Is it just me that ends up singing songs from old Tom & Jerry cartoons while enjoying my new favorite food?
It’s weird what we remember from childhood.
So,. Back in late 2009 when I started this whole whole-foods organic thing (pardon all the wholes), my New Year’s resolution for 2010 was to try 10 new foods. I ended up blowing that out of the water, trying nearly 50 new things. (It wasn’t hard; I’d lived a picky eater’s sheltered food life). To this day, I still try to grab at least one new food to incorporate into my diet with each trip to the grocery store. After all, variety is key to proper nutrition, and I prefer to get my nutrients from food, glorious food!
(And organic chai green tea. Chai is a nutrient, right?!)
I was inspired to try Mas Tapas in Charlottesville, VA. They had a fig plate that sounded intriguing. Thankfully, my friend confused figs with dates and didn’t much like the figs. More figs for me! I ate them all.based on the recollection of how much I loved eating Fig Newtons as a kid (again with the childhood resurgence). My first dip into the fig pool happened recently over dinner with a friend at a restaurant called
Then, figs kept popping up on various food blogs that I read, particularly on Kath Eats Real Food (KERF). She put figs in her oatmeal. She put figs in her salad. She put figs in her leftovers.
So when I came across dried black mission figs at the Friendly City food co-op, I grabbed ‘em.
I soon discovered that these dried figs tasted just like Fig Newtons! (Wow, right?!) And, they had a nice substantial chew to them – more hearty than just popping a handful of raisins, and just as sweetly satisfying.
I started chopping up dried figs and throwing them on my salads and into my oatmeal. Heck, I started grabbing random figs to munch on as I passed through the kitchen!
So, what is a fig? Where do figs come from? What good are they in our food rainbow (because boy, they sure are weird looking!)?
Figs originated in Spain and were brought to the US in the late 1700’s by Franciscan missionaries, who planted fig trees (known as Ficas trees – a member of the mulberry family) in San Diego and throughout California. When fresh, a fig is pear shaped with a purplish-black skin and pink flesh. They have tiny, crunchy little seeds inside. Figs are in season summer to fall in the US and are typically grown all along our US coastlines (zones 7-10, for all you gardening types).
Figs are a good source of potassium, calcium, manganese, and dietary fiber, amongst other things. If you choose fresh figs, note that they are very perishable – so pick figs that are tender but not mushy. They should smell mildly sweet, and not sour. Keep fresh figs in the fridge and eat them within a few days.
Dried figs have a much better shelf life (several months, shelf-stable or in the fridge), but choose organic dried figs if you can. Conventionally processed figs are often treated with sulfites when dried and processed. Sulfites cause allergic reactions in an estimated 1 out of 100 people, and can be particularly acute to those with asthma. Federal regulations prohibit the use of chemical preservatives on certified organic foods.
Figs are a delicious, nutritious, sweet treat to help bridge the gap between lush summer fruits and the subtle squashes of fall. Eat a few figs and reminisce about your childhood. If Tom & Jerry like ‘em, so should you!