Purple skin and pink flesh, so easy to burst even with just a gentle squeeze—this is how real fresh figs look.
The fig is the edible fruit of Ficus carica, small tree species in the mulberry family. Native to the Mediterranean and western Asia, it has been cultivated since ancient times and is now widely grown throughout the world, both for its fruit and as an ornamental plant.
Ficus carica is the type species of the genus Ficus, containing over 800 tropical and subtropical plant species.
Fig plant is a small deciduous tree or large shrub growing up to 7–10 metres tall, with smooth white bark. Its large leaves have three to five deep lobes. Its fruit (botanically an infructescence, a type of multiple fruit) is tear-shaped, 3–5 centimetres long, with a green skin that may ripen toward purple or brown, and sweet soft reddish flesh containing numerous crunchy seeds.
The milky sap of the green parts is an irritant to human skin. In the Northern Hemisphere, fresh figs are in season from late summer to early autumn. They tolerate moderate seasonal frost and can be grown even in hot-summer continental climates.
Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, or processed into jam, rolls, biscuits and other types of desserts. Since the ripe fruit does not transport and keep well, most commercial production is in dried and processed forms. Raw figs contain roughly 80% water and 20% carbohydrates, with negligible protein, fat and micronutrient content. They are a moderate source of dietary fiber.
Raw figs are 79% water, 19% carbohydrates, 1% protein, and contain negligible fat (table). They are a moderate source (14% of the Daily Value, DV) of dietary fiber per 100-gram serving (74 calories), and do not supply essential micronutrients in significant contents.
When dehydrated to 30% water, figs have a carbohydrate content of 64%, protein content of 3%, and fat content of 1%. In a 100-gram serving providing 249 calories, dried figs are a rich source (more than 20% DV) of dietary fiber and the essential mineral manganese (26% DV), while calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K are in moderate amounts.
A tender, ripe fig is heavy with its own syrupy liqueur, which tends to drizzle out of its base if you wait too long to eat it. The taste is all honey-like sweetness with a subtle hint of berry and fresher shades of the flavour.
Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well. The widely produced fig roll is a biscuit (or cookie) with a filling made from figs.
Whether savoring flavorful figs as a snack or in your favorite recipes, dried figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber, a wealth of essential minerals such as potassium, iron and calcium, and rich in health-promoting antioxidants and complex carbohydrates.
Delicious on toast or a hot biscuit, fig jam has uses well beyond breakfast. Try it with cheddar cheese on a cracker or in a grilled cheese sandwich. Serve it as as appetiser on top of any creamy cheese, such as a Brie, Camembert, Stilton or Gorgonzola.