There are a couple of charming-looking fig trees outside UCL’s main gates. During each year of my degree, I noticed that the dark green, barely swollen fruit never got much bigger in diameter than a £2 coin, and wondered if they were any good to eat.

It seems people have had mixed experiences with figs: “What once was a sumptuous feast is figs!” laments Madame Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, a musical set in Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century. One imagines that Ali, a character in Jeanette Winterson’s The PowerBook, is able to get better figs in Turkey: “She was dainty and sweet, a dish of figs in fine weather”, he says of a beautiful princess.

Indeed, it’s difficult to find a good fig as most of what’s readily available in the shops is imported while still uninterestingly firm. Ideally, you would choose fruits which are as close to ripe as possible – slightly soft, perhaps with a bead of nectar clinging to them. If your fruit still does not pass muster, then giving them a blast of heat and a drop of honey will improve them considerably. To eat, bring the whole open, dripping fruit to your mouth and suck the sweet, luscious, melting flesh right off the skin.

Recipes: Simple Grilled Figs with Honey


  • . As many figs as you like – allow 2 – 3 per person
  • . A drop or two of honey per fig
  • . Mascarpone, Greek yoghurt, or parma ham to serve, as desired


  1. Preheat the grill on the lowest setting.
  2. Cut a cross in the top of each fig. You may have to pierce it just below the top of the stem if it’s too dry at the tip.
  3. Depending on your preference, you can then pull the fig apart slightly, or continue cutting it down almost all the way to the base. Pulling it provides a more interesting texture, but doesn’t look quite so pretty.
  4. Place the opened figs on a baking tray, making sure they aren’t crowded.
  5. Drizzle a little bit of honey into each fig.
  6. Grill them fairly near the heating element for just a few minutes, until they’re just warmed through and bubbling.
  7. Eat them however you like – plain, or accompanied by something rich or savoury.

About The Author

History of Art graduate from SOAS (jointly with UCL). I cook, eat, and observe the world. Then I write about it and share it with you. This is a unilateral decision.

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