Wednesday, 27 June 2012


“The man who is ostentatious of his modesty is twin to the statue that wears a fig-leaf” - Mark Twain
The fig tree, Ficus carica, is today’s birthday plant.  The fig was supposedly the first fruit tasted by Adam in the Garden of Eden and the fig leaf his first attire!  The Romans thought the tree sacred as it was a fig tree’s roots that caught the cradle containing Romulus and Remus as it was floating down the Tiber.  Therefore, a fig tree together with a grapevine and an olive tree were planted in the Roman Forum.

The tree symbolises argument and this is in respect of a Greek legend in which two famous soothsayers, Calchas and Mopsus were arguing as to which of the two was the greatest.  A fig tree laden with fruit was chosen as the arbiter and both attempted to guess the number of fruit on it. Calchas failed the test, pined away and died as the result.

Italians consider the tree unlucky as it is reputedly the tree upon which Judas hanged himself.  The Jews on the other hand see the tree as an emblem of peace and plenty.  A dream of figs indicates realisation of wishes, prosperity and happiness. Some oneirologists (dream interpreters) consider the fig as a symbol of the female genitalia.  Astrologically, the fig is assigned to Jupiter’s rule.

The fig is native to the temperate climate of Asia Minor (present day Turkey) and today is grown as important fruit of commerce in the eastern Mediterranean region, USA and Spain. However, it is also cultivated as a fruit tree in home gardens in temperate zones around the world. During each season it bears several hundred pear shaped fruits, twice a year, which vary in size and color depending on the cultivated variety.

Figs are low in calories, with 100 g fresh fruits providing only 74 calories. They contain health-benefitting soluble dietary fibre, minerals, vitamins and pigment anti-oxidants that contribute immensely to health and wellness. Dried figs are excellent source of minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. In fact dried fruits are a concentrated source of energy, with 100 g dried figs provide 249 calories.

Fresh figs, especially “black mission”, are high in polyphenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as carotenes, lutein, tannins and chlorogenic acid. Their antioxidant value is comparable to that of apples at 3200 µmol/100 g. In addition, fresh fruits contain adequate levels of some of antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin A, E, and K. Altogether these phytochemical compounds in fig fruit help scavenge harmful oxygen free radicals from the body and thereby protect us from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases and infections. Research suggests that chlorogenic acid in figs help lower blood sugar levels and control blood glucose levels in type-II diabetes mellitus (adult onset).

Fresh as well as dried figs contain good levels of the B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, folate and pantothenic acid. These vitamins function as co-factors for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  Dried figs are excellent sources minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc. 100 g of dried figs contain 640 mg of potassium, 162 mg of calcium, and 2.03 mg of iron. Potassium in an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is required in the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation as well for cellular oxidation.

1 comment:

  1. Not too many people used figs for jams or preserves. Because my family always loved them, we had to process the figs ourselves. There is nothing quite as delicious as figs poached in alcohol and eaten with a scoop of vanilla icecream. Or fig jam on toast with Brie.