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Good to Know - Can I cook with fig branches?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Nov 28, 2022

'The trout just came out of the oven', I was told, as I walked on to the line at this lovely French luncheonette. The chef in me jumped for joy looking at the beauty and simplicity of the dish and the health inspector in me said - wait, is that safe?

I haven't seen fig branches used in this way in my 30+ years in a professional kitchen - 20 years on the hotline and 13 years inspecting them. The fig branches were not used in coals for smoking but in direct contact with the trout, in its belly, as well as alongside. My thought was, could fig branches be toxic or pose any health risks being used in this way?

Turns out, fig branches are not toxic, and there was no breakdown of the wood potentially creating a physical hazard. My next thought was, have the branches been sanitized or is there a risk of contamination by organic matter on the branches? I compared these to the growing of fresh herbs. Herbs do not undergo a sanitation step by the harvester but rather a washing and cleaning. A second washing of the fig branches in the kitchen makes this dish completely safe with no risks involved with this unusual cooking technique.

When asked why uses the fig branches in this way, she said it imparts a nutty, almost green vanilla almond flavor.


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