Aaand it’s time for another post about one of my favorite foods. This time, we will be talking about figs. Specifically, fresh figs. Yes, yes, I know, they are hard to seek out because they are only in season for this long, and I am going through fig withdrawal already since even Spain can’t hold on to its sunny days much longer.
But anyway, figs. What do we know about them and what do we love about them?
Though science heartlessly calls it the Common Fig, it is nothing but. Originally from Asia, they are the fruits of flowering plants in the mulberry family. They have been cultivated since the ancient times in Asia and the Middle East and they require the pollination of a specific species of wasp. They have a very strong root system, which means that they are capable of surviving in unfavorable soil, and they seek out groundwater like nobody’s business. What is even freakier, fig trees have no blossoms – the flowers are actually inside the fruit!
The most ancient fig fossil was found in the Jordan Valley, thirteen kilometers north of Jericho, and it dates all the way back to about 9400-9200 BCE. Which means it predates the domestication of things we take for granted now, like wheat and barley. Figs were also consumed by Romans, and were later taken to Portugal, India, and then much later, in the 15th century, to Northern Europe and the New World.
Some people have speculated that the fig is the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve so carelessly shared in the Garden of Eden. More so, they used fig leaves to cover themselves up when they realized that oops, they’re showing off their naughty bits. There are many references to figs all throughout the Bible, which is not surprising, given that it is a species indigenous to the region.
So why are figs so figgin’ awesome? In Roman times, figs were considered a beauty solution, said to have made the people who had eaten them look younger and get fewer wrinkles. I don’t know about that, but the nutritional value of the fig is impressive: eating one half cup of figs equals to drinking one half-cup of milk (src).
Figs are an insanely good source of fiber (shout out to all my friends with digestive problems), as well as vitamin B6, copper, manganese, potassium and pantothenic acid.
Because they are so rich in potassium, they help lower blood pressure; and because they have so much fiber in them, they are a great help in losing weight and even protect all my lovely ladies from postmenopausal breast cancer. The leaves of the fig are said to lower insulin levels.
So how do you get your hands on it? They’re around usually at the end of the summer or in the fall, and they should be stored in a cool dry place and eaten as soon as possible because the air makes them go dry and wrinkly and totally unsexy.
I eat figs raw. Some people like to spice things up and use them as ingredients in salads: figs go particularly well with gorgonzola, goat cheese, parma ham and pretty much every Mediterranean staple you can think of. Even pizza.
Just as long as you can resist eating them all before you get to the cooking part.