Native to southwest Asia and the Mediterranean region (from Afghanistan to Portugal) the common Fig or scientifically known as Ficus carica is large deciduous shrub or small tree. Fig trees bear small, sweet fruits that can be eaten fresh, dried, preserved or candied.
As early as 5000 B.C. the first fig trees were domesticated throughout the Mediterranean. Hence fig growing widely spread to other countries like the Germany, Canary Islands, England, China, Japan, South Africa, India and Australia. In 1769, the Spanish brought the mission fig tree to California and the Anglo-Americans enjoyed them and began importing additional fig varieties and later spread to other parts of the United States.
Fig trees can grow as tall as 15 to 30 feet in height with canopies being wider than they are tall. Their trunks grow to about 7 inches in dia and support twisting and muscular branches. Their roots are shallow and can spread upto three times the width of their canopies. They have large bright green leaves and their fruit is round or pear shaped. The color of the fruit depends on the variety of the fig tree which can be yellow, brow, green or dark purple. Fig trees are divided into four main groups that include the Common figs, Capri figs, Smyrna figs and San Pedro figs. Capri figs produce inedible fruit but are necessary to pollinate other fig trees. Smyrna figs need pollination by Capri figs. San Pedro figs do not require pollination for their first crop but depend on pollination to produce their second crop. Common figs do not require pollination at all and are the most frequently grown. Four popular varieties of common fig trees are Celeste, Brown Turkey, Brunswick and Marseilles.
Fig trees can grow quite large and aren’t suited to small places. They need at least eight hours of sun a day and regular watering during the growing season. However, over watering can cause the fruit to split. They can grow in a wide range of soils but highly acidic soils should be avoided. Fig trees produce about two crops a year and remain productive for 12 to 15 years. The first crop of the year is called the breba crop and is usually acid and inferior to the valuable second crop.
Figs are commonly known as Anjeer in India. The common fig (edible fruit) variety is widely grown throughout its natural range in the Mediterranean region, Iran, Pakistan and northern India and also in other areas of the world with a similar climate. Figs can also be found in continental climate with hot summer, as far north as Hungary, and can be harvested up to three times per year. It has been an important food crop for thousands of years, and was also thought to be highly beneficial in the diet.
Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in making of jam. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well. There are many ways of incorporating the figs in your diet like eating dried figs as a healthy energy snack. For extra flavor and nutrients stuff them with nuts and a little honey. Figs are added to baked products such as muffins, cakes and muesli bars. Dried or fresh figs can also be added to your oatmeal or breakfast cereals or porridge to make it healthy and nutritious. You can also add figs to your tarts or to the yoghurt and prepare a yummy and delicious dip.
Figs are one of the highest rich sources of calcium and fiber. Research study states that dried figs are richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, relative to human needs. They have smaller amounts of many other nutrients. Figs have a laxative effect and contain many antioxidants. They are good source of flavonoids and polyphenols including gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, epicatechin and rutin. In one study, a 40-gram portion of dried figs (two medium size figs) produced a significant increase in plasma antioxidant capacity.
According to the traditional medicine, the roots are used in treatment of leucoderma and ringworms. Its fruits which are sweet, have antipyretic, purgative, aphrodisiac properties and have shown to be useful in inflammations and paralysis. Ficus carica is claimed to be useful in liver and spleen disorders, to cure piles and in treatment of gout. As per Ayurveda, figs are sweet. They clean the mouth and remove foul taste. Figs are a natural tonic for energy and vitality. They are also high in fiber; their tiny seeds stimulate peristaltic movements of the intestines and their emollient quality softens and soothes any inflammation of the skin lining the intestines. Locally, the leaves are used in the treatment of jaundice.
Eating of figs are very beneficial to health as they lower cholesterol, controls blood pressure, helps in weight loss, prevents constipation, increases bone density and are good for people suffering from Anemia. Eating of figs regularly can provide relief from fatigue and sleep disorders and bring about improvement in memory. Fig juice can be taken to cure sore throat and inflammation of bronchial passage. When fig is taken with milk, it can bring about improvement in anemic condition.
One serving of dried figs that is about 4 dried figs contains almost 70 calories. All dried fruits have greater amounts of sugar in them, as compared to the same amount of fresh fruit. Thus, people with diabetes should avoid eating dried figs. One serving of dried figs contains 13g of sugar, which is not good for diabetic people. The symbol of abundance, fertility and sweetness, figs are moist, succulent fruits. These fruits are relished in both their fresh as well as dried forms. The dried version of the fruit unlike the fresh ones, are tasty and sweet. Dried figs are popularly relished as in between meal snacks. Dried figs enhance the taste when used in cereals, yogurt and even in cakes and various desserts. Let’s have a look at the different nutrients available in dried figs.
The nutritional values per 100 g of dried uncooked figs are:
Energy: 1,041 kJ (249 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 63.87 g
Sugars: 47.92 g
Dietary fiber: 9.8 g
Fat: 0.93 g
Protein: 3.30 g
Thiamine (Vit. B1): 0.085 mg
Riboflavin (Vit. B2): 0.082 mg
Niacin (Vit. B3): 0.619 mg
Vitamin B6: 0.106 mg
Vitamin C: 1.2 mg
Calcium: 162 mg
Iron: 2.03 mg
Magnesium: 68 mg
Phosphorus: 67 mg
Potassium: 680 mg
Zinc: 0.55 mg (6%)