Figs: Properties and Benefits

Figs grow on fig trees (Ficus carica), and sprout in bunches.  Their pulp has an intensely sweet flavor, and the juice provides a lot of energy.  They are full of tiny seeds that in reality, are the actual fruit (see detail).  There are more than 750 different fig varieties, some are edible or digestible, and others aren’t.  The edible varieties contain a substance known as cradina, which is a digestive ferment that contains a lot of fiber, which improves intestinal movement.
Figs: Properties and Benefits

A few properties of edible figs

  • Very good laxative, helps prevent constipation and to correct intestinal problems.
  • Rich in citric acid, malic acid, and acetic acid.
  • Contains good amounts of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, which is why it helps in diets against osteoporosis, periods of growth, athletes, and pregnant women.
  • Contains considerable amounts of iron (0.37 mg), which could help prevent anemia and strengthen the body’s defenses.
  • Has high vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, and C content, which also makes the fig very good for sight, the skin, and for strengthening the immune system and preventing illnesses and contagions.
  • Has a high concentration of water (80%).
  • Rich in carbohydrates, especially saccharose, fructose, and glucose.  It provides the body with energy and vitality, as its natural sugars are easily absorbed and do not irritate the nervous system, like refined sugar does.
  • Avoid eating unripe figs, as they are irritating and toxic to the body.

About figs

Figs are a very ancient foods that has been known since 9000 B.C.  It was thought to come from western Asia, and can be found today nearly all over the world.  In antiquity, it was thought that fig trees didn’t have flowers, however, their flowers are “backwards”.  This means that through the complex developmental process, its flowers are hidden inside a small, pear-shaped receptacle (the fig).  These flowers produce tiny grains (like seeds) that can be felt inside the mouth, and can easily be crushed while eating a fig.  These small grains are called achene (or seeds).  These are the fig’s true fruit (drupes).  This tiny fruit is wrapped in a receptacle which contains a sweet, juicy, and sugary meat.  In summary, the flowers and fruit develop inside a spherical structure that is known as a sychonium, or a fig, in botany.  And to say things rather poetically, you could say that the soft purple, black, green, or red skin that covers the fig is in a way, how the flower petal “opens inside”, wrapping up the flower and fruit.  This could be where the mystical metaphor of a flowering human being comes from.

Harvesting the fig

Fig trees bear fruit twice a year: from April to May (in the Spring) and from August to September (at the end of Summer, and the beginning of Autumn).  From a botanical perspective, figs are not fruit, but infructescence (a group of fruits) that is modified through inflorescence.

Figs can measure anywhere from 6 to 7 cm tall, and 4 to 5.5 cm in diameter.  They are very seasonal and can easily be found in the northern hemisphere in August and September (February and March for the southern hemisphere).

Dried figs

These are very common during the holidays and are used to make a large amount of dishes and pastries.  Dried figs come from uneaten fresh fruit, and is dried in the sun, just like grapes.  To do this, a fresh fig is taken and flattened a bit.  It is then placed in special dehydrators and is left under the sun for a few days.  It is then turned every once in a while so that the moisture evaporates well.  To dry them well, they must receive a lot of sun, or it should be done in temperatures over 30 degrees C.

Properties of dried figs

  • Contains a larger amount of calcium than fresh figs.
  • Has more carbohydrates, making it higher in calories and energy content.  This same sugar is also its preserver, keeping it well preserved throughout the entire year.
  • It has a more concentrated and sweeter taste.

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