Friday, 18 March 2016

Get Figgy With It

Black Genoa Fig nearly ripe on the tree


(Ficus carica)

To me there is something incredibly sensuous about figs with their sweet secret flowering and fruiting so delicately hidden within.

Figs could be characterised as one of the healthiest foods on the planet! Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes, or the real fruit. Figs are the only fruit to fully ripen and semi-dry on the tree. There are three types of figs: white, black, and red and the exterior color of the fruit varies from pale green, gold, brown to dark purple. The whole fig is edible and can be eaten fresh or dried. It should be noted that the skin of figs contains more fiber, phytochemicals, and antioxidant activity than the pulp, with antioxidant capacity proportional to the content of anthocyanins. Darker fig varieties usually have a greater content of polyphenols than lighter-colored varieties. The fig leaves are also very beneficial and they are widely used for medicinal purposes. The milk of the figs and leaves are used in healing skin problems like warts.

Figs are very low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium. They are also a good source of dietary fiber and they naturally fight constipation. The fig's soluble fiber helps control blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol by binding it in the digestive tract. Figs may also curtail appetite and improve weight-loss efforts. It should be noted that the skin of figs contains more fiber than the pulp.

Figs provide beneficial calcium, Iron which is required for red blood cell formation as well for cellular oxidation. Thus, they are very beneficial for people suffering from anemia and are highly recommended to be consumed during pregnancy, when the need for iron, and calcium, is increased, copper which is required in the production of red blood cells, magnesium, potassium which is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. It also helps your body absorb iron, which makes it beneficial for preventing and treating iron deficiency. They are also a source of manganese, selenium and zinc.

Figs are good sources of vitamins A, C and K. They also have good levels of B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins function as co-factors for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Figs contain a high proportion of water and natural sugar so they are very beneficial for recovering from exhaustion. In addition, the sugar in figs stimulates the brain and enhances memory, which makes them a great choice for students. They also contain chlorogenic acid which helps in lowering blood sugar levels and controls blood-glucose levels in type-II diabetes mellitus (Adult onset) condition.

Figs are a rich source of pigment anti-oxidants that contribute immensely in optimum health and wellness. The coumarin and benzaldehyde in figs may prove effective at shrinking tumours and are being researched for cancer fighting abilities. A proteolytic enzyme, known as ficin, primarily contained in the stem of the fruit, helps to break down tissue and is very beneficial for digestive disorders. Psoralens, a chemical that occurs naturally in figs has been used for thousands of years to treat skin pigmentation diseases and acne and it is also a skin sensitiser that promotes tanning in the sun, sun sensitive persons may wish to avoid burning.

Because of its high alkalinity, it has been mentioned as beneficial to persons wishing to quit smoking and may have a soothing effect on inflammation of the bronchial passages.

Fig History, culture and mythology


It is said that figs originated in South Arabia and were brought to Mediterranean over 2900BC. The fig tree appears in some images of the Garden of Eden. After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with leaves that are usually said to be from the fig tree, and Islamic tradition mentions two forbidden trees in Eden—a fig tree and an olive tree. Mohammed's followers called it the "Tree of Heaven". The ancient Hebrews looked upon the fig tree as a symbol of peace and plenty.

In Greek mythology, figs are associated with Dionysus whose name means “friend of the fig,” and this is not an innocent reference in the least. The fact that the fig’s appearance was similar to that of testicles certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the Greeks, and in fact the words for “figs” and “testicles” were the same. Part of the yearly festival to Dionysus included carving a giant phallus from the wood of a fig tree and carrying it around town. Figs were sacred to Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans) who is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, fertility, theatre and religious ecstasy. The old Romans sacrificed the milky sap of the wild fig tree to Juno, and some central African tribes built huts for the spirits of their ancestors in the shape of the sacred fig trees. Figs also get a mention in association with Priapus, a satyr who symbolized sexual desire.

According to Greek mythology, the fig tree got its name from Sykeus (Syko [σύκο] in Greek means fig), the son of Gaia (Earth). In the war of the Titans, Sykeus was one of the giants who waged war on the gods and when he was pursued by Zeus, he hid with his mother, the Earth, and was transformed into the first fig tree.

Another Greek myth credits the goddess Demeter as introducing the "fruit of autumn" to humans.
After her daughter was kidnapped by Hades, Greek goddess Demeter wandered the land looking for her. During her travels, she stayed at the house of a man in Attica, in Southern Greece. He welcomed her into his home and treated her kindly, and she thanked him for his hospitality by giving him the first fig tree.Fig trees thrived in the fertile lands around Attica and Athens

Since antiquity, figs symbolised abundance, and they have been greatly valued, both for their nutritional and medicinal properties. Mithridates, the Greek king of Pontus (120-63 B.C.), heralded figs as an antidote for all ailments and instructed his physicians to consider its uses as a medicine. Pliny of Rome (62-113 A.D.) quoted "Figs are restorative. The best food that can be eaten by those who are brought low by long sickness and are on the way to recovery. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles".

The early Greeks so highly prized figs that it was considered an honor to bestow the foliage and fruit. In the original Olympic games, winning athletes were crowned with fig wreaths and given figs to eat in order to improve their strength and speed.

The fig tree has a sacred meaning for Buddhists. According to Buddhist legend, the founder of the religion, Siddhartha Gautama or the Buddha, achieved enlightenment one day in 528 B . C . while sitting under a bo tree, a kind of fig tree. The bo or bodhi tree remains a symbol of enlightenment.

In India, The Bengali fig tree is considered sacred and its fruits are widely used in Ayurveda for its healing qualities.


Fig Salsa

Fig Salsa

1 fig, diced
2 sprigs mint, finely shredded

1 spear asparagus, finely sliced
2 green chilies, finely diced
1 tbsp borage and violets, halved
1 tspn olive oil
1 tspn lemon juice
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

mix together and allow the flavours to develop for half an hour

Fig, blackberry nightshade and mint salsa shared here

Baked Figs

Baked Figs

figs halved
raspberries, as many as you have halves
ricotta, as many teaspoons as you have halves
honey to drizzle

place the fig halves on a baking tray, place a teaspoon of ricotta on each half and top with a raspberry. Drizzle with honey and bake until tender.

Serve as a dessert bite or with thickened cream

Fig and Feta Salad

Fig and feta salad

4 figs, sliced into wedges
120 gm feta, cubed and slightly crumbled
1/2 tablespoon black cherry vinegar (or naturally flavoured vinegar of your choice)
1/2 tablespoon chili oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
(extra pepper brings out the fruits sweetness trust me)

Mix the oils and vinegar and whisk to emulsify

place the fig slices and feta in a bowl and season with pepper then pour in the
vinaigrette and mix gently, but well. allow to chill and flavours blend.
Serve as a side.

Blackberry nightshade, Fig and Feta salad shared here

Fig and Rosehip Port

Fresh hips gathered from wild dog roses growing on the side of most country roads are used in this recipe. Alternatively, dried rosehips can be used, being available from most brewing shops.
Figs have a very strong flavour and so must be used in great moderation. Both rosehips and figs are rich in vitamins and minerals and so add to the great popularity of this sherry-type wine. Serve it as an aperitif.
Dried rosehips, diced figs & lemon zest

Yield: 6 bottle

2.3 litres fresh (or 225grams dried) Rosehips
225 grams raisins
115 grams dried figs, chopped
1 lemon
4 litres water
5 ml pectic enzyme
15 ml citric acid
Sherry wine yeast & nutrient
1.35 kg light brown sugar

A nice thick rolling boil
Sterilise all your equipment as needed and begin your records. Trim the rosehips, rinse them in cold waters, crush them or process fresh hips through a juicer reserving both the juice and the waste. Wash and chop the raisins. Thinly pare the lemon rind avoiding the bitter pith, express and strain the juice and set aside.

Place the crushed rosehips, lemon rind, figs and the water in a suitable container and heat to 176 degrees Celsius.

Maintain the temperature for 15 minutes.

Cover the pan and allow to cool. Strain the liquor onto the raisins and add the expressed and strained lemon juice, the pectic enzyme, citric acid and the activated sherry yeast and nutrient. Ferment on the raisin pulp for five days.
Fig and Rosehip Port
Strain out, press and discard the raisins. Stir in one-third of the sugar and continue the fermentation in the chosen container loosely covered. Stir in the remainder of the sugar in two equal amounts at weekly intervals and leave to ferment out.

When fermentation has finished siphon the clearing wine off its sediment into a sterilised storage jar leaving a good head space.
Plug the container with a vapour lock and mature for 18 months, racking when sediment has been thrown and the wine is bright. Bottle, seal, label and enjoy.

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