There is no better emblem of the double-edged pleasure of seasonality than a backyard fig tree. On one hand, you have uncommon access to an extraordinary fruit that has been revered for centuries, the subject of legends and lore from the Bible to Homer ― a fruit whose grassy sweetness evokes sunny and exotic climates.
On the other hand, you're likely to tread on ripe figs when they drop onto the ground and melt into a puddle of sticky syrup. The more prolific the tree, the greater the sweet urgency to appreciate as many of them as you can ― now. Fig season (actually seasons ― see below) is short; once they're gone, they're gone. Make the most of this season's crop, whether from that backyard tree or the market, in tempting dishes such as flatbread, grilled salmon, or fruit-topped cakes.
At the market
Most varieties of fig trees bear fruit twice a year, giving us two seasons. Look for them in the market in early summer and then again in late summer to early fall. Choose figs that are soft and unblemished, wrap them loosely in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. They'll last between a few days and a week, depending on how ripe they are when you buy them.