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Horaishi figs are slightly smaller in size than other common fig varieties, averaging 3-8 centimeters in length, and have a tear-drop shape with a bulbous, round base. The semi-thick skin is firm and smooth, decorated with small lenticels or white spots, and ranges in color from yellow-green, brown, to red-brown. As the fig ripens, the eye at the base of the fruit will open, creating a small cross-like, star shape, further widening with maturity. Underneath the skin, the flesh bears variegated hues of red and white and is soft and sticky containing many small, edible seeds. Horaishi figs have a chewy and crunchy consistency with a sweet taste mixed with some acidity depending on the ripeness of the fruit.
Horaishi figs are available in the fall.
Horaishi figs, botanically classified as Ficus carica, are the fruits of a wide-spreading, large-leafed tree that belongs to the Moraceae or mulberry family. Also known as Houraishi, Horai, Penglai, and the Taki fig, Horaishi figs are a rare variety primarily found in western Japan that are valued for their sweet flavor and high sugar content. Though Horaishi figs are not native to Japan, over time they have been adopted and marketed as a native species due to its extended history of cultivation and popularity within the country. Horaishi figs are not produced on a large commercial scale due to their delicate nature and inability to be shipped. The sweet fruits are found at local farms in Japan and are consumed fresh or are dried for extended use.
Horaishi figs are an excellent source of fiber, which can help stimulate digestion, and are a good source of potassium, iron, magnesium, vitamins A and K, and calcium.
Horiashi figs are primarily consumed raw as their sweet flavor and chewy texture is showcased when consumed fresh out-of-hand. The fruit can be peeled or sliced in half, and the flesh can be scooped out with a spoon, eaten by itself or spread onto bread, cheese, or crackers. The skin is edible, but many prefer not to eat it due to its fibrous, tough texture. Horiashi figs can also be tossed into salads, fried into tempura, frozen and blended into sorbets, dried for extended use, or cooked into jams, jellies, and sauces to pour over bread, grilled meats, and tarts. In Japan, figs are popularly used in ichijiku daifuku, which is a rice cake stuffed with the fruit, or they are used in a compote known as ichijiku no kanroni and topped over loaf cakes. Horaishi figs pair well with meats such as prosciutto, bacon, ham, pork, or duck, herbs such as thyme and rosemary, fennel, chicory, almonds, walnuts, cheeses such as brie, blue, and goat, and spices such as cardamom and cinnamon. The figs will keep 2-3 days when wrapped in plastic or stored in a container in the refrigerator.
Horaishi figs were used during the Edo period in Japan as a natural, medicinal ingredient, believing the fruits could help regulate the intestines and encourage digestion when consumed. The leaves were also used to help reduce irritation on the skin and were boiled into a tea to soothe the throat. Due to the variety’s delicate nature and inability to be shipped for commercial production, Horaishi figs are now often grown in home gardens as a specialty fruit. They are also a popular variety at “all you can pick” farms as visitors will drive long distances across Japan to experience harvesting and consuming the unique, sweet fruit.
Horaishi figs were first introduced to Nagasaki, Japan approximately four hundred years ago and were believed to have been transported by Portuguese traders sailing from Penglai, China in the 17th century. Known as the “fruit without a flower,” Horaishi figs were spread along the coastal regions of Japan where the climate was suitable for growing the fruit. Today Horaishi figs are predominately grown in the Hiroshima prefecture and in Izumo city, which is a part of the Shimane Prefecture along the western coast of Japan. The figs can also be found at select farms in Onomichi city, Ogaki city, and throughout the Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan, and cultivated on a small scale in Thailand and Malaysia.
Recipes that include Horaishi Figs. One is easiest, three is harder.
|Nugget Markets||Fig & Chèvre Canapés|
|Savor the Harvest||Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Fig Tart|
|The Door into Promised Lands||Japanese Horaishi Fig Compote|