Syrian Salad for Fig Season

Asaf Hasan, a Palestinian from Kuwait and Jordan, and Raina Kanawati from Syria brought this delicious Syrian fig salad to share with Mission Garden volunteers. (Photo by Dena Cowan)

Fig trees, originally from the Middle East, have found a happy home in the Southwest, a similar climate. Mission Garden in Tucson  features historical gardens and  heritage fruit trees that produce an abundance of figs in late July and August. Asaf Hasan and Raina Kanawati brought a delicious Syrian fig salad to share with volunteers as they led us in making stuffed grape leaves. It is traditionally eaten with the fingers and since we had all washed our hands to make the grape leaves, we dug in happily.

The salad requires no cooking, just assembly, so it’s good to prepare on these hot summer days. Choose sweet white onions or red onions if those are not available.

Figs are ripe in deep summer. Originally from the Mediterranean, they grow well in the hot American desert.


When you slice the onion, do so pole to pole rather than through the equator.

Syrian Fig Salad

8 fresh figs, quartered

1 sweet onion, sliced thinly pole to pole

1 lemon, sliced as thinly as possible

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Choose a bowl that holds at least a quart. Combine figs, onion, and lemon and toss until well mixed. Stir in the parsley and mint leaves. In a cup, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. Pour over the fruit mixture. Refrigerate for an hour to meld flavors. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Completed Syrian Fig Salad is a fresh addition to a summer meal. 

My latest book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, discusses how Old World crops such as Mediterranean fruit trees were brought to Tucson by the Catholic missionaries in the early 1700s. I also discuss how local historians worked to recreate the Mission Gardens originally located at the Mission San Agustin.  Order the book from Amazon or  Native Seeds/SEARCH. The book is the the winner of three awards and was named Top Pick in the 2011 Southwest Books of the Year. 

3 thoughts on “Syrian Salad for Fig Season

  1. Wow, that sounds very interesting. Although I can grow just about anything in the garden, I am not at all proficient with assembling fruits and vegetables in the kitchen. Figs were not a common crop in the orchards of the Santa Clara Valley a long time ago, they were grown in home gardens. I managed to get copies of four of the fig trees that I grew up with, as well as the common ‘Mission’ fig from my former garden, and nine other random cultivars (although some might be duplicates). There were a total of fourteen stock fig trees on one of my vacant parcels in Brookdale. The area burned in the CZU Fire, but the fig trees will regenerate. They were not expected to produce fruit there in the shade of the forest, but will generate stems with which to make cuttings of new trees for sunnier gardens. The area is a bit sunnier now, but still shaded by redwoods on a northeast slope.


    • These figs were from trees propagated from a very very old fig tree in the back garden of an historic home probably built in the very early 1800s. That tree was probably propagated from a tree brought by the Catholic missionaries in the early 1700s, thus the term Mission figs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, but the modern ‘Mission’ fig is a cultivar that was popularized after about 1850. My only fig tree at the home in town was ‘Mission’. I considered it to be a Californian cultivar because it was a discovered at the Mission of San Diego. Spanish consider it to be a Spanish cultivar because they brought the parents there. Mexicans consider it to be a Mexican cultivar because, although discovered after California became a state, the original tree was a feral tree that grew from seed while San Diego was still part of Mexico. I really do not know how different it is from the old classic Mission figs, and it really could be the same. No one really knows. Heck, until its DNA are evaluated, no one knows if the ‘seedling’ was actually a ‘cutting’ that someone planted intentionally. To me, it seems unlikely that a seedling would grow into such a perfect tree. (Even the original Mission figs were selected from many seedlings, most of which produced male figs that are inedible, or pithy female figs.)


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