Figs are a sweet, ancient fruit boasting important health-giving properties and a distinct flavour, making it a culinary favourite year ’round.
Believed to be the first plant ever cultivated by man, the fig (fresh or dried) has stood the test of time thanks to its sweet and complex texture and undeniable health benefits, including an abundance of minerals and anti-ageing phytonutrients.
The most common fig found on market shelves is the fruit of the ficus tree, known as the dumur or anjeer. Succulent and sweet, fresh figs have a nut-like flavour and delicate, red and golden skin.
High in Fibre
While highly perishable, fresh figs are often dried to preserve and magnify their health benefits, ensuring those who eat them benefit from their high fibre any time of the year.
Figs are loaded with potassium, which is said to help lower blood pressure, while help promote stronger bones. However, when choosing the dried variety, be sure to select sun preserved that are packaged without health-damaging sulphates, which are widely used to prolong shelf life, while maintain the fruit’s original colour.
The Wasp and the Fig
Without wasps, figs would cease to bloom and ripen. It’s the ecological partnership between fruit and insect that brings healthy figs to the table. However, its this same relationship that deters many vegans from eating figs, due to the likelihood of at least one “fig wasp” ending up in the juicy pulp once picked.
Fig wasps are small insects whose job it is to pollinate these ancient fruits. Without each other, neither would survive.
A female fig wasp pushes her way through the narrow passage of the fig, which she reaches through a small, round opening at the base of the fruit. This cramped journey results in the wasp losing her wings and antenna, which means she the soon-to-ripen fruit is her final resting place.
Beyond the Fruit
While the West favours the fruit, other cultures also rely on the fig tree’s leaves for health-giving properties, one of which is said to benefit those who are at increased risk of developing diabetes.
Studies have shown fig tree leaves boast anti-diabetic properties and may reduce the need for insulin injections.
Figs are also rich in calcium, which of course can help with bone health, but also blood pressure reduction.
Manganese is a brilliant for boosting metabolism, while also helping with calcium absorption and inflammation reduction (good news for arthritis sufferers).
Doctrine of Signatures
According to the ancient Doctrine of Signatures, which suggests each natural food resembles a particular body part of which it is most suited to nourish, figs are said to increase motility of male sperm.
Growing in bunches of two, and bursting with tiny seeds, figs have also been found to increase sperm numbers, and in some cases, help men overcome sterility.
Figs as a Beauty Food
Thanks to their excellent fibre content, figs are great for cleaning out digestive crud—the stuff that can ultimately lead to dis-eases such as colon cancer—while helping reduce cholesterol. They are also said to help normalise blood sugar.
The plentiful fibre can also help to foster great skin from within, as a healthy digestive tract or lack thereof eventually shows up on the skin.
Meanwhile, the potassium content may also help promote healthy digestion and even support with balancing electrolytes in the body.
How to Eat Figs
While best eaten fresh or dried to receive the majority of nutrients, figs can also be stewed, made into jam, or simply simmered in water for a few minutes to make them plumper and juicier.
As with any fruit, figs are best eaten on an empty stomach to avoid fermentation in the gut, as can happen when combining most fruits with other foods. Such combining can cause bloating and gas.