January 2022 Buyers Choice
Do you remember the verse of the famous carol, “We all want some figgy pudding, and we won’t go until we get some”? Well, we won’t go until we’ve given you a festive feast of fig facts:
There are two types of figs (green and black) that are commonly available, although there are many different varieties. Black figs are usually from Turkey and tend to be larger and sweeter. Both types can be eaten complete with the skin. When they are ripe, you can split them open with your fingers to reveal the soft, sweet flesh full of edible seeds. They are high in fibre and good for the digestive system. Whole semi-dried figs are also available, including honeyed figs which have a deliciously sweet flavour. Green figs are available from November to July. Black figs are available all year.
Fig Uses – Serve fresh figs with Parma ham, or after dinner with blue cheese. They are also delicious poached in wine or baked. Dried figs are popular in cakes and puddings and can also be eaten as a snack.
Fig Storage – Store at room temperature until ripe.
Preparing Figs – Wash the fruit well and cut lengthways into quarters to reveal the bright red, juicy flesh.
- Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches. The blossom is inside of the fruit: Many tiny flowers produce crunchy little edible seeds that give figs their unique texture.
- The Romans believed figs increase the strength of young and improve health in the elderly.
- They may have been right as figs are very nutritious and there are some studies that link them to helping control blood sugar levels, as well as having the ability to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- The fig tree is a symbol of abundance, fertility and sweetness.
- One kilogram of figs has as much calcium as a litre of milk.
- Pound for pound, figs have more fibre than prunes and more potassium than bananas.
- An 80g serving of fresh figs counts as one of your five-a-day, which is about two medium-sized fruit. Just 30g of the dried fruit counts as one of your five-a-day because this would be equivalent to an 80g fresh fruit.
Are figs suitable for vegans?
You may have heard that vegans should avoid figs, but why is this? Well, it all has to do with a certain type of wasp that lays its eggs in figs.
A female wasp will enter the flowering structure of the fig via a narrow passage that is so tight it will cause her wings to be ripped off, thus rendering her unable to leave. So far, so terrifying. If the fig is a female then the wasp will pollinate it but cannot lay her eggs inside. If, on the other hand, the fig is male, she can successfully lay her eggs. However, she will still die.
The larvae from the male figs tunnel out, carrying the fig pollen which the next generation of wasps will then take to female figs. So the two species help each other survive, but the wasp still dies.
Is this a problem for vegans, or for that matter, squeamish carnivores? The wasp is completely digested by the fig using an enzyme called ficin, so by the time you eat a fig you can be assured any crunchy bits are fig seeds, not wasp carcasses.
This is a process that occurs naturally and neither species would survive without it. Some would consider eating almonds that are pollinated by captive bees too cruel, yet in this process, the wasps are not subjected to any cruelty. They are just very lovingly digested by their host.
So now you know far too much about figs and wasps. Don’t have nightmares.