Fig fruit

12 Fun Facts About Figs Fruit

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Figs have been around for a long time and have quite an interesting history! This sweet, soft fruit features prominently in myths and legends across many cultures. Beyond their mystique, figs offer unique health benefits and versatility.

Below you’ll discover some fig-tastic fun facts all food lovers should know! We’ll explore their ancient origins, symbolism, growing quirks, nutritional profile, and unique traits that delight – let’s dig in.

A Long, Colorful History

  1. Figs were one of the earliest fruits cultivated by humans. Evidence from fossils and remnants point to fig trees being domesticated nearly 11,000 years ago in Northern Mesopotamia and Smyrna. Once established as a reliable crop, cultivation spread across the Mediterranean region.
  2. Mythology and legends link figs to human origins. Saturn – the Roman god of agriculture – was often depicted holding a basket or stalk of figs. The celebrated “mythical Golden Age” was said to exist when Saturn ruled, a time of peace, harmony, prosperity, and plenty of wonderful fruits like figs!
  3. Ancient Olympic athletes reportedly ate figs as an energy food. They also crowned their winning athletes with wreaths made of laurel leaves and …you guessed it, figs! The mildly sweet taste and quick energy were perfectly suited for sports.
  4. Figs appear in early spiritual texts and have symbolic meaning. In the Bible’s Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered up with fig leaves. Images portrayed Queen Cleopatra clutching fig branches as symbols of prosperity. The Buddha also found enlightenment under a fig tree, giving it spiritual importance for many Buddhists.

Unique Growing Needs

Close-up, fig fruit on a blurred dark background.
Close-up, fig fruit on a blurred dark background.
  1. Fig pollination relies on a tiny symbiotic wasp. Without Blastophaga pests (fig wasps), we wouldn’t get delicious fig fruits! The female wasp enters the inedible breba crop early in the season to lay eggs. She loses her wings and antennae making her fate intertwined with the fig tree. The resulting harvest crop contains both new fig seeds and baby wasps. This quirky but crucial relationship gives fig trees reliable pollination needed for fruiting.
  2. Fig trees produce two crops a year. The smaller breba crop develops earlier in summer on last year’s wood growth, without needing pollination. The main fig crop grows on the current season’s shoots and relies on those helpful fig wasps. By producing two yields per year, fig trees were an excellent sustainable food for ancient people settling into communities.
  3. You may never see a fig seed on the inside. Seedless varieties have been cultivated over history. Since the outer fig skin conceals their interior, the only way to know if seeds are present is by cutting through their flesh. Even seeded varieties can eventually stop producing viable seeds as they age.

Nutritional & Health Boosts

  1. Fig leaves offer medicine. For generations, practitioners of traditional Greek medicine have used fig leaf tea or extracts to help treat a variety of conditions, from high blood sugar to skin/gum issues to bronchitis symptoms. Researchers are now studying the leaves more intently to verify and explain their apparent therapeutic effects.
  2. Dried figs give an extra healthy kick. Drying the fruit intensifies its sweetness while retaining all its minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Ounce for ounce, dried figs contain higher amounts of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin K than fresh fruit. Their portability and nutritiousness made dried figs valued for boosting vitality while traveling long journeys over history.
  3. Figs may help lower “bad” cholesterol. Animal model studies report that phytosterols found abundantly in figs can help reduce LDL cholesterol absorption from foods, while not interfering with “good” HDL uptake. For people managing high cholesterol, eating figs as part of a heart-healthy diet could be smart strategy!

Diverse Eats to Savor

  1. Hundreds of varieties exist. While all figs come from the Ficus carica species, not all look or taste the same. Globally it’s possible to find over 750 cultivars adapted to subtropical and temperate regional climates. Popular options run the gamut of skin colors from green, purple, brown, yellow or black and with widely varying interior pulp pigments. These diverse types range flavor wise too, from berry notes, to honeyed, nutty, acidic, or perfumed.
  2. Figs lend well to sweet and savory dishes. The fruit’s gentle sweetness adds flair whether baked into cookies, grilled for pizza, blended into smoothies, spooned atop ice cream, mixed in grain salads, caramelized into jam, infused in cocktails, or stuffed with cheeses. Figs pair surprisingly well with meats like prosciutto too!
Ripe fig fruits with fig leaves and raspberries on the wooden background
Ripe fig fruits with fig leaves and raspberries on the wooden background

Key Takeaways: Why Figs Fruit Are Fantastic

  • Figs have a long agricultural history, appearing early in ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean as an important energy-boosting crop.
  • Fig trees uniquely rely on fig wasps to get pollinated for fruit production. Their symbiotic lifecycle allows 2 crops per year.
  • Leaves, fruit, and seeds of fig trees appear symbolically in myths, legends, spiritual texts, and culture for their life-giving qualities.
  • Researchers are pursuing whether certain medicinal properties in fig leaves and fruit can help alleviate ailments.
  • Dried figs especially pack a high-fiber, plant-powered punch important for healthy digestion.
  • As a summertime staple with hundreds of varieties, figs continue to delight and be a global favorite!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are some figs red inside?

Certain fig varieties have naturally red inner pulp, like the Strawberry, Sanguinello and Black Mission figs. Anthocyanins (flavonoid pigments in some plants) give them gorgeous red progeny.

What does a ripe fig taste like?

Soft ripe figs have a mildly sweet, honey-like flavor and a luscious jammy center. Their delicate taste combines notes of berries, citrus, and nuts that continue ripening once picked.

Can dogs eat figs safely?

In moderate portions, figs make an excellent snack or treat for dogs! Their digestive systems handle the seeds, fiber, and sugars just fine. In quantities suited for a pup’s size, fresh or dried figs offer beneficial vitamins. Just be wary of gassier effects from too much fruit.

How to store fresh figs?

For extended fridge storage up to 10 days, leave figs unwashed in a shallow container covered by a damp paper towel. For freezing prep, gently wash, halve or quarter, freeze in an airtight bag. Frozen fig pieces work nicely baked into crisps later.

What part of the plant do we eat?

The sweet edible fig fruits we love munching on actually bloom inverted on stringy structures inside the hollow middle of the fig plant – so technically they are botanically classified as accessory fruits! We eat the ripe gourd-like pods turned outward once fully developed.

I hope you found these facts enlightening and it makes you excited to pick up some fresh figs! What will be your new favorite way to enjoy them?

Happy snacking!

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