If you’re like most people, when you think of “fig,” you think of Fig Newtons, a Nabisco trademarked version of the fig roll– basically, cookies filled with fig paste. Yet you can also buy and eat fresh figs, which are usually eaten raw. While they’re best eaten straight off the tree, warm from the sun, you’re most likely going to find and buy them at your local grocery store or farmer’s market.
While most people think figs are a fruit, they’re actually inverted flowers! But fig trees aren’t like other trees– their flowers bloom inside the pear-shaped pod, which later matures into the fruit people eat. If you were to find fresh figs in a store, they have a thin skin with red/purple flesh and lots of tiny seeds. You can eat the entire fig (minus the stem) and you can peel them if you want.
Figs, which are healthy and hip these days, come from ficus trees in warm climates. With their unique and sweet taste, expect a soft and chewy texture coupled with crunchy (and edible) seeds. While fresh figs are perishable (and quite delicate), you’re probably most likely to find them dried and preserved– a version that’s available year round. In the days before refined sugar was readily available, figs were often used as sweeteners.
Just for some historical perspective, our ancestors probably ate their fair share of figs. They come from some of the world’s oldest trees, and have been documented in historical texts, including the Bible. Native to the Middle East and Mediterranean, these fruit flowers are high in minerals and fiber. If you’re looking for a food to get more potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper, figs are great! They also contain vitamins A and K.
Since they’re naturally high in fiber, figs are good for those who are watching their weight. High fiber foods make people feel full, which also helps reduce hunger and cravings. Furthermore, figs tend to act as a natural laxative.
If you’re seeking fresh figs, the season for them is between summer and autumn. They’re best eaten within a day or two of purchase. Look for plump ones that are tender to the touch with a rich, deep color. If they’re ripe, they’ll have a sweet fragrance.