Figs are one of the earliest plants cultivated by humans, with fossil evidence predating the cultivation of even barley and wheat. In fact, some theories maintain that figs are the single oldest domesticated fruit, predating the next closest plant by 1,000 years.
Originally native to the area from Turkey to northern India, the fig was immensely popular in ancient times and quickly spread throughout the Mediterranean, Africa and Europe. Today, the primary producers of dried figs are the United States, Turkey, Greece, and Spain. This nutrient-rich fruit arrived in the United States by way Spanish missionaries immigrating to Southern California in 1759. Fig trees soon began sprouting up all throughout the state.
The many diverse varieties of fig trees produce fruit that ranges from near-black in color to purple, green, yellow and even pink. Figs must be picked when they are ripe, as they cease to ripen once they are plucked from the tree.
Although figs are most often available dried, they are best eaten raw and fresh. They are a calcium-rich food and dried figs are well-known for their mild laxative effect.
Despite their sweet flavor, figs are uniquely well-suited to savory dishes. Wrap figs in bacon or prosciutto and bake them until the meat is cooked through for a simple, unexpected appetizer. Or, serve the figs uncooked: arrange them on a platter with some bread and goat cheese or sprinkle them on top of a leafy green salad.
Fresh figs are available in the U.S. from July through September, while dried figs are available year-round. Look for fruit that is soft with a sweet fragrance. Avoid fruit with a slightly sour odor, as this is a sign of over-ripeness. Both white and black figs are highly perishable when fresh. Handle the fragile fruit carefully to prevent bruising their skin.
Source: www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov, www.health-care-clinic.org
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Fish With Figs, Bacon and Pecans
• 2 (6 ounce) fish fillets, preferably redfish
• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 6 slices apple-smoked bacon (avoid if you are vegetarian)
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 2 shallots, minced
• 4 ounces fig preserves
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/4 cup pecans, toasted
• salt and pepper
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 42 mins
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Fry bacon in an ovenproof skillet and drain on paper towels. Leave the bacon grease in the skillet — that adds lots of flavor! Add shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Saute for 2 minutes over medium heat.
3. Chop bacon into half inch pieces.
4. Add white wine, preserves, pecans and bacon to the skillet and reduce for about 4 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and reserve.
5. Season both sides of the filets with salt and pepper and place in the skillet. If you are not using fresh fish, you may need to add some other seasonings. Cover the fish with the fig mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
6. Serve with your favorite rice/couscous and a salad.
Rainbow Chard With Figs, Garlic, Pine Nuts & Feta
2 lbs rainbow chard leaves, ends trimmed (or other variety of Swiss chard)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup dried fig, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper
feta cheese, to taste
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 35 mins
1. Coarsely chop the chard and add it to a pot of boiling salted water. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and set aside. (You can also just braise it; it cooks in about the same time.)
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the figs and pine nuts and cook until the pine nuts are lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
3. Stir in the chard and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until warmed, stirring occasionally.
4. Sprinkle with feta cheese, if desired.
Spanish Quinoa With Figs and Pimientos
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 cup chicken broth, low sodium
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon saffron thread
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup diced dried fig
2 tablespoons pimientos, jarred chopped, drained
Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
1. Saute garlic in oil over medium heat. Add quinoa stir for 1 minute to toast quinoa. Deglaze pan with broth.
2. Add water, bay leaf, saffron, and salt, stir lightly. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover pan and simmer 20 minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat. Discard bay leaf. Add peas, figs and pimientos. Cover pan and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Pork Tenderloin Medallions With Fresh Figs
• olive oil
• kosher salt and black pepper
• 1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into medallions
• 1 pint fresh fig, trimmed and cut in half, black mission, green kadota, brown Turkish
• 1 cup white wine
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 15 mins
1. Place a large cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium high heat and coat the bottom with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons.
2. Season the pork medallions liberally with salt and pepper and place in preheated skillet. Sear on both sides until well browned, about 3 minutes per side, or to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.
3. Remove pork from pan to a platter and cover loosely with foil.
4. Add the figs to the pan, adding a pinch more salt and pepper and additional oil, if needed. Cook figs for 3 minutes, then add the wine to the pan. Stir gently to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow wine to come to a boil and reduce slightly, about 3 minutes.
5. Return the pork to the pan with any juices that may have accumulated on the platter. Coat with the sauce and allow just to heat through. Turn the pork and figs onto the platter with all of the sauce.
Fig Banana Smoothie
1 cup dried fig, stems removed, chopped
1 cup banana, slices (1-inch)
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
3 cups crushed ice
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
mint leaf (optional)
Prep Time: 7 mins
Total Time: 7 mins
1. Place all ingredients in a blender (not a food processor), and blend until smooth, approximately 2-3 minutes.
2. Strain liquid and pour into tall, chilled glasses.
3. Add garnish of mint leaf or berries if desired.
4. Serve immediately.
Middle Eastern Slow-Cooked Stew With Lamb, Chickpeas, and Figs
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 1 1/2 lbs boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cubed
• 4 cups onions, sliced and separated into rings
• 1 3/4 cups water, divided
• 5 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon saffron thread, crushed
• 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 cinnamon stick (3-inches)
• 1 (14 ounce) can beef broth
• 1 (15 1/2 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
• 2 cups baby carrots
• 1 cup golden raisin
• 1/2 cup dried fig, halved
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
• 1 teaspoon salt
Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 1 hour 52 mins
1. Let the oil get heating in a large pot over medium-high heat; also coat pan with cooking spray.
2. Add in half the cubed lamb; stir/saute 8 minutes or until browned; remove from pan.
3. Repeat procedure with remaining lamb.
4. Return first batch of lamb back to pot so that all the lamb is now in the pot.
5. Add in onion, 1/4 cup water, and garlic; cook 4 1/2 minutes or until lightly browned, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
6. Add in cumin and the next 6 ingredients; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
7. Stir in broth and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil.
8. Cover, lower heat, and simmer 1 hour.
9. Stir in chickpeas and the next 3 ingredients; cover and simmer 20 minutes or until the carrots are done.
10. Stir in mint and salt.
11. This dish is best when made ahead of time and refrigerated up to 2 days to allow the flavors to meld.
12. May reheat in a slow-cooker or on the stove-top if desired.
Fig and Olive Tapenade
1 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese (fat-free)
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 4 hrs 25 mins
1. Combine figs and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, and liquid has reduced. Remove from heat, and stir in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, thyme, and cayenne. Add olives and garlic, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight to allow flavors to blend.
2. Unwrap cream cheese block, and place on a serving platter. Spoon tapenade over cheese, and sprinkle with walnuts. Serve with slices of French bread or crackers.
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