Figs are in season! Figs are in season! And today Linda LaRue, creator of The Core Transformer and author of the SOUPer Slim Diet, is giving us the deets on this healthy fruit along with a fig preserves recipe that you can make at home!
Figs trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have first been cultivated in Egypt. Figs were later introduced to other regions of the Mediterranean by ancient conquerors and then brought to the Western Hemisphere by the Spaniards in the early 16th century. In the late 19th century, when Spanish missionaries established missions in California, they also planted fig trees. In the early 20th century, California began focused cultivation and processing of figs. Today, Cali is one the largest producers of figs in the world.
Figs grow on the Ficus tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family. They are unique in that they have an opening, called the “ostiole” or “eye,” which is not connected to the tree, but helps the fruit development, aiding it in communication with the environment.
Figs range dramatically in color and texture depending upon the variety (more than 150!) Below are the most popular/common varieties:
- Black Mission: blackish-purple skin and pink-colored flesh
- Kadota: green skin and purplish flesh
- Calimyrna: greenish-yellow skin and amber flesh
- Brown Turkey: purple skin and red flesh
- Adriatic: the variety most often used to make fig bars, which has a light green skin and pink-tan flesh
Fig’s Health Benefits
Figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin b6, copper, manganese, iron and pantothenic acid. Figs are also a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure. Since many people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables but do consume high amounts of sodium (as salt is frequently added to processed foods), they may be deficient in potassium. Low intake of potassium-rich foods, especially when coupled with a high intake of sodium, may lead to hypertension.
There also seems to be a positive insulin-lowering effect of fig leaves in diabetics. In many Mediterranean cultures, fig leaves are a common part of the menu — for good reason. Studies show that the leaves of the fig may reduce the amount of insulin needed by insulin-dependent diabetics.
Figs may have positive cardiovascular effects, too. In animal studies, fig leaves have been shown to lower levels of triglycerides (a form in which fats circulate in the bloodstream), while in in-vitro studies, fig leaves inhibited the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
Homemade Fig Preserves Recipe
- 3 lbs fresh figs, washed, stems removed
- 2 c granulated sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced and finely grated zest
- In a large saucepan, combine the figs, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the cover and continue simmering, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens. When the mixture gets quite thick, begin to stir constantly to keep from scorching.
- NOTE: If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into three hot, sterile 1-pint glass canning jars, filling jar to within ⅛-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Bring to a gentle simmer (180 to 185 degrees), and process, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer jars to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place.
Do you love figs? Ever made your own fig preserves? How else do you love eating and saving these in-season eats? —Linda LaRue