Prior to this September, figs were but a memory of the dried fruit & nut tray Grandma boasted on the Christmas buffet (on the tray they remained) or those gooey, cakey Fig Newtons which were a constant on our pre-school snack menu (off the tray they went). But after sampling a, juicy, chewy but crunchy, subtly sweet Black Mission fig at a local market? I have to wonder… how I’ve passed them by all these years. Their unique allure captured my affections in just one bite. And their nutritional benefits? Big bonus. Figs are known for their fiber, potassium and manganese content, as well as a good fruit source of calcium. Figs also contain disease-fighting antioxidants… which we can’t seem to get enough of these days.
Figs are renowned for their digestive aid. You say you don’t give a fig about the sweet fruit that comes from the ficus tree? Well, you will after taking a succulent bite out of our quiz.
1. Which little critter pollinates figs, whose flowers are entirely inside the fruit?
2. Now that the wasp reference has whetted your appetite, how many fewer calories does one cup of figs contain compared to a cup of raisins?
3. Figs are renowned for their, uh, digestive aid. What percentage of the daily value of fiber does a cup of figs provide?
a) 38 percent
b) 58 percent
c) 88 percent
4. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that high consumption of figs led to what percentage of a decrease in the incidence of postmenopausal breast cancer?
a) 10 percent
b) 29 percent
c) 34 percent
5. Fig lore has it that a certain political leader ordered his citizens to consume at least one fig a day to ward off disease. Who was that leader?
a) Alexander the Great of Macedonia
b) Mithradates the Great of Pontus
c) Xerxes the Great of Persia
ANSWERS: 1: b; 2: b; 3: b; 4: c; 5: b.
Enjoy them while they’re ripe.
Figs have two seasons – now is one of them! The first, shorter season in early summer and the second, main crop starts in late summer and runs through fall. Figs are not available from local sources in much of the Midwest and northeastern U.S. – they require a warmer climate (20°F threshold). The majority of fresh figs in the US are grown in California. Dried figs are available all year, and are equally, if not more nutritious.
Fresh figs are highly perishable – three days refrigerated. But not to worry – figs can quickly be preserved and transformed into chutney, compote, sauces, baked or frozen. I found a plethora of intriguing recipes and ideas after arriving home with my first basket. I started with a fig salad (recipe below) – beautiful, delicious and so easy!
Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Core out the bottom of the fig and fill with desired cheese (I used a honey goat cheese, Gorgonzola would also work well). Wrap fig with a slice of prosciutto (cut to fit the fig). Brush all sides with olive oil. Grill for a few minutes on each side, prosciutto will crisp and fig will soften. Serve with arugula or mixed greens and drizzle with a balsamic reduction. Sprinkle with toasted pistachios. Serve immediately.