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In Praise of the Humble Fig

Healthy. Delicious. Great as snacks or a complement to your charcuterie board.

March 15, 2021
If your only experience with the magnificent fig has been a package of Fig Newtons®, you may be in for quite a surprise. We have some amazing facts to share with you about this delicious, versatile fruit.

Even though figs made their first commercial product appearance in 1892 by way of Fig Newtons®, they have a distinguished past worth recounting.
Figs Go Way, Way Back
Known as a symbol of abundance, fertility, and sweetness, wild fig trees first grew in Africa, West Asia and South Asia and around the Mediterranean Sea, probably beginning in the time of dinosaurs, more than a hundred million years ago. According to fossil records figs date back to between 9400-9200 B.C.

The fig has had a long and illustrious history and played prominent roles in every major modern religion, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.

It’s interesting to note that there are those who believe that the fruit in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve was actually figs, not apples. And we all know what a great coverup fig leaves provided for them.

In early Rome, figs were considered to be recuperative. The earliest Olympians used figs as a training food and they were also presented as laurels to the winners, thus becoming the first Olympic “medal.”

Figs were held in such high esteem in ancient Greece that laws were passed that forbade exporting the best quality figs. In fact, the word “sycophant” originated from the Greek word meaning one who informs against another for exporting figs or for stealing figs. Over time, the word came to mean someone who attempts to win favor with flattery.
“This fruit invigorates the young, improves the health of the aged, and retards the formation of wrinkles.”

Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – August 25, AD 79)
It has been said that gardened figs may be the first kind of food that anybody cultivated, even before barley and wheat. In the early 16th century, it was the Spaniards who introduced figs to California and Mission San Diego priests planted figs in 1769.

Fast forward to the late 19th century, when Italian immigrants brought fig tree cuttings with them, along with other seeds and vines, as they settled around America. Many of them found a home in cold-weather locations less likely to be the best environment for the fig tree to take root. In spite of this, coddled by their propagators, the figs flourished and today are often center stage in many American neighborhood gardens.
The Figs of Today
Figs are members of the Ficus family, and with more than 750 species the world over, they are native to practically everywhere on earth. How about this little "figbit"…practically every species of fig tree is pollinated by a distinct species of fig wasp, each a remarkable example of co-evolution.
Even though the average female fig wasp is less than 7/100 of an inch long, she must often travel tens of miles in less than 48 hours to lay her eggs in another fig. Now that’s perseverance!

A bedrock species in many rainforests, fig trees thrive in dry, temperate climes like the Mediterranean, producing fruit year-round that are essential food sources for thousands of animal types from bats to monkeys to birds. Turkey is the world’s largest fig producer, followed by Egypt, Iran, Greece, Algeria and Morocco.

Interestingly, fig trees have no blossoms on their branches because the blossom is actually inside the fruit, which led many early cultures to believe the plants to be flowerless. These “hidden” edible seeds are tiny flowers that give figs their unique texture and the delightful crunch they offer.

Some fig species are trees, others are vines, shrubs, and still several that even grow on other plants. In addition, Figs are self-pollinating, so you only need one fig plant to produce fruit.
Let’s Talk Health Benefits
To begin with, figs are low in calories and contain soluble dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Three large fresh figs, a little over two ounces each, have about 140 calories and 5.5 grams of dietary fiber – usually, more fiber than in a cup of oatmeal or a slice of high fiber wheat bread. Indeed, ounce for ounce, figs have more fiber than prunes and more potassium than bananas.

Three and a half ounces of dried figs contain around 162 milligrams of calcium, 16% of the daily recommendation. What’s more, a half cup of figs has approximately as much calcium as a half cup of milk.

Dried figs are rich in minerals, including potassium, copper, iron, selenium, manganese, and zinc – all essential elements for red blood cell production and for cellular oxidation. Go Figure!
Get Cookin’ with Figs
From refreshing salads to main dish casseroles to elegant desserts, figs have a broad range of recipes they can enhance. Whether for a sweet or savory dish, embellished with other flavors or simply enjoyed with a bit of cheese, figs play well with any number of accoutrements.

The fig has a rightful place on your table, so take the opportunity to go beyond Fig Newtons and partner your favorite recipe with this most glorious taste sensation.
Wildfare organic dried figs are responsibly sourced and imported from the most benign climates to assure they’re cultivated under ideal conditions. You’ll discover that our figs are the perfect complement for your cheese or charcuterie board, adding a wonderful sweetness and turning your boards into gourmet events. Perfect as a quick snack or incorporated into cakes, breads, pudding and even stuffed for canapés, our dried figs will add just the right “wrinkle” to practically any dish.
"Figtoids" (IDKT: I Didn’t Know That!)
With a 55% sugar content, figs are the sweetest of all fruits.

The Cambridgeport, Massachusetts Kennedy Biscuit Works created Fig Newtons in 1891. At the time, they named many of their other cookies for nearby towns and almost called it the “Fig Shrewsbury” before Newton was the winning name.

The fig was Cleopatra’s favorite fruit, and, reportedly, the asp that ended her life was brought to her in a basket of figs.

Strangler figs grow their roots downward from the tops of their host trees, ultimately killing and replacing them.

Figs are harvested according to nature’s clock, fully ripened and partially dried on the tree.
*DISCLAIMER
The information that appears in Wildfare communications is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or instruction.
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