C. B. Christian, fig lover and northeast director of the Georgia Master Gardeners Association offers the following harvesting tips to ensure the best-tasting fruit. "Figs must be picked ripe from the tree as they don't ripen well once picked," he said. "A very firm fig is not ripe and will not properly ripen further." On the downside, figs have a very short shelf life, he said. You should eat or freeze them within seven to 10 days of harvesting. "In most cases, this means you have about three days at most to use them at home," Christian said. Members of the genus Ficus and the family Moraceae (the mulberry family), figs can be used in a variety of ways, from preserves to desserts.
Georgia Master Gardener Dick Whelan freezes his figs for year-round enjoyment. "This is prime fig time, so today I have too many to eat. So I wash them, towel them dry and store them in the freezer in zip-locked bags," he said. "Now, when I want figs in the morning, I take out a couple and let them defrost while I'm preparing the rest of my breakfast. This way I can enjoy fresh figs all fall. "University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist Judy Harrison recommends tray packing when freezing figs. To tray pack, place clean figs on a tray and then place the tray in the freezer. "Once they're frozen, you can store them together in bags in the freezer," Harrison said. "This way the figs don't stick together and you can easily defrost them two or three at a time. "Harrison also recommends treating the figs with ascorbic acid to prevent them from losing their fresh colour. To treat figs, dissolve three-fourths of a teaspoon of ascorbic acid in 3 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle the mixture over 1 quart of figs before tray packing. "You can also use an anti-darkening treatment like Fruit Fresh or other commercial brands," she said. "Just follow the package directions."