I love figs! Squishy fresh figs, dried figs, Fig Newton’s, figs on pizza, figs and prosciutto. You name it, I love the figs!
A few years ago my friend M (better not give his full name) and I rode our bikes from SF out to Nicasio. That’s a 75 mile ride round trip. M & I rode together a lot and we were always experimenting, trying to find the best ride food. On this day, M decided to eat a bunch of dried figs because he’d heard that figs were full of things that would benefit him on a long ride (carbs, sugar and potassium). The only problem is that M ate a whole lot of figs, like dozens of them. He ate them before the ride and stashed them in his pocket to eat all through the ride. He ate nothing but dried figs for miles. The problem came when he realized that figs are full of fiber. In fact, they contain more fiber per serving than any other fruit. In case you don’t realize, when you eat a lot of fiber you tend to get a little bloated. And, a lot of fiber and sugar in your system can cause a little rumbling. The last thing you want is a rumbly tummy when you’re miles from home trying to peddle your bike up a hill or two. After that ride, M never spoke of figs again. It’s kinda too bad because they’re really good for you. Like anything, in moderation.
With that, here are a few things I know about figs and why you should eat them.
- Figs range dramatically in color and subtly in texture depending upon the variety, of which there are more than one hundred and fifty. Some of the most popular varieties are: Black Mission: blackish-purple skin and pink colored flesh. Kadota: green skin and purplish flesh. Calimyrna: greenish-yellow skin and amber flesh. Brown Turkey: purple skin and red flesh. Adriatic: the variety most often used to make fig bars, which has a light green skin and pink-tan flesh.
- Figs are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure.
- Figs have nutrients especially important for today’s busy lifestyles. One quarter-cup serving of dried figs provides 5 grams of fiber — 20% of the recommended Daily Value. That serving also adds 6% of iron, 6% of calcium, and 7% of the Daily Value for potassium. And, they have no fat, no sodium, and no cholesterol. Recent research has shown that California Figs also have a high quantity of polyphenol antioxidants. One medium size fig contains about 40 calories.
- Figs are harvested in the late summer and early fall.
Some interesting bits
- In Greece – Figs were used as a training food by the early Olympic athletes, and figs were also presented as laurels to the winners as the first Olympic medals.
- The Romans – Pliny, the Roman writer (52-113 AD) said, “Figs are restorative. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.”
- Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable. The fiber in figs is both soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber are important for good health. And remember, fiber has a very positive effect on weight management!
How to Select and Store
Since fresh figs are one of the most perishable fruits, they should be purchased only a day or two in advance of when you are planning on eating them. Look for figs that have a rich, deep color and are plump and tender, but not mushy. They should have firm stems and be free of bruises. Smelling figs can also give you clues into their freshness and taste. They should have a mildly sweet fragrance and should not smell sour, which is an indication that they may be spoiled.
There you go. It’s currently fig season so eat up! I suggest eating ‘em fresh out of the basket, or you can put them in salads, oatmeal, on pizzas, all sorts of things. Here are some simple fig recipes if you want to have a look.