The fig is a small, pear shaped "false fruit’ that comes in shades of green, brown and purple. Figs are actually a combination of the flower and seed of the Ficus tree. They grow in clusters in warm climates throughout Asia, the Mediterranean, Central America and the United States.
It is believed that figs were one of the first plants ever cultivated by humans. Fossilized examples have been found in prehistoric villages dating from 9400–9200 B.C.E. Figs were sacred to the Romans and were written of in The Old Testament, The Qur’an and Greek Mythology. The Greeks even had laws forbidding the export of their highest quality figs!
When compared to actual fruits, the fig far surpasses the competition. It is naturally fat, sodium and cholesterol free. According to the USDA, figs also hold the highest content of minerals of any fruit and have the second highest concentration of calcium (behind the orange). Just one serving of figs (1/4 cup) has 20% of the recommended daily value of dietary fiber.
Ficus trees usually yield figs two or three times per year. Once picked, figs do not have a very long shelf life, which is why you’re more likely to find dried figs than fresh ones. If you do happen to encounter fresh figs, make sure to eat them within a day or two. They are ripe –and at their peak nutritional value– when they’re plump and tender with a rich, deep color. Experience the history and flavor of fresh figs with our recipe for Greek Breakfast Yogurt. For an elegant dessert featuring figs, try this Italian recipe for Dolce Pesca (sweet peaches) from AllRecipes.com.