since dried figs can be hard and can tax your digestive system. 

Rehydration Method:

This method works great for people who like tender dried figs. 

Step 1) Add dried figs to a bowl and then add water to submerge them. Ideally, leave them overnight or for at least 4-5 hours to rehydrate them.

Step 2) Enjoy soft dried figs on their own or cut them up and use them as a sweet and healthy topping for salads or other recipes! 

Related Questions 

Ripe figs are an excellent source of nutrition and they also provide a fantastic sweet flavor! 

These fruits are fully edible when they are ripe and can be eaten with the skin on but you should avoid consuming unripe figs as they can cause digestive issues.

Now that you know how to eat them, here are some related questions:

How Long Do Dried Figs Last?

Dried figs are sun-dried until all of the moisture from the fruit has evaporated. Since there is no moisture, there is very little chance of bacteria growing! This means that dried figs can be stored in a cool and dry place for up to a year without any issues.

Can Fresh Figs Be Frozen?

Fresh and ripe figs can only last up to 2-3 days at room temperature but you can store them for up to 5-6 days in the refrigerator at 40F! Fresh figs can also be frozen at 0F for up to a year. 

Simply put the fresh figs in a freezer-safe airtight bag and then squeeze the excess air out of the bag before sealing it. Place the bag at the back of the freezer and consume within 6-8 months for the best flavor and texture. 

To thaw frozen figs, simply move them into the fridge and let them defrost overnight. You can also add them to a bowl of water and quickly defrost them at room temperature. Consume thawed figs the same day and avoid refreezing them. 

I hope you found this article helpful, if you want to learn a little bit more about why you shouldn’t eat unripe fig skin, check out this video:

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