There’s no substitute for fresh figs added to a dish. They’re plump, juicy and surrounded by a velvety outer layer. Figs abound in summer but, unless you live in a tropical climate, are very hard to find the rest of the year. Treat these little delicacies properly when they are available.

Keep Figs Fresh

Fresh figs are delicate and highly perishable. If you’re not using them right away, line a shallow container with paper towels, loosely covered with plastic wrap, and store them in the refrigerator for no more than three days.

Freeze Figs

Fresh figs last much longer when frozen; they can be later used in dessert recipes and jams. To freeze figs, make a syrup (3 cups of sugar, 4 cups of water, 1 tsp. citric/asscorbic acid), wash and de-stem the figs, cut each fruit in half. Store about 1 pt. of figs with 1/2 cup of syrup in sealed containers and place containers in the coldest part of your freezer.

Use For Presentation

Figs are a naturally aesthetic fruit when they’re cut in half or partially quartered, opened into petals and placed around the periphery of a serving platter. Combine fresh figs with complementary ingredients, such as mascarpone cheese, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or slices of thin prosciutto.

Add To a Salad

Fresh figs work well with sliced peaches, pears and nectarines, spinach, arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Use any combination of these ingredients for a salad, top with halved or quartered figs, and drizzle with a light fruit-based vinaigrette made with white wine vinegar.

Dry Figs

Figs dry nicely, but must be fully ripe before you can start the drying process. De-stem and halve the figs; place them on a drying surface, skin-side down. You can use cooling racks from your oven to dry them outdoors. Place the figs outside on a warm day with little humidity and cover with cheese cloth to keep away bugs. Otherwise, dry them in an oven set to 120 degrees for 8 to 12 hours. Switch the oven to 175 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes to pasteurize the figs. Dried figs last in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 months, and in the freezer for 5 to 8 years.