It’s that time of the year again! You may be able to get your hands of plenty of dried figs in most places but fresh figs are a luxury. They have a short harvest time and go bad quickly once picked, often getting their delicate skin bruised in the process. Fortunately Portugal has an excellent climate for cultivating figs! And starting now until about the end of September you can find plenty of fresh figs in the mercados and small mercearias here, both the green, Moscatel variety and the purple (black mission variety) figs, especially in southern Algarve region where there is an abundance of fig trees. Or if you’re lucky, you may get to know some Portuguese who have fig trees at home and are more than happy to give you a big bag full of them since they have more than they can eat before they go bad! And make sure you eat yours right away as well, freshly picked figs only last a couple days or less.
What’s the best way to eat fresh figos? Most Portuguese tell you to gently peel off the outer skin and eat it just like that, as they’re sweet enough without needing anything else. However, you can always dress them up with perhaps a drizzle of local Portuguese mel – honey or have it with some requeijão – the Portuguese version of ricotta cheese but richer and better with desserts. And what to drink while you’re indulging in some figgy goodness? I recommend a Moscatel de Setúbal – a lovely fortified wine made from the Moscatel grape, grown and produced mainly in the Setúbal Peninsula, south of Lisbon. This wine has its own delicious honey and fig aromas and flavors to compliment your fresh fruit for a match made in heaven. There are both young and aged styles of Moscatel, and for an even more aromatic dessert wine, try a Moscatel Roxo – Purple Moscatel, made from another, more delicate cousin of the Moscatel. One of my favorite producers of Moscatel Roxo is boutique brand Horacio Simões while I have plenty of favorite styles of Moscatel de Setúbal (and Roxo) from José Maria da Fonseca.
If you’re a fig lover then, now’s the time to come to Portugal for a blissful fig and Moscatel experience and so much more on one of my tours! And even if you miss the fresh fig season, there’s always the rest of the fall and winter to enjoy the newly dried figs from the harvest and doce de figo – fig jam, mmmMMM!
If you want to know more about Portugal’s seasonal produce, check out my Catavino article: How to Shop For Food In Portugal: What and Where to Find the Best Produce in Season