Figs are a highly prized and nourishing fruit that have been used to treat nearly every known disease since ancient times. Botanically figs belong to the mulberry family (Moraceae), in the genus: Ficus; scientific name: Ficus carica.
They can be red, yellow, or purple-skinned or green-striped, each with their own unique flavor. But before they reach optimal ripeness, figs are gummy with “latex,” which contains serious skin irritants, so protective measures for workers are sometimes mandated for fig production operations.
Figs can provide phenomenal amounts of energy and vitality to the body as well as aid in the repair and restoration of the digestive, cardiovascular, lymphatic, reproductive, muscular, immune, and skeletal system.
Figs are one of the most alkaline fruits available and are rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, potassium, selenium, and zinc.
In fact, figs are one the highest sources of readily assimilable calcium in the plant world which makes them a great choice to help prevent osteoporosis and their potassium content can help to prevent hypertension as well.
Fresh, as well as dried figs, contain healthy levels of a B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins function as co-factors for metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Figs have the ability to bind to acids in the body that accumulate as fat globules and flush them from the body making them a good addition to any weight loss program.
They also work as an excellent laxative and their high mucin content help to eliminate toxic wastes and mucus from the colon.
Similarly, they are also very beneficial for people who suffer from asthma as they can help to drain phlegm from the body.
Figs have the ability to kill off bad bacteria while promoting the buildup of good bacteria such as acidophilus in the bowel.
Figs contain chlorogenic acid which can help lower blood sugar levels and control blood glucose levels in Type 2 Diabetes.
Fresh figs can be available all-around the season; however, they are at their best from May through November.
One may find fresh as well as dried figs in the markets. While buying fresh figs, look for uniform, ready ones that are soft, emitting sweet, pleasant aroma.
Avoid very soft, broken, bruised, fungus inflicted fruits. Similarly unripe green fruits as they are bitter (astringent) and therefore, out of flavor.
Fig fruit perishes rather very quickly and should be eaten while fresh or else should be placed inside the refrigerator where it stays fresh for 2-3 days. Put them in a plastic or zip pouch and store in the refrigerator set with high relative humidity. However, dried figs can stay for 6-8 months.
Fresh figs are an excellent addition to salads, in cakes and ice-creams. Dried figs are excellent additions to breakfast cereal, muffins, cakes, sandwiches, pies, and cheesecakes.
Dried figs can be added to soup, stews and to enrich poultry, venison, lamb meat.
Fresh figs are a decadent treat when in season, but when fresh figs are not available, try soaking some dried figs in water for a few hours and blend into a sweet and creamy fig pudding or add to a smoothie for a flavor and nutritional boost.
Snack on fresh or dried figs for a powerhouse of nutrition and energy that can help your body function optimally all day long.
Interiorly, fig fruit features numerous, tiny club-shaped ovaries extending towards the central hollow cavity. In their natural habitat, “caprifigs” pollinated by tiny “gall wasp” (Blastophaga psenes) insect that enters flower clusters through a small opening at the apex.
Several cultivars of fig exist; some of the traditional varieties commonly grown in the USA are Brown Turkey, Conadria, Kadota, and Black mission. However, since the wasp does not exist in the North America, most of these fruits develop by parthenogenesis (without pollination) and therefore, do not possess “true” seeds.
The common fig tree is the best choice to plant because its flowers are all female, meaning that they are self-pollinating and do not need to cross-pollinate with another tree to create fruit.
For container fig trees, grow them in soil-based potting mix and add fine bark chips. Keep the tree in full or filtered light.
Be sure to add a high-nitrogen fertilizer every 4 weeks and water the tree moderately. It is important to keep the tree moist during the winter.
For outdoor fig trees, plant the tree in the spring in full or partial sun. Fig trees can grow in any type of soil as long as the soil is well-drained and contains plenty of organic material.
For container-grown trees, remove the plant from its pot and remove any circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and using shears to cut through the roots.
Dig a hole that is a few inches deeper and wider than the spread of the roots. Set the tree on top of a small mound of soil in the middle of the hole.
Be sure to spread the roots away from the trunk without excessively bending them. Plant the tree 2 to 4 inches deeper than it was originally in the pot.
Space the tree about 20 feet away from any buildings or other trees.
Be sure to water the young fig trees regularly to help them become established. In areas with dry climates, water fig trees deeply at least once a week.
Unless grown in containers, most fig trees do not require regular fertilization. However, if your fig tree is not growing much (less than 12 inches in one growing season), you can add ½ to 1 pound of nitrogen. Divide up the nitrogen into 3 to 4 feedings. Start applying the nitrogen in late winter and end in midsummer.
You can also apply a layer of mulch around the tree to help prevent weeds and keep in moisture for the roots.
Fig trees require little pruning. During the dormant season, be sure to remove all dead, diseased, or weak branches to encourage growth. If you have an abundant growth of figs, you can thin the fruit to encourage larger figs.
Figs must be allowed to ripen completely on the tree itself before picking. They can be enjoyed fresh and after the artificial or sun drying. When picking figs, wear gloves or long sleeves because the sap from the fig tree can irritate your skin.
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