Now that it’s getting colder, I have a lot of unripe figs, and then the leaves are just about to fall. There’s a good chance that we’ll get some frost, and I’m thinking about what to do with unripe figs still on the tree. It’s not that I don’t know; I just can’t decide because there are several options.
Unripe figs, still on the tree, can be forced to ripe with several methods, including additional pruning, removing some of the fruit, pinching, oiling, and removing mulch. Almost ripe figs can be ripened off the tree with the help of fruit that produces ethylene gas or prepared using one of many recipes.
Let’s dive into details!
How To Tell if a Fig Is Ripe on the Tree
I’ve heard people recommend the best method to detect whether your figs are overripe is to consume one of them before they are fully ripe. That is foolish because, first, you can get digestive problems. Secondly, you can see if it’s unripe by touching and splitting it open.
The best way is to squish it gently. You can know if it is ripe by the softness. If you can’t tell, try squishing it a bit harder. A ripe fig will start to split at least a bit on one side.
If you are unsure if the fig is ripe even after that, split one open and see if it is juicy. A ripe fig of most varieties will have plenty of liquid syrup inside, which you can taste to see how sweet it is. That way, you don’t need to eat the fig, in case it is unripe.
Will Figs Ripen Once They Are Picked Off the Tree?
Like figs, bananas, apples, peaches, and tomatoes are all climacteric fruits.
Ethylene gas, generated naturally by figs and a few other fruits, causes them to ripen when exposed to it. Although most climacteric fruits respond to ethylene gas at all phases of development, figs only do so at the end of their ripening cycle.
Assuming the fig has already begun the ripening process, it will release ethylene gas. That means it will proceed to ripen even if you remove it from the tree.
You can take a fig that is soft and grown, although not as ripe and soft as you might wish, and it will get riper after a few days on your counter. The closer it is to fully ripe when picked, the bigger the chances of it fully riping are.
You can create additional ethylene gas by mixing a few apples or bananas with unripe figs. Apples and bananas release the highest amounts of ethylene gas, and they will help figs ripe. People in European countries of the Mediterranean ripe all kinds of fruit this way after they’ve picked them off the tree.
However, the catch is that figs will become ripe this way, but they will never be as sweet as when they ripe on the tree. This is because figs are a flower, and they can’t produce sugar as effectively as most other fruit.
When it comes to a sour, hard, green fig, you can’t expect it to ripen on your counter. There won’t be enough ethylene gas produced.
How To Quickly Ripen Figs on the Tree?
It isn’t easy to ripen figs on the tree quickly. It depends a lot on the warm sunny weather, and even then, you might speed it up by several days or less. Considering that the average fig takes 80 days to ripe, several days doesn’t seem too much. However, those several days can make a lot of difference if cold weather is coming.
Although not easy, it’s still worth applying methods to help figs ripe faster. Some of these are even routine and don’t require any additional time if done properly from the beginning.
Five methods to speed up fig ripening:
- The first method is open-top pruning. You can do it from the moment a fig tree starts growing. That way, the tree will naturally grow into an open-top shape, and you won’t need to worry about it later. An open-top shape allows the sun to penetrate to all sides of the tree. Besides, branches will be more horizontal, which prevents leaves from hiding figs under them.
- After the growing season has started, you shouldn’t prune anymore, but you can stop certain branches from growing by pinching their tips. If you see that your figs aren’t riping fast enough and the tree is still producing new growth, pinch the tips of any still growing branch, and figs will ripe faster.
- If there is no new growth, which most likely won’t be late in the summer, you can treat the fruit the same way as new growth. Remove the tiniest, greenest, and farthest from the trunk figs. That way, you make sure the tree’s energy is focused on ripening any remaining fruit. Fewer figs are produced, but they are more likely to mature.
- Fig ripening can be sped up by dotting their eyes with a few drops of any thick edible oil. It is important to seal the fruit’s eye, helping it mature more quickly. If the figs are cultivated in this manner, they can be ready in just two days. However, if the figs aren’t ripe enough to begin with, this approach won’t work. It might cause the figs to drop from the tree.
- The 5th method is the easiest as it’s a simple reminder. Most people forget to remove mulch after the cold weather has passed. Mulch under the tree acts as insulation, keeping the roots warm in winter and cold in summer. Keeping them cold in summer is counterproductive.
Should I Remove Unripe Figs From the Tree?
You should remove unripe figs from the tree only if there is no more time for them to ripen. If they are not ripening for some reason, you can try applying one of the methods mentioned above before deciding to remove them.
There are midseason situations where removing all the unripe figs is better, such as having unripe breba figs when the main crop is already formed.
If there is no more time for figs to ripen on the tree, don’t throw them away. You can try ripening them by adding apples or bananas with them.
Even if that doesn’t work, there are ways to cook half-ripe figs, which I will discuss next in this article. Sadly, many people believe you can’t consume unripe figs, but actually, you can.
Are Unripe Figs Safe To Eat?
Figs can be plastic, dry, and lacking in taste when they are not quite ripe. Besides, unripe figs are toxic for digestion and can cause allergic reactions in the mouth for some people.
Once I went to eat another fig after discovering that all the ripe ones were gone. The stem and peel were coated with a white latex syrup. I didn’t know much about figs back then. As soon as I finished eating it, my lips felt like they were about to dissolve in some acid.
Some proteolytic enzymes cause this allergic reaction. While most proteolytic enzymes are not allergens, the ones found in figs, pineapple, papaya, and kiwi are.
Funny because I had the same, but milder, reaction to these fruits since I was a little kid. Never knew the cause was the same. Luckily, it doesn’t affect most people.
However, unripe figs are still toxic for digestion, but there are ways to make them safe to eat. Let’s see how!
How To Eat Unripe Figs?
Unfortunately, you can’t prepare fully unripe figs, but there are many similar recipes worldwide to prepare half-ripe figs. (They will refer to them as unripe, so don’t let that confuse you!)
I won’t mention specific recipes because you can easily find them on google. Instead, I will talk about some guidelines to get a healthy product in the end. Most recipes don’t mention some of these specifics.
You can remove the fig’s toxicity by boiling it in several batches of water with stems removed. When boiling, like many recipes will recommend, you should change each batch of water for the clean one to extract the sap and latex.
I always cook for 5 minutes and then replace the water. Repeating it three times was always enough for me. Then you can finish boiling them as much as a certain recipe requires in the last water. You can even notice latex-like liquid coming out of figs while boiling in the first few batches of water.
You can prepare boiled unripe figs into a jam, and they generally go well with cinnamon, orange, and lots of sugar.
Unripe figs can be dried as well. Even though they will never be as tasty as dried ripe ones, they can be additionally sweetened with sugar. After all, it’s still better than throwing them away.