Figs grow on the ficus tree (Ficus carica). Native to the Middle East, figs were one of the first fruits ever to be cultivated. Currently, California ranks third in the world in fig production after Turkey and Greece.
Figs tend to be more popular in their dried form because fresh figs are very delicate and tend to deteriorate quickly. When choosing fresh figs, select those which are plump and tender, have a rich, deep colour, are free from bruises and are not mushy. Ripe figs should not be washed until ready to eat and should be kept covered and refrigerated, where they will remain fresh for approximately two days. Unripe figs should be kept at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
NutritionFigs are high in natural and simple sugars, minerals and fibre. They contain good levels of potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. Dried figs contain an impressive 250mg of calcium per 100g, compared to whole milk with only 118mg.
The health benefits of figs include promoting healthy bowel function due to the high levels of fibre. Figs are amongst the most highly alkaline foods, making them useful in balancing the pH of the body. They are a good source of potassium, important in helping to regulate blood pressure.
10 Tips for Incorporating Figs in your Diet
- Eat dries figs as a healthy energy snack. For extra flavour and nutrients, stuff them with nuts and a little honey
- Add figs to baked goods such as muffins, cakes and muesli bars.
- Add dried or fresh figs to porridge, oatmeal or breakfast cereals.
- Stew dried figs in fruit juice with other dried fruits to make a delicious fruit salad. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg before serving
- Poach figs in red wine or fruit juice and serve with Greek yogurt or creme fraiche.
- Add quartered fresh figs to a salad of fennel, rocket and parmesan cheese.
- Stuff fresh figs with goat's cheese and chopped almonds and serve as an appetizer or dessert.
- Make a fig butter by boiling dried figs in fruit juice until soft. When all the liquid has been absorbed, place the mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth. Use to spread on rice cakes, toast or crackers.
- Add chopped fresh figs to rice, quinoa or couscous dishes.
- Make a fig tart by grinding two handfuls of walnuts in a food processor. Add one packet of dried figs, 1/2 packet raisins,3/4 c. apple juice, 1 tablespoon grated orange zest, 2 tablespoons honey and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Process until the mixture is the texture of a sticky paste. Press into a pastry case and bake at a medium heat for 35 minutes.
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