I love the smoky, earthy, coffee flavours in figs. As a teenager, I packed Fig Newtons® in my lunch religiously every school day but rarely ate fresh figs due to the lack of availability. Today in Canada, both fresh and dried figs are an everyday fruit. Did you know, the fig is the most talked about fruit in the Bible and figs were mentioned in a Babylonian hymnbook about 2000 B.C.? And the fig tree is the symbol of abundance, fertility, and sweetness.
More Fun Fig Facts
- Figs made their first commercial product appearance in the 1892 (A century before I was packing them in my lunch…) with the introduction of Fig Newtons® Cookies.
- The fibre in figs is both soluble and insoluble. Both types of fibre are important for good health.
- Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes or the real fruit.
- When Spanish explorers brought the fig plant to California, it already had a rich history in Europe and Middle Eastern countries.
- Figs are harvested in the late summer and early fall, but because they are dried and conveniently packaged, they are available all year long. They are popular additions to a wide assortment of baked goods, and also a part of traditional American and Jewish holiday feasts such as Succoth, Hanukkah and Passover.
Grow with Figs
There a few varieties of figs, however, the most familiar variety is the Ficus carica better known as the common fig, which is a member of the mulberry family. Ranging in colour from light to very dark green, figs are most prosperous in warm climates which are both sunny and dry. Originally cultivated in the Middle East, in the seventeenth century exploration by European settlers brought the fig to North America. Today, areas well known for commercial growing of figs include Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Spain and California.
We do not have a viable commercial fig crop in Canada; however, many people have figs trees as part of their gardens. In retail, figs are very popular with approximately 55% of the figs produced in California being shipped to Canada. Figs can be eaten fresh (usually late summer and early fall), dried or in jams and cookies.
Fig Nutrition and Health
Figs are very nutrient dense and are an excellent source of dietary fibre. Just 3 to 5, dried or fresh, provide 5 grams of dietary fibre or 20% of the Daily Value. One serving, 3 to 5 dried or fresh figs provides 3.5 grams insoluble fibre and 1.5 grams water-soluble fibre. When adequate dietary fibre is part of an overall healthy diet, it helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and supports heart, digestive and colon health, plus lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (1) and helps maintain a healthy weight.
Figs contain a high amount of potassium (approximately 5.8% of the DV per 8 oz serving) which has been shown to lower blood pressure (2). Six million Canadian adults have high blood pressure, representing 19% of the adult population. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the leading causes of stroke in Canada.
Calcium and iron are two of the most abundant minerals within figs (3). These components of figs have been proven to help maintain bone health (4) and reduce the risk of/reverse anemia respectively (5). These findings are especially helpful for people eating a plant based diet as calcium and iron are found predominantly in animal sources.
Tips to add Figs to your Meal Plan
- Figs are an all-natural energy source, perfect for an afternoon snack or a quick snack before a game or workout.
- Add them to your favourite salad or stuffing recipe.
- Add them to casseroles and desserts.
- Make granola with dried figs and apricots.
Try this fall salad recipe from California Figs – Grilled Fig and Beet Salad with Walnuts and Arugula.
- Lindstrom J, et al. High-fibre, low-fat diet predicts long-term weight loss and decreased type 2 diabetes risk: the Finnish Diabetes Study. Diebetologia. 2006; 49: 912-20.
- Haddy FJ, Vanhoutte PM, Feletou, M. Role of potassium in regulating blood flow and blood pressure. Am. J. Physiol. 2005; 290(3): R546-52.
- Solomon A, et al. Antioxidant Activities and Anthocyanin Content of Fresh Fruits of Common Fig (Ficus carica L.). J. Agric. Food Chem. 2006; 54: 7717-23.
- Didier G. Bone health: Osteoporosis, calcium and vitamin D. Statistics Canada Health Reports. 2011; 22(3): 7 – 14.
- Smoot L. Anemia: Focus on common types and treatment. Drug Topics. 2007; 151(14): 58 – 67.