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October Superfood of the Month: Figs


What comes to mind when you think of figs?

The classic Fig Newton cookie?  Or, one of the many Bible stories that talk about fig trees?  What about a favorite recipe using fresh or dried figs?

Like all of our Superfoods, figs are both nutritious and delicious - and have an amazing flavor and texture,

which is why they are the...

 

October Superfood of the Month!

 

What are figs?

Figs grow on ficus trees and have been around for a REALLY long time.  Believe it or not, it's estimated that wild fig trees actually grew in the dinosaur era, over 100 million years ago!  Figs may even be the first food harvested by humans.  There are many Biblical references to fig trees and many believe the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was actually a fig (not an apple).

Figs are somewhat unique because they don't come from a flower.  Instead, they are the flower.  So, technically, figs are flowers, not fruits.  And, there are hundreds of tiny flowers that grow inside the figs...these edible seeds give figs their unique texture.

Turkey is the largest global producer of figs.  In the U.S., well over 90% of the figs (and close to 100% of dried figs) come from California.  There are many varieties of figs, with the two most common being Golden figs and black Mission figs (the dark, sweet variety you often find).  In case you were wondering, the priests of the Mission San Diego planted fig trees in the 1700s, which is why they are called "Mission" figs.

 

Why figs?

Like all of our Superfoods, figs are loaded with beneficial nutrients:

  • Figs are low in calories -- only 20-40 calories per fig!
  • They are a good source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Figs also contain antioxidants, which we know help prevent and fight chronic disease.
  • Fig's potassium helps reduce blood pressure and they contain respectable amounts of calcium, iron, manganese and zinc.
  • The first Olympians included figs as an integral part of their training routines.  Even today, some endurance athletes include figs as part of their routine because of their energy and portability.

 

Dried or fresh?

Fresh figs have two seasons, one in early summer and another larger harvest in autumn.  Unfortunately, they only last about a week after harvest, which is why most figs are sold as dried.  If you live in a part of the country where fresh figs are hard to find, your best bet is to find a farmer who harvests their own figs and try to work out a deal!

Even if fresh figs aren't available, dried figs are a great option.  The nutrition isn't dramatically different and they provide a sweet, concentrated flavor.  Plus, they are available year-round.

 

How do you select and store figs?

If you can find fresh figs, look for a vibrant, rich color.  You want them to be plump, with no bruises or broken skin.  They should have a mild aroma...if they smell sour, the are likely starting to spoil.  Use them quickly, as they don't stay fresh for long after harvesting.

For dried figs, you can purchase them packaged or in bulk.  If you purchase them in bulk, make sure they are clean and mold-free.  Like fresh figs, their aroma should be sweet, not sour.  For packaged figs, you can store them in a cool, dry place, and then keep them refrigerated once you have opened them.

 

What can you do with figs?

Keep it simple and combine them in a Ziploc bag with walnuts or almonds -- they make an economical, nutritious and delicious snack, anytime of the day!  Or, try offering them up on your next cheese tray, along with grapes...their flavors compliment beautifully.

Then, it's time to get cooking with figs!  Figs provide a great flavor and texture and are excellent in both sweet and savory dishes.  They pair especially well with salty flavors, such as Greek kalamata olives and various types of cheese.  We love them in salads, pasta, pizza, grilled cheese, toppings for meats, oatmeal, smoothies, energy bites and so much more!  Plus, they are great in baked goods, because they help retain moisture.

 

A few of our favorite recipes:

Roasted Fig Salad

Caramelized Onion, Fig and Gorgonzola Pizza

Grape, Fig and Walnut Salad with Simple Vinaigrette

Butternut Squash and Fig Pasta

 

Some other tips about figs:

  • Placing dried figs in the freezer for an hour can make them easier to slice.
  • When slicing or dicing, you can rinse your knife under warm water if it becomes too sticky.
  • Dried figs are a good substitute for dried dates in many recipes (and they are higher in fiber and lower in sugar).
  • You can reconstitute dried figs by soaking them in warm water until soft.  Even when reconstituted, they will still be different than fresh figs, but are great for stews, cobblers, salads, appetizers and more.

 

We hope this inspires you to incorporate figs into one of your meals this week!

Better yet, we hope you consider taking the Superfood challenge, and try figs in different ways at least once a week during October!

If you have a favorite fig recipe or tip, please share!

 

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