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Early figs: How to choose, store and prepare

For the most part, figs are a late summer crop, coming at the end of August into October. But for many varieties, there is a very small early harvest as well, called breba figs. While most figs grow on new branches, breba figs grow on branches that developed last season. Connoisseurs debate whether these figs are sweeter than fruit from the main harvest. The rest of us are just happy to have them available.

How to choose: Figs are quite fragile, and because they don't continue ripening after harvest, choosing them is a balancing act. You want them soft and ripe but not smashed. A few tears in the skin will be just fine, though. Real fig lovers say to look for a drip of moisture in the little hole at the bottom of the fruit. Smell is important, too. There shouldn't be any whiff of fermentation.

How to store: Figs are so delicate that they have to be refrigerated; they can start to spoil within a few hours of being harvested.

How to prepare: When you've got good figs, maybe the best way to eat them is the simplest: Quarter them from stem to bottom, and top them with some sweetened mascarpone or whipping cream.

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