The Spotlight On… By Joann DiFabio-Klinkner highlights on a particular type of food, healthy or not. Joann educates us about the nutritional value of foods to help us make the healthiest choices we can. Read and learn about these foods so you can continue to feed your body the proper energy to achieve a balanced healthy diet.
If you’ve ever driven past a house in your neighborhood in the dead of winter and you’ve seen this huge towering thing in the back yard wrapped up in plastic (or, in my family’s case, inside out tar paper) with a plastic bucket sitting on top, then you’ve seen a fresh fig tree wrapped up for the winter months. Now, if you instantly think of Fig Newtons ® every time you hear the word “fig,” well then I feel sorry for you. There is a whole different epicurean experience outside of the dried figs you may have grown up on. Sink your teeth into a fresh fig from one of these wrapped up oddities and you’ll never eat a dried one again!
Fresh figs have a unique texture that combines the tenderness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. They are deliciously sweet but never tart. Some people may have “texture issues” with fresh figs, but if you can get past that, they are one of the most uniquely delicious fruits on earth.
The most common variety of figs is the black mission figs. Originally brought over to San Diego by Spanish missionaries, they get their name from both the dark color of their skin and the fact that they were planted in celebration of the establishment of the mission in San Diego. Although this original species was inferior in quality to the better European varieties, years of cultivation techniques brought the black mission figs to the delectable variety they are today. Black mission figs are mostly grown in California and are typically available from June through September.
Not only are fresh figs tasty, they’re nutritious, too. Fresh figs are high in potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. A diet low in potassium and high in sodium (as found in many processed foods) can cause hypertension. Consuming more foods with a greater potassium content can help counteract the damage done by high-sodium foods and level out blood pressure.
Figs are also rich in dietary fiber, which boosts its health benefits across many platforms. Eating foods rich in dietary fiber can help with weight management by increasing a person’s feeling of satiety. You feel fuller for longer when you eat foods rich in fiber, and your odds of overeating are decreased. Research has also shown a connection between fiber consumption and a 34% lowered risk for women of developing breast cancer.
The best way to enjoy fresh figs is…you guessed it…fresh! When I was growing up, I would often just pick a fig right off the tree and bite it down to the stem. If you buy fresh figs in the store, though, they should be thoroughly washed and put in the fridge. Fresh figs can also be poached in fruit juice or wine and served over ice cream. Figs also pair well with creamy goat cheese, or are a delicious topping to a salad with Parmesan cheese.