If you read this blog often, you know how much I love to write about food. In particular, I enjoy highlighting foods that are nutritional powerhouses like today’s subject, figs. Many of us are only familiar with dried figs, but have you ever tried fresh figs? These are so incredibly delicious and are available in the summer and fall seasons. And this small, but mighty fruit has quite a history! Ok, if we want to be accurate, a fig is actually not a fruit at all, but a flower inverted into itself and the small seeds found inside the fig are actually the fruit. But I digress. Did you know that figs were eaten by the Sumerians as early as 2900 BC, and that they were one of the earliest cultivated fruits? They were also a favorite of the Ancient Grecians and Romans. Figs originally came to the American shores from Spain in the early 1500s, and by the 1800s there were quite a few varieties growing in California. Figs are also commonly grown throughout the Mediterranean region as well in the southern part of the good old USA. Now there are about 60 different varieties of figs grown throughout the United States today. But let’s keep it simple and talk about the more common ones you are likely to see in your local market throughout the season.
Black Mission Figs – Are purple-black in color and are the sweetest tasting of all types of figs. These are named for the Franciscan missionaries who planted them in California in the 1700s.
Calimyrna Figs – Are a pale yellow-green color. These originated from Turkey and are now mainly grown in California.
Brown Turkey Figs – Are a lighter purple than the black mission figs and they have hints of yellow-green and brown.
Whichever ever variety you choose, believe me, you will not be disappointed. They are all so yummy! Try these in salads or green smoothies, so delicious!
Now here’s the really good stuff: figs are rich in fiber, minerals, and antioxidant compounds and studies have found that eating figs has been shown to increase the antioxidant capacity of the blood, which could help to prevent oxidative damage in the body. And figs, like beans and oats, are very high in soluble fiber, a nutrient that helps lower cholesterol. See what I mean about figs being a nutritional powerhouse?
If not yet ripe, you can leave them out of the fridge. But refrigerate them as soon as they ripen because they do spoil very easily.
If you like to garden, you can have fun growing your own figs as they are easy to grow almost anywhere in the USA. They don’t need much room to grow, so if you have any space in your yard or on a balcony go for it! You just need to plant them in a big pot with good water drainage and if you live in the more northern states, just wheel the potted trees someplace sheltered, like a garage or a shed, between Thanksgiving and April 1st. So consider giving it a try. Even if you have never grown anything before, think how great you will feel eating figs that you grew yourself! Happy eating!