A friend recently asked me to investigate a certain tree she had growing in her backyard in Los Angeles. It looked like a fig tree, but the fruits were not quite as red, and the inside looked more floral than fruity. The aroma was mild and the taste was almost unidentifiable. Was it edible fruit? Was it poisonous?
After a bit of digging around, I found these trees to be figs after all, just not the common fig you find in dried form at the grocery store.
Brown turkey figs, as they are called, grow prolifically in the climate of southern California, and it is not unusual to find them popping up wild in backyards or parks. Unlike other types of figs, the inside of a California-grown brown turkey fig looks almost like a true flower, with pink and white lacy buds filling most of the fruit’s cavity. The taste can rage anywhere from “robust” to “simply insipid,” depending on who you ask. Most would agree that the brown turkey would be better served done up in a recipe, rather than eaten fresh from the branch, as other figs are.
It’s fig season in California, and we will be seeing these and other fig favorites at the farmers’ market from now until late fall. Grab a box next time you are shopping, or pluck a few from your neighbors’ trees when they aren’t looking. Store figs in the refrigerator as soon as you get them home—they should last up to a week if properly chilled.