Figs: What They Are and How to Use Them

The fig is one of the most fascinating fruits in the world due to its many nutritional benefits and its different cultivating processes.

In terms of nutrition, figs are known to be rich in fiber, which helps ease constipation and acts as a natural laxative for people with digestive problems. Also, the fruit has vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and calcium that helps strengthen the bones, as well as Vitamins A, C, K, and B6.

Also, figs have high Potassium content; this mineral helps lower blood pressure, control muscle contractions, and reduce the risk of stroke. When figs are eaten dried, they serve as an excellent source of Vitro and Vivo antioxidants that prevent damage to cells that can often cause cancer.

Figs have been around since ancient times, and due to how long it has been eaten by many civilizations throughout history, humans have discovered many different ways to cultivate figs. As such, cultivators around the world have created a dozen varieties of figs with different colors and textures. Some of these fig types are better used as ingredients for cooking, while some are best eaten on their own.

Choosing and Storing Figs

Before buying figs, you should first know what to look out for to get the best-tasting figs in the market. The perfect figs are ripe and should be soft when you touch them. 

Unripe figs have this milky white substance in their skin called the fig latex that creates an unpleasant burning sensation in your mouth upon eating. It is recommended that you touch the figs first and see if they are not sticky and if they have cracks on the skin, as these textures signify that the fruit is ripe and has no fig latex.

It is also crucial to note that figs are very fragile fruits. They can only be eaten in three days after you buy them, so make sure that you eat or cook it before its expiration day as it will eventually taste sour and bitter after this period.

Popular Varieties of Figs

Now that you know how to choose and store figs, you should also be more knowledgeable on the popular varieties of figs available not only in North America but in other parts of the world as well.

Calimyrna Figs

The Calimyrna is an interesting type of fig as it requires an insect known as the fig wasp for its cultivating process.

Before we get into the cultivating process of the Calimyrna fig, it is essential to note that figs are made up of many flowers inside its pod that produces dozens of achene; a seed used to create more figs. While fruits like apples can pollinate very easily with the help of wind and other natural causes, a fig tree will have a hard time pollinating on its own since its flowers are trapped inside the pod of the fruits, making them unable to release their seeds.

These female fig wasps are highly attracted to the insides of the male Calimyrna fig, and they would do anything to be able to go inside the fruit. They will squeeze inside the hole at the bottom of the fig called the ostiole while subsequently breaking their wings; disabling them from getting out of the fruit.

After getting inside, a wasp will then lay eggs in each flower in the pod and subsequently die after doing this task. The male wasps will hatch first, and they will fertilize the female wasps inside each flower even before they hatch. As the female wasps are hatching, the male wasps will then drill holes in the fig to let the female wasps escape in the future.

Also, since the female wasps are the only ones that form wings, male wasps will be unable to escape the fruit and will die after creating the escape holes. The female wasps will then carry the fig pollen with them outside, and if a few of them get inside the female figs; they will continue the pollination process for the fruits.

Those wasps that died inside the fruit will be dissolved and consumed by ficin, which is an enzyme regularly produced by the figs before being picked from the tree.

Moreover, the wasps add a little bit of protein into the already abundant nutrients contained within the fig. Because of this uncanny pollination process, vegetarians tend to stay away from eating this type of fig as well as other varieties that involve fig wasps.

Calimyrna figs are often eaten on its own, but they are sometimes dried and used as ingredients for cooking to add sweetness into dishes.

Black Mission Figs

Black Mission is a type of self-pollinating fig that originated from San Diego, California. The fruit was first cultivated when Franciscan missionaries planted its tree on Californian soil in 1768. The land in the region produced a dark purple-colored fig; this mesmerizing color makes it easier to identify which figs are ripe and which ones aren’t fresh.

These Black Mission Figs are much sweeter than other types of fig, so they are usually paired with savory dishes or used as an ingredient for dessert.

Adriatic Figs

The Adriatic Fig is another type of self-pollinating fig that has green skin and a bright pink interior. These figs are typically partnered with yogurt, ice cream, blue cheese, or any other flavorful dairy products.

Brown Turkey Figs

Brown Turkey Figs are mild-tasting figs that are much more commonly found in markets than Adriatic Figs.

Due to their mildness, these figs are typically mixed in salads as they don’t overpower the flavor of the other fruits and vegetables inside it. They are also used to produce fig jam, which is made not only from figs but also from balsamic vinegar and red wine.

Cluster Figs

The Cluster Fig is native to India, Australia, and Mainland Southeast Asia. This type of fig grows close to the tree trunk in clusters, which is highly unusual in figs.

Cluster Figs also have different names depending on where it is cultivated. They are called gular in North India, while in South India, they are called atti. These figs are also the favorite food of the rhesus macaque; monkeys that are native in the southern and central parts of Asia.

The figs are often pickled in a jar or fried with red chili powder to give it a spicy taste. In addition, cluster figs also have medicinal purposes. After they are turned into a paste by rubbing the fruits against a stone, they can be applied to boils and insect bites to help ease itchiness and make the healing process faster.

There are many types of figs to try, and there are hundreds of ways to prepare them. No matter which way you eat this delicious fruit, they will still provide plenty of nutrients for a healthy diet.