Can you eat overripe figs?
In this brief guide, we will answer the question “Can you eat overripe figs?” and discuss how long figs last. We will also discuss how to properly store them and list down ways to tell if a fig has gone bad.
Can you eat overripe figs?
Yes, you can eat overripe figs. However you should have in mind that when they age, they ferment and start giving off a sour smell. They may even have sunken or shriveled skin and have lost most of their flavor (1,2).
While overripe figs may not be as visually appealing or have the same desirable texture as fresh ones, they can still be consumed (1).
Before eating, it is crucial to inspect them for any signs of mold growth or off-putting odors, as these could indicate spoilage.
If overripe figs are free from mold and unpleasant odors, they can be used in culinary preparations like jams, sauces, or smoothies, where their sweetness and softness may still be appreciated (1,2).
Are there any risks of consuming overripe figs?
In general no. However, you need to pay attention to not eat contaminated figs because when cell walls of figs break down during ripening, bacteria and molds can gather and produce toxins that, when consumed in large quantities, can result in food poisoning or digestive problems (3).
Furthermore, people with diabetes or those trying to control their blood sugar levels may not want to eat overripe figs due to their high sugar content (4).
How long do figs last?
The shelf life of figs largely depends on how you store them and what condition they were in when you bought them. Figs kept on the countertop or in the pantry at room temperature can last for about 2 to 5 days (5,6).
If you wish to store them for a longer period of time then consider placing them inside the fridge. It is advisable to store them in the fridge as opposed to the pantry as they can last for about a week in the fridge.
Cut up figs should not remain at room temperature for more than two hours. They should be placed in an airtight container and then in the fridge where they can last for about 2 weeks (5,6).
Dried figs that you buy from the store have a much longer shelf life as they do not have a moisture content so it is harder for bacteria to grow on them and spoil them (7).
Dried figs come with a ‘best before’ date label which depicts the amount of time these will remain in their peak quality. When stored properly, they can be consumed for a couple of months past the best before date.
How to properly store figs?
Fresh figs can be stored at room temperature on the countertop or in the pantry or in the fridge depending on how soon you plan on eating them.
As discussed above, figs do not have a very long shelf life so it is better to store them inside the fridge rather than at room temperature if you want them to last for a couple of days. The optimum temperature to store them is at -1 to 0 °C (30 to 32 °F) and humidity levels around 90 to 95%, to increase their shelf life (2)
For storing them in the fridge, place them in an airtight container and then store them in the fridge. Do not stack one fig over the other as they bruise very easily.
Dried figs on the other hand can be stored at room temperature in their original packaging. You can also store them in the fridge but storing them on the countertop would not cause any harm as they do not have a lot of moisture content so they are not as susceptible to spoilage (7).
How to tell if a fig has gone bad?
To tell if figs have gone bad you have to keep in mind that overripe fig is different from a spoiled fig such that slightly overripe fig is safe to eat while rotten fig is not. Here’s how you can tell if your fig has gone bad (2,8,9).
- Look for any discolorations on the fig. If you see any discolored spots such as they are bruised, brown or black then it is a sign that the fig has gone bad.
- Wrinkly or discolored skin is also a sign of spoilage.
- Look for any growth of mold as well. Mold can appear as fuzzy gray or greenish growth or bluish or greenish spots. Such fig should be thrown out immediately.
- Look for any changes of the texture as well. Slimy or gooey texture indicates that the fig has gone bad.
- Give it a sniff test and see if it smells fine. An off odor or a sour smell is an indication that the fig has gone bad.
In this brief guide, we answered the question “Can you eat overripe figs?” and discussed how long figs last. We also discussed how to properly store them and listed down ways to tell if a fig has gone bad.
1. Preserving Fruits: Figs. Oregon State University Extension Service, 2020.
2. The Commercial Storage of Fruits, Vegetables, and Florist and Nursery Stocks. Agricultural Research Service Agriculture, Handbook Number 66, 2016.
3. Özlüoymak, O.M., Guzel, E. Prediction Of Aflatoxin Contamination On Dried Fig (Ficus Carica) Samples By Spectral Image Analysis In Comparison With Laboratory Results. Fresenius environmental bulletin, 2018.
4. Halvorsen, R.E., et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of prospective studies. MJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, 2021;0.
5. Reyes-Avalos, M.C., et al. Improvement of the Quality and the Shelf Life of Figs (Ficus carica) Using an Alginate-Chitosan Edible Film. Food and Bioprocess Technology, 2016, 9(12).
6. Taghavi, E., Sharifi, A., Anarjan, N., Lani, M.N. Fig (Ficus carica) Shelf Life. In: Ramadan, M.F. (eds) Fig (Ficus carica): Production, Processing, and Properties. Springer. 2023.
7. Slatnar, A., et al. Effect of Drying of Figs (Ficus carica L.) on the Contents of Sugars, Organic Acids, and Phenolic Compounds. J Agric and Food Chem., 2011.
8. Porat, R. Fallik. E. Production of off-flavours in fruit and vegetables under fermentative conditions. Fruit and Vegetable Flavour, 2008, 150-164.
9. Barth, M., et al. Microbiological Spoilage of Fruits and Vegetables. In: W.H. Sperber, M.P. Doyle (eds.), Compendium of the Microbiological Spoilage of Foods and Beverages, Food Microbiology and Food Safety, Springer, 2010.