The fig is a petite tree that grows to a maximum height of nine meters (30 feet) and has an undersized trunk that branches somewhat near to the ground. The bark of the fig is even and has a light grey color. This tree produces deep green leaves that have three to five elliptical lobes. The tree bears very familiar fruits that resemble the shape of pear and when they mature, their color changes from green to deep purple. The ripened fruits burst open to expose the reddish internal flesh, which changes to dark brown color afterwards.
Fig was one of the staple foods in ancient Greece and, especially, athletes consumed the ripe fruits to enhance their stamina. On the other hand, the Romans believed that figs were a sign of ample. It is interesting to note that in classical paintings and sculpture, fig leaves have been used to protect the modesty of the characters depicted. Figs also possess therapeutic properties and they have been a popular traditional medication to treat constipation, since they have a gentle laxative actions.
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Fig is one of the earliest fruits used by man - in effect, it was used in a number of civilizations. This fruit is indigenous to the western regions of Asia as well as the areas around the Mediterranean; gradually it spread to other regions like Arabia, Israel and Syria. It is known that the primeval Semites had brought this fruit from Phoenicia (a primeval culture in Canaan that included majority of the western, coastal regions of the Fertile Crescent) to their colonies in the Mediterranean as early as the second century B.C.
In fact, it is believed that the Romans had carried the fruit to all the temperate climatic zones of Europe. Currently, this fruit is thrown at newly married in several countries in southern Europe much in the same way in which rice is thrown in America and a number of Oriental countries. During the mid-18th century, fathers from the Spanish mission introduced fig to California and till date it remains one of the primary fruit crops of the region. Currently, fig is also grown in the south-eastern states of the United States as well as the length of the Gulf of Mexico. In effect, fig thrives as well as yields vast amount of crops in these areas.
Fig is one fruit which is available throughout the season. Nevertheless, the best quality figs are usually available during the period between May to November. Figs are available in the market both in fresh as well as dehydrated form. When you are purchasing fresh figs it is advisable that you try to find ripened fruits that are soft when touched and give off a sweet fragrance.
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It may be noted that both varieties of fig - black as well as white, are extremely prone to decompose when they are fresh. In order to become superior quality figs, it is essential for the fruits to become completely ripe, which is somewhat soft. However, you can easily find out whether a fruit is overripe because it will emit a sour smell owing to the fermentation of the fruit's juice. In addition, the color of an overripe fig also changes from greenish-yellow to purple or near black, depending on the variety of the fruit. Always keep off bruised fruits as they tend to decompose quite easily.
As mentioned earlier, the fresh fruits of fig decompose somewhat very fast and, hence, they are consumed while they are still fresh. Otherwise, the ripe fruits should be stored in the fridge and in this case they will be in good shape for around two to three days. It is advisable that you put the ripened figs in plastic bags or zip pouches and store them in the refrigerator. Remember, that the refrigerator should be set in elevated relative humidity. On the other hand, dried or dehydrated fruits remain well for as many as six to eight months.
Figs offer a number of health benefits. Chemical analysis of the fruit has revealed that it is rich in sugar content and, therefore, it is a wonderful source of energy. It is best to consume figs raw and fresh, but consuming dried figs may also nourish the body, particularly during the winter months. Figs have a mild laxative action owing to their pectin and mucin content. In addition, the fruits contain high amounts of calcium and carbohydrates, which can be transformed into energy very fast.
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The black variety of figs is rich in potassium content and Black Mission figs blended with raw goat milk are an effective natural remedy for arthritis. In effect, this combination works as a purgative in the intestinal tract and facilitates in detoxifying the body.
When figs are fresh, they go well with nearly all other fruits. However, dehydrated figs mix excellently with sub-acid fruits like apples, vegetables and starches. They do not go well with acid fruits, for instance, oranges, grapefruits and tomatoes.
You may stuff figs with cheese or nut butters and use them for building weight. When figs are used in conjugation with soy milk, they are excellent between meals and facilitate in weight building. In fact, you may blend the juice extracted from ripened figs with the juices of other fruits with a view to balance their non-purgative properties. Sugars present in figs are absorbed by the intestinal tract very fast, transformed into energy and utilized by the body.
Although figs have a rich content of sugars, they are very low in calories. As much as 100 grams of fig fruits offer just 74 calories. Nevertheless, figs enclose soluble dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and pigment antioxidants which are beneficial for health and wellness. Dehydrated figs are ideal resource of vitamins, minerals as well as antioxidants. Actually, dehydrated figs are intense resource of energy. In effect, 100 grams of dehydrated figs offer 249 calories.
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Freshly obtained figs, particularly Black Mission, are excellent in poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidants, for instance lutein, carotenes, tannins, chlorogenic acid and others. The antioxidant worth of the black mission figs are equivalent to those of apples.
Besides this, fresh figs also enclose sufficient levels of a number of antioxidant vitamins, like vitamins A, E and K. In general, the phyto-chemicals enclosed by figs facilitate in scrubbing out free radicals derived from damaging oxygen from the body and, in that way, protect us from diabetes, cancers, infections as well as degenerative ailments. In addition, findings of several researches have hinted that chlorogenic acid enclosed by these fruits facilitates in maintaining lower blood sugar levels as well as regulates blood glucose levels in patients suffering from type-2 diabetes mellitus.
Both fresh and dehydrated figs enclose a healthy amount of B-complex vitamins, including folates, niacin, pyridoxine and pantothenic acid. These B-complex vitamins work as co-factors or enzyme partners during metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
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Dried or dehydrated figs are a wonderful source for minerals, such as iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, copper, zinc and trace elements like selenium. Precisely speaking, 100 grams of dried figs enclose as much as 640 mg of potassium, 162 mg of calcium in addition to 2.03 mg of iron. It may be noted that potassium forms a vital element of the cell as well as the body fluids which facilitate in regulating the heart rate as well as blood pressure. In addition, copper is needed in the making of red blood cells. Iron is necessary for the formation of red blood cells as well as for cellular oxidation.
In addition, both fresh as well as dried figs enclose high levels of pectin - a soluble fiber that assists in lowering blood cholesterol levels in addition to being effective in controlling weight. As mentioned earlier, figs possess laxative/ purgative properties and, hence, they are particularly beneficial for people who endure persistent constipation.
Dehydrated or dried figs offer a good quantity of indispensable minerals like magnesium, potassium and calcium, which are all essential for normal contraction of muscles. Findings of several studies have shown that the leaves of fig possess anti-diabetic attributes and help in lowering the amount of insulin required by diabetic patients.
As figs are extremely alkaline, they are important for supporting the pH of the body.
Fig is native to the western regions of Asia and is currently found growing naturally in several countries in the Mediterranean region. Fig is also widespread in Europe and, especially, grows in sheltered areas in the United Kingdom.