History & Interesting Facts About Figs
Figs are actually developed from inverted flowers called a syconium.
The fig flesh is made from the matured flowers, which bloom inside the skin and are therefore never seen.
Wild fig trees can survive up to 100 years and can grow as high as 100 feet.
Fig tree leaves release a pleasant, woodsy-green fragrance.
Some people dry the leaves and use them in perfume or in potpourri for their homes.
Fig trees produce a natural latex sap that is also used for a number of practical and medicinal purposes.
Figs were so popular among the Greeks that there were even laws made to prevent exportation.
And they’re an essential element in the Mediterranean diet, which is one of the healthiest diets in the world.
Aside from being an incredible source of dietary fiber, this curious fruit is delicious and filled with a number of essential vitamins and minerals.
Figs have a history as rich as their taste.
Dating back as far as 5,000 B.C., the fig is said to be one of the first plants ever cultivated by humans.
Archeological findings in Neolithic villages revealed fossils of figs, predating other known forms of agriculture like wheat and barley.
Figs are mentioned often in the Bible, as they were cultivated in many areas of the world where biblical events took place.
In fact, some believe that in the story of Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit may in fact be a fig instead of an apple.
They’re sometimes represented as a sign of peace, abundance and prosperity.
Figs are known for their sweet and juicy flesh, tender skin and crunchy seeds.
They’re highly perishable and are commonly dried to preserve them.
And unlike many other fruits and vegetables, studies have shown that the health benefits of figs actually increase after drying.
They can be prepared in a number of ways and make a great pairing with meats and cheeses.
Figs are one of the earliest fruits grown by man.
Though figs are not available throughout the year, dried figs (popularly known as anjeer in India) are.
Not only is dried fig tasty to eat, it has numerous health benefits to offer as well.
Top Health Benefits Of Figs:
Anjeer is rich in dietary fibre. 3 pieces of dried figs contain 5 grams of fibre, which accounts for about 20% of our daily requirement.
It’s a natural laxative for preventing constipation and other digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Helps in weight loss
Apart from being rich in fibre, dried figs are low in calories.
One piece of dried fig gives you just 47 calories.
And, you obtain only 0.2 grams of total fat per dried fig. So, dried figs are an ideal snack for people who want to lose weight.
When you eat more salt, the level of sodium increases. This disturbs the sodium-potassium balance and in turn results in hypertension.
Anjeer is an ideal fruit for to restore this balance. One dried fig gives you 129mg of potassium and just 2mg of sodium.
This helps prevent hypertension.
Rich in antioxidants
Dried figs are rich in antioxidants.
A study by Vinson JA and colleagues suggested that processed, dried figs are superior to natural figs when it comes to antioxidants.
The study also mentions that dried figs have superior quality of antioxidants, called phenols, compared to other fruits that attribute their antioxidant property to vitamin C and E.
Prevents heart disease
The high levels of antioxidants in dried figs help to eliminate free radicals that can damage blood vessels and result in heart disease.
And, as mentioned earlier, they prevent hypertension, a huge risk factor for development of coronary heart disease (CHD).
Plus, there are some studies which suggest that dried figs help to reduce the levels of triglycerides that contribute greatly to heart disease.
Figs have a reputation in traditional medicine as a remedy for many health problems, including as a natural cancer treatment.
For instance, a study by the Department of Natural Medicinal Chemistry at China Pharmaceutical University shows that some elements contained in figs are toxic to various human cancer cell lines.
Although there is more research needed, there are recommendations encouraging researchers to find out more about how figs’ bioactive compounds can combat illness because of the success of numerous findings thus far.
Strengthens your bones
One dried fig gives you 3% calcium of your daily calcium requirement.
Along with other calcium-rich foods, they can help to improve bone density and strength.
Great Source of Potassium, Fiber and Other Depleted Nutrients
Potassium and fiber are two vital components to a healthy diet that many Westerners simply don’t get enough of.
Figs are a high-fiber food whether raw or dried, while they also provide anywhere from 7 percent to 19 percent of your daily potassium intake depending on how they’re prepared — thus, eating figs helps overcome low potassium levels.
Fiber helps aid the digestive system, reduces the risk of heart disease and helps with weight loss by helping you feel full.
Potassium is found in every cell in the body and is essential to maintain normal body functions.
Dried figs are also great sources of manganese, magnesium and calcium, all of which also don’t appear in our diets as much as they should.
Snacking on figs is a low-calorie way to up your intake of these essential nutrients.
Good for diabetes
The high fibre content in figs makes them good for people with diabetes. However, dried figs are high in sugar content.
So you should consult a diabetologist about the quantity of dried figs you can consume.
Cures iron-deficiency anemia
Dried figs are a rich source of iron.
One dried fig can give you 2% of your daily iron requirement. Iron is an important mineral that carries hemoglobin throughout your body.
So eating anjeer is a natural way to raise your hemoglobin levels indirectly by increasing the levels of iron in your body.
Improves reproductive health
According to ancient literature, the Greeks used fig as a natural aphrodisiac.
Figs were considered sacred fruit and were closely associated with fertility and love.
Scientifically, figs improve fertility and libido because they are loaded with minerals like zinc, manganese and magnesium which play an important role in boosting reproductive health.
Treat Common Illnesses
Because of the fig’s long history, it has been used to treat a wide range of common ailments for thousands of years.
More than 40 illnesses connected to the digestive, endocrine, reproductive and respiratory systems have been treated with fig fruit, extracts and components of the fig tree.
Studies have shown figs to be a good source of treatment for anemia, cancer, diabetes, leprosy, liver disease, paralysis, skin diseases, ulcers, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract infections, and more.
Figs and the fig tree are considered promising candidates for helping develop new drugs as well, and researchers hope to continue finding new medicinal uses for the plant.
Figs Nutrition: Cooking Tips and Recipe Ideas
Look for shapely, plump figs with unbruised, unbroken skins and a mild fragrance (a sour smell indicates spoilage).
They should be just soft to the touch, but not mushy. If the figs seem somewhat shriveled, as if they are beginning to dry, they will be particularly sweet.
Size is not an indicator of quality, but you’ll probably want to choose uniformly sized fruits if you are planning to serve them as individual portions for dessert.
How to store figs
To ripen slightly underripe figs, place them on a plate at room temperature, away from sunlight, and turn them frequently.
Keep ripe fresh figs in the refrigerator. Dried figs can be stored at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Just be sure that they are well-wrapped after opening so that they do not become too dry and hard.
How to use figs
Wash fresh figs and remove the hard portion of the stem end. Halve or quarter the fruit.
Thick-skinned Calimyrna figs are usually peeled, but Mission figs have thin, edible skins and do not need to be peeled.
Before preparing dried figs for cooking, place them in the freezer for an hour to make them easier to slice.
When chopping dried figs, dip the knife into hot water from time to time, to prevent the fruit from sticking to it.
Before using chopped figs in batters, toss the pieces with a little flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom.
If you like dried figs plumped, simmer them in boiling water, wine, or fruit juice for two minutes.
Add a drop of almond extract if desired.
9 fig recipe ideas
- Serve quartered fresh figs with a dollop of lightly sweetened ricotta cheese.
- Stir chopped dried figs into peanut butter or cream cheese for a sandwich spread.
- Add chopped dried figs to grain dishes.
- Make a salad of thinly sliced fresh figs, crumbled feta cheese, and lettuce, and dress with olive oil and lemon juice.
- Roast sliced fresh figs with sliced sweet potatoes and red onions tossed in a little olive oil.
- Use chopped dried figs in place of raisins.
- Skewer chunks of fresh figs and grill. Serve with sweetened yogurt.
- Poach whole dried figs in red wine and serve as a condiment with roast poultry or pork.
- Slice figs and put them on a cheddar cheese sandwich. If you’re feeling decadent, consider broiling the cheese on toast first for a grilled fig-cheese lunch.
Word of Caution
It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and eating too many figs can cause diarrhea.
Furthermore, dried figs are high in sugar and can potentially cause tooth decay.
Also, there are those who are allergic to figs, or certain chemical components within them, and the resulting allergic reactions can be mild to severe.
As always, before making a major change in your behavioral patterns or lifestyle, speak with your doctor or usual medical professional.
Finally, it is best not to consume too many figs in the week or two leading up to a surgery, because it can occasionally cause bleeding in the digestive tract in sensitive individuals.