The first time I ever ate a fig, it was not in a fig newton cookie. In fact, it wasn’t in a baked good at all. My grandparents had fig trees and I used to cut them up, smother them with honey and spoon them into Greek yogurt. While yes, these fruits are bit obscure for some people, they are actually pretty amazing little buggers. Between their health properties, array of uses, and profound history, they are quite a special fruit. In fact, they are so special that people throughout ancient civilizations considered them to be a “food of the Gods.”
Tis’ the season for figs right now, so I have compiled a list of Five Freakin’ awesome reasons to go a Figgy. (And no, figgy pudding is not listed.)
1. FIGS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH
Figs are a good source of potassium and dietary fiber. Regular consumption has been proven to lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as improve weight management. Some cultures eat fig leaves, which has been shown to antidiabetic properties and can actually reduce the amount of insulin needed by persons with diabetes who require insulin injection. Figs are also full of bone density promoters due to having 79 milligrams of calcium in an 8 oz-wt serving.
2. FIGS ARE MOST COMMON IN THE GOOD OLE’ U.S.A.
California, next to Spain, Greece, Portugal and Turkey is actually the largest producer of figs in the world (thanks to the conquistadors from Spain.) First records of figs, however,are said to derive from Egypt.
3. FIGS COME IN AN ARRAY OF VARIETIES
There are over 150 distinct varieties of figs. Some of the most popular ones are Black Mission, Kadota, Calimyrna, Brown Turkey and Adriatic.
If you like dried figs, look for ones that are on the softer side, mold-free, and have a very mellow, sweet scent. If ripe figs are up your ally, they should be refrigerated where they will be fresh for a couple of days. Since they do bruise easily, store them in a shallow container (basically anywhere that keeps them out of harms way). They should be covered or wrapped in order to ensure that they do not dry out, get crushed or pick up odors from neighboring foods. If you have purchased slightly under-ripe figs, you should keep them on a plate, at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.
5. FIGS ARE A GREAT BAKING SUBSTITUTE
Figs, like dates, are a great substitute as a fat if you are making baked goods due to their natural inclination to hold in moisture. Put them in brownies, breads and muffins. Your family won’t even know the difference.
Wondering Where to Find those Figgies?
Check your local farmer’s market this time of year. I’ve had some great luck throughout the tri-state area this season. Grocery stores have fresh ones at the moment too since California figs are available from June through September with the exact timing varying with the variety. Some European figs are often available throughout autumn. Dried figs, fig butter and fig preserves can be found year-round as a great alternative too.
In Need of Some Great Recipes Incorporating Figs?
Green Diva Meg is a nutty for figs too. Here’s one post about figs w/ links to a couple of yummy GD Meg fig recipes, and here’s another post that includes a great fig salad recipe. Check out this one for a Fig and Prosiutto Flatbread from Food And Wine, Oatmeal Fig Bars from Alidas Kitchen, or even this amazing Honey Glazed Grilled Fig Salad with Feta, Pistachio and Mizuna from The Food Network’s Bobby Flay.