figs

Benefits of figs

figsKnown as being a fruit full of fibers and many vitamins and minerals, both fresh and dried figs provide many health benefits. Figs are not only known or being a healthy fruit, but they are also considered to be a very versatile ingredient. They can provide sweetness to a wide range of different dishes. The different dishes for which they can be used as their benefits will be explored in this article.

Description

Figs are considered to be one of the healthiest fruits. Besides the many health benefits they offer, they also taste delicious. In many countries, figs are considered to be a culinary delicacy. Figs are a very unique fruit, not only because of its taste but also because of its texture. Figs have a sweet taste and they have a complex texture. The skin of the fruit has a smooth texture, the seeds on the inside are crunchy and this in combination with the chewiness of the flesh make the fruit unique. Moreover, fresh figs are not only perishable but also very delicate. It is for this reason that is common for figs to be dried. Figs are dried by an artificial process or they are exposed to sunlight. Sometimes herbs are added when figs are put to dry. The combination of spices with the natural sweet taste of the fruit is delicious. Since fresh figs are not available all year round, by drying figs it is possible to enjoy this fruit all year round. Figs grow on trees, specifically the Fiscus tree. The Fiscus tree belongs to the Mulberry family. An unique feature of figs is that they have an opening which helps the fruit to grow. This opening, also referred to as the ostiole, is said to help the fruit communicate with its environment. Figs can have different colors and their texture can differ as well. In total, there are over 150 different types of figs. The most common figs are the Black Mission, Kadota, Calimyrna and the Brown Turkey. The Black Mission is a fig which has a skin that is dark purple and the flesh has a pink color The Kadota is a green fig of which its flesh is purple. The Calimyrna is also a green type of fig but the color of the flesh is amber. The Brown Turkey fig has a purple skin and its flesh has a red color.

History

The origins of figs can be traced back to thousands of years ago. Figs have been mentioned in different ancient writings, such as the Qur’an and the Bible. The role figs play in religion, particularly in Islam, will be explored later in this article. It is said that the first cultivation of figs took place in Egypt. From Egypt they later to spread to Crete and to other places in Greece. They arrived in Greece around 800 BC. Figs became an important part of the Greek traditional diet. The fruit played such an important role in Greece that a law was created that forbid the export of high quality figs. Figs continue to play an important role in Greece today as well and are often consumed during the summer, or are served as part of a salad. Figs also played an important role in ancient Rome. In Rome, figs were also considered to be a sacred fruit. The Roman myth about Romulus and Remus also features a fig tree. It is said that Romulus and Remus were nurtured by a wolf, who is said to have rested under a fig tree. Figs were later transported to other regions in the Mediterranean. For example, when figs were introduced in Spain, the Spaniards continued to transport the fruit to the Western Hemisphere. It was around the early 16th century that figs were introduced in Spain, and around the 19th century they transported the fruit to the United States. The Spaniards planted fig trees in California, however the quality of these figs was not the same compared to those which were imported from Europe. It was only until further cultivation techniques were developed that it was possible for figs to grow in California. California is now amongst the top producers of figs in the world, together with Spain, Greece and Turkey.

The role of figs in Islam

A reference is made to figs in the Qur’an in the verse called Surat at-Tin. In this verse the many health benefits of figs are addressed and the important of figs to the human body are highlighted. The fact figs were mentioned in the Qur’an indicates that figs have played an important role in the life of human beings for a long time. The next paragraph will address the many health benefits figs provide. One of the most important benefits of figs is that they are a source of fiber. There is no other fruit which has such a high fiber level as figs. It is estimated that one single fig provides two grams of fiber. This equals one fifth of our daily recommended intake of fiber. Different researches have concluded that fiber plays an important role in the healthy functioning of our digestive system. Fiber does not only help the digestive system, but is also said to reduce the development of certain forms of cancer. The verse in the Qur’an which addresses the importance of figs states specifically that one should swear by the fig and the olive. Thus, it is therefore concluded by many Islamic scholars that since figs have been specifically mentioned in the Qur’an, one should consume figs to enjoy the many health benefits provided.


Health benefits of figs

Besides the high concentration of fiber in figs, figs also provide many other health benefits. One of the other health benefits of figs is that they serve as a natural neutralizer for the sodium and potassium levels in our body. Many people often consume too much sodium due to the high quantities of salt in processed food. When the quantities of sodium are too high in the human body, it could cause deficiencies of potassium. When there is an imbalance between sodium and potassium, this could eventually lead to high blood pressure. When adopting a healthy diet, which includes figs, this imbalance can be prevented. This is due to the fact that by consuming figs, the levels of potassium naturally increase and thereby blood pressure is lowered. Another benefit of figs is that they can be useful to people who want to lose weight. Since figs are high in fiber, they usually give you a feeling that you are full but eating just a few of them. Thus, eating figs can reduce the feeling of hunger and reduce cravings. Figs also contain probiotics. The role of probiotics is to support the good bacteria in the digestive system. Moreover, figs are also a source of calcium. Calcium is known for being the nutrient which is involved in bone density. Calcium reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Thus, the benefits of figs are not only limited to the digestive tract but have an influence on the entire human body.

How to select and store

Figs are a fruit which are very perishable. Thus, it is important to buy figs only one or two days before you want to eat them. When buying figs pay attention to the fact that they are tender, plump and have a rich and deep color. Make sure that the figs you are buying are not mushy because that usually means that they will be going bad soon. Moreover, check whether the fruit is free of bruises and that their stems are firm. In order to have some kind of indication whether the figs are fresh and good, you can smell them. Figs should have a sweet fragrance to them. When they smell sour, it usually means that they have been spoiled. Figs are also full of antioxidants. If you want to have figs which have the most antioxidants, buy those which are fully ripe. A study which was conducted by the University of Innsbruck concluded that the antioxidant levels increase the longer the fruit ripens. This means that when figs come close to the point of spoilage is when their antioxidant levels are the highest. Fresh figs are mostly available from June to September. This is usually the case for figs which grow in California. Figs which grow in Europe are commonly available throughout the autumn season. Figs which have been dried are available throughout the year. When buying dried figs, pay attention to the fact that they are soft, free of mold and still have a sweet smell. Fresh figs can be kept in the refrigerator for about two days after they have been purchased. Since figs are very delicate, it is recommended to store the figs in a shallow container. It is also recommended to keep them covered in order for them not to dry out, or get crushed. This is the case for figs which are already ripe. Figs which are slightly under-ripe, can be put on plate at room temperature. Put them away from sunlight in order for them to ripe within a few days.

Recipes with figs

While figs are delicious to eat just like that, they can also provide a bit of extra sweetness to many different dishes. For example, when having a bowl of oatmeal or porridge in the morning, add pieces of fresh or dried figs for sweetness and also to provide you with fibers.  Fibers are also commonly used in dessert. Figs can be poached in juice or in red wine, and can then be added to frozen desserts. Poaches figs are also served with plain yoghurt. They can also be used for a salad. One famous salad recipe which contains figs is the mix of fennel, Parmesan cheese and arugula. This salad is not only very tasty but is also full of healthy nutrients. Other salad combinations are the mix of figs with mozzarella and stilton. This salad tastes even more delicious with an easy honey-thyme dressing. Another famous dessert recipe is the combination of fresh figs, goat cheese and chopped almonds. This recipe is often served in culinary cuisines. Besides the combinations of figs with salads or figs with cheese, they are also often used in baking. Some examples are toffee fig pies, fig and almond cakes or a fudgy fig roll.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 980x
Added: 08-10-2016 14:53
Last modified: 31-10-2016 10:31

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