These cute marble-size figs are called Persian figs, or Shirazi figs. They come from Iran, where they are produced on a small scale, in villages : they are picked from a type of fig-tree which grows scattered in the mountains, and they are then dried in the sun.
The path those little guys have taken to reach me is a little tortuous. My parents have a vacation house in the East of France, and when they’re there, they go shopping at the open-air market in Gerardmer, a pretty lakeside town nearby. At this market, amidst the cheese, wine, meat, honey and produce stands, one is held by an energetic lady, who sells all sorts of Mediterranean products, in big wooden vats : spreads and tapenades, marinated veggies, all kinds of olives, different oils and spices… And on my parents’ last visit, Madame Olive — as she is now known in the family vernacular — happened to also sell those unusual figs. Intrigued, my parents bought some and shared the bounty with me.
Much blonder in shade than regular dried figs, they are also very small and of a delicate shape. Some of them are split open at the bottom, revealing a light pink, speckled flesh.
I have yet to use them in my cooking, but I know that they can be added to fruit compotes (Madame Olive recommended them with rhubarb), and can also be used to complement savory dishes, as an accompaniment to braised meat, or in condiments, like a Persian fig and onion jam.
More fascinating info about Persian figs, how they’re grown and consumed, and the related cultural beliefs, as well as some recipes, can be found on this Iranian website.