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Figuring Out Dried Figs

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2017

When shopping for dried figs, you will most often find the following three options: Black Mission, Calimyrna, and Turkish (often labeled Smyrna). The latter two are actually the same variety of fig.

Calimyrna figs originated near the city of Smyrna in Turkey. Smyrna figs, which have been grown in Turkey for centuries, were brought to California and cultivated as cuttings in the late 19th century (hence the hybrid name “Calimyrna”). Here’s a rundown on both types of figs. Note that these are generalizations; growing conditions, processing, and age can all cause variations in texture and flavor, even within a variety.

Black Mission

TASTE AND TEXTURE: Small, with a thin, moist, dark skin; a robust fruitiness with a pleasant touch of bitterness; and a slightly dry interior full of delicate seeds.

BEST FOR: Tossing into salads, baking into breads, and eating out of hand.

Calimyrna (Smyrna)

TASTE AND TEXTURE: Larger than Black Mission figs, with a thick, dry, beige skin that can be slightly crystalline on its exterior. Its sweetness is complemented by subtle notes of vanilla, nuts, and bourbon. Its interior is almost spreadably moist, and the assertive crunch of seeds dominates.

BEST FOR: Tart fillings and other cooked applications, such as jam.