The fig is the most talked about fruit in the Bible and they have been around since the first days of mankind. Although not definitively known, the fig probably originated in Asia Minor as figs were reported in China 700 years ago. They spread rapidly in various parts of the world like Egypt and Greece. Subsequently they migrated to American continents when Spaniards introduced them in California in the mid 1770s.
The fig tree is a quite tall deciduous tree. Though the average height of this picturesque tree is 10 – 30 ft, it can reach a height of up to 50 ft. Fig leaves are quite large (it is believed that Adam and Eve made their first dress with fig leaves) and are members of the Moraceae family.
Fig fruits appear twice. The first crop or common fig appears in the spring while the second crop or main fig appears in the fall. Mature fruit is round or oval in shape, with a tough pure green or blackish green peel. The fruit often cracks when ripe and expose the pulp beneath. Interior to the flesh is the seed mass. The edible seeds are numerous and hollow.
Figs come in different varieties:
Black Mission – major fresh figs
Kadota – greenish yellow skin with purple flesh
Calimyrna – most popular dried variety, large, greenish yellow
Smyrna – the Turkish variety
Adriatic –light green skin, pale pink flesh
While fresh figs are rarely found at market dried figs are available throughout the year. The first fig crop is available in June and the second crop is available during August – September.
If you buy slightly unripe figs, place them on a plate at room temperature for a few days. However, ripe figs retain their freshness for a few days inside the refrigerator. Dried figs can be kept for several months and can also remain in frozen condition.
A fig can be eaten fresh, though it is best if cooked or baked. If you want to have dried figs in plumped condition, just simmer them in boiling water or fruit juice and add a drop of almond flavor – yummy.
A fig is a good source of the indigestible food fiber – lignin that helps in retaining water. Also, a fig has a very high sugar content and a notable amount of protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.