Figs, which are a relative of the mulberry (Moraceae), are among the sweetest of fruits and provide a wide array of nutritional and health benefits for the body. Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually an inverted flower, and the seeds are the fruit, according to the California Fig Advisory Board. There are four distinct types of figs: Common Fig, Caprifig, Smyrna, and San Pedro.
One of the world’s oldest trees, the fig tree can be traced back to the earliest historical documents and features prominently in the Bible. Figs are native to the Middle East and Mediterranean and were held in such high regard by the Greeks that laws were once created to prevent their export.
Many don’t know this, but Fig leaves can protect your kidneys. A study on laboratory animals published in the March 2012 issue of the journal “Natural Products Research” found that compounds in fig leaves reduced injury to the kidneys caused by high cholesterol levels. Researchers observed that animals that consumed fig leaf extract showed better kidney function and had lower fat levels in their kidneys compared to their counterparts that did not receive fig leaf extract.
Did You Know? Figs contain a proteolytic enzyme that is considered as an aid to digestion and is used by the pharmaceutical industry. This proteolytic enzyme, also known as ficin, primarily contained in the stem of the fruit, helps to break down tissue and was for many years the major ingredient in Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer. Also, because of its high alkalinity, it has been mentioned as beneficial to persons wishing to quit smoking.
Grow Your Own Fig Tree
If you’d like to try growing an unusual fruit crop that’s scrumptious and almost trouble free, consider planting a fig tree. Figs will grow well unprotected in Zones 8–10, and also in colder areas if you choose hardier cultivars or give plants proper winter protection. Look for self-pollinating fig trees, as some figs are pollinated by tiny, specialized flies native to the Mediterranean and won’t set fruit without them. Reputable U.S. nurseries sell only self-pollinating figs. Also, try to find fig trees that have been grown in an organic manner.
Plant fig trees as you would any young tree. Keep in mind that fig trees can quickly reach 15 to 30 feet in height and the canopy can spread equally wide. Figs need a sunny spot that’s protected from winter winds. Mulch trees well with compost, and apply foliar sprays of seaweed extract at least once a month during the growing season.
For more information see Fig Trees: A Growing Guide.
Health Benefits of Figs
- good source of potassium
- good source of dietary fiber
- lowers insulin
- a fruit source of calcium
- promotes bone density
- helps prevent arthritis
- may lower triglycerides
- good source manganese
- fig leaf tea is an effective home remedy for bronchitis & asthma
- dependable laxative
- good for weight management
- helps high blood pressure
- may help prevent dementia
- regulates muscle function
- high in certain amino acids – leucine, lysine, valine & arginine
- highest overall mineral content of all common fruits
- contains Omega-3 & Omega-6 essential fatty acids
Fresh Fig Salsa Recipe
Ingredient List – Always use organic ingredients
1 pound firm-ripe figs
2 fresh green onions, sliced crosswise
2 medium tomatoes; peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 cup peeled & diced mango
2 Tblsp finely chopped mint
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons grated lime peel
2 Tblsp lime juice
1 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper – to taste
Wash, stem & dice figs to make 2 cups. Combine with remaining ingredients & chill several hours.
- Natural Product Research: Efficacy of Ficus spp. on Renal Injury Induced by Hypercholesterolaemia
- California Fig Advisory Board: About Figs
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