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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Figs

Figs:

The common fig is a species of flowering plant in the genius "Ficus".  It is a member of the Mulberry family.  The fig has been cultivated since ancient times.  Nine sub fossil fig types dating to about 9400 - 9200 BC were found in an early Neolithic village.  Today figs are grown throughout the temperate world both for fruit and as an ornamental plant. 

Most commercial production of figs is in dried or otherwise processed form.   The fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well.   Dried figs are available throughout the year.  California figs are available from mid-May to as late as mid-December.  Figs are deliciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds.

Some of the most popular varieties of figs 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 - light green skin and pink-tan flesh (most often used for fig bars)
Figs can be eaten fresh or dried.  Figs are one of the richest plant sources of calcium and fiber.  Per the USDA Mission variety figs are the richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K.   The potassium in figs are helpful in controlling blood pressure and the dietary fiber is helpful in weight management.

I don't remember fresh figs as a kid.   The figs I saw were dried either in Fig Newtons, or packaged  dried in a wheel shape around the holidays.  It wasn't until I was in the supermarket that I encountered fresh figs that came in a clear plastic container.   I remember hearing that one of my wife's uncles planted a fig tree in the backyard of his Florida home.  I thought how "old world" that was.

When purchasing fresh figs  purchase only a day or two before you're planning to eat them.  Select figs with rich deep color that are plump and tender, but not mushy with firm stems and are free of bruises.  Avoid figs with brown or grayish spots on the skin, which indicates they are starting to ferment.   Ripe figs should be kept in refrigeration.  They should be well wrapped  to reduce exposure to air , which can cause them to become hard or dry.

Before eating or cooking wash  under cool water and gently remove stem.  Gently wipe dry.  Fresh figs are great to eat out of hand or wrap with a piece of prosciutto and use as an appetizer (like you would with a piece of melon).  Fresh figs can also be made into jam or preserves. Dried figs can be simply eaten as is, used in a recipe, or simmered for several minutes in water or fruit juice to make them plumper and juicier.

So........Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.