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. Some of the many health benefits of fresh figs include: high in fiber, a good source of essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium (which promotes bone density), copper, and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), a good source of vitamins, especially K and B6.
One of the world’s oldest trees, the fig tree can be traced back to the earliest historical documents and features prominently in the Bible.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.
Another health benefit of fresh figs is that 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. Fig leaves can be dried and made into teas or extracts, which, in areas of the world with substantial fig tree growth, is very common.
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.
Health Benefits of Fresh Figs – Skincare
Fig leaves provide bioactive compounds that are effective at fighting free radical damage. Some studies have used information about the makeup of the fig leaf to come up with better forms of photodynamic therapy to treat certain types of skin cancer.
Multiple studies using fig tree leaf extract (combined with other fruits and alone) have shown good examples of its anti-wrinkle capabilities. Those using creams that contain fig leaf and/or fig fruit extracts showed measurable decrease in length and depth of facial wrinkles. There results are thought to happen because of the potent antioxidant and anti-collagenase activity of fig leaf.
In a separate study, published in the Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, it was shown that creams containing fig extract could also be used for hyper pigmentation, acne and even freckles.
Health Benefits of Fresh Figs
- good source of potassium
- good source of dietary fiber
- lowers insulin
- anticancer benefits
- 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
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.
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.
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- California Fig Advisory Board: About Figs
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