What The Fig?
If you are like the majority of people, you may not be acquainted with the fig except for maybe a fig newton or perhaps used as a prehistoric fig leaf loin cloth in the days before underwear. All joking aside figs have all kinds of incredible uses. Let us help educate you about this underused and perhaps underappreciated ‘super fruit’.
Figs or to get technical, Ficus carica, are one of the first fruits known to be utilized by humans. Sumerians used stoned tablets to document using figs for various purposes dating all the way back to 2500 B.C. This is the first written record, but they were likely used even earlier than that. Some biblical scholars consider the fig to be the actual fruit picked by Eve in the Garden of Eden. They have been referred to as the “forbidden fruit” or the “fruit of God.” In many cultures, they are a sign of peace, victory, and fertility. There are a whopping 700+ variations and species of the fig.
It may surprise you but there are a plethora of uses for the versatile fig, especially culinary ones: you can use them in salads, cakes, pies, tarts, pudding, pizza, bread, jam, jelly, or in chutney. They are also a great addition to stuffing and accompanying any protein as a component in many side dishes like wild rice, couscous, orzo, and risotto. Another favorite is to add them in combination with your favorite variety of cheese to create a beautiful symphony of flavor and balance for the palette. One favorite is fresh figs, gruyere or brie, and prosciutto. For more recipe ideas.
They also go great on warm sandwiches. But, our ultimate favorite is just straight off the tree. If they are ready to be eaten, they will feel soft (like a marshmallow) when you squeeze them between your fingers, if they are firm they are under-ripe.
***Fun Fact- The figs are pollinated by a specialized wasp whose niche is to pollinate the delicious fruit, they are called the fig wasp. To read up on the full process go to wasp pollination
Figs and their leaves are a great source of natural fiber and are packed with nutrients like vitamin k, magnesium, potassium, B6, copper, riboflavin, thiamine, and are low in calories. They aid in heart health while also helping manage blood sugar levels. Because they are high in fiber they are beneficial for digestion, bloating, and constipation.
Figs and their leaves are also known to have potential anticancer properties. The natural latex in the fig plant has been shown to inhibit antitumor activity in cells against a variety of cancers. Although that doesn’t mean eating a fig a day will keep cancer away, necessarily, studies have shown that adding figs to your diet can be beneficial for cell health and keep cells anti-cancerous.
Growing Spaces considers the fig to be one of the best fruit trees to grow in the Growing Dome. We have four types of figs at the Growing Spaces campus that produce amazingly well: Smith, Kabota, Mission, and Chicago. They provide shade for other plants and a large amount of evaporative cooling. This helps stabilize the internal temperatures of the dome. Many varieties of figs grow on a tree or large bush. Some are green, some are very dark purple (almost black). Figs thrive in full sun and stay healthy even in drier soil and extremely cold or hot conditions. To learn more about growing, pruning, planting, and harvesting figs in the Growing Dome or Greenhouse go to our article.