Aug 28, 2010

Posted by Sonia Morrison in Uncategorized | 51 Comments

Today, I fell in love with Figs…

Did you know that California is home to 98% of this country’s fig crop?

Fascinating Fig Factoid compliments of  Trader Joe’s;

Figs are actually flowers that have inverted into themselves. The inner seeds are drupes-the actual fruit-loaded with nutrients like calcium, potassium and fiber. Whethter you call them flowers or fruit, fresh figs are among the most compelling flavors of summertime. Why I fell in love with figs today, I do not know.

California Fig Advisory Board is full of interesting facts:

B.C.

  • The fig tree was held sacred in all countries of Southwestern Asia, and in Egypt, Greece, and Italy.
  • The fig is the most talked about fruit in the Bible and figs were mentioned in a Babylonian hymnbook about 2000 B.C.
  • It is definite that a fig tree provided the first clothing as noted in the Bible, “…the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons”, but there is room for speculation that the forbidden fruit might have been a fig, not an apple.

Greece

  • As a token of honor, figs were used as a training food by the early Olympic athletes, and figs were also presented as laurels to the winners as the first Olympic medals.
  • In ancient Greece men wore black figs around their necks while women wore white figs during a ceremony of purification.
  • Legend has it that the Greek goddess Demeter first revealed to mortals the fruit of autumn, which they called the fig.
  • The ancient city of Attica was famous for its figs and they soon became a necessity for its citizens, rich or poor. Solon, the ruler of Attica (639-559 BC), actually made it illegal to export figs out of Greece, reserving them solely for his citizens.
  • Figs were regarded with such esteem that laws were created forbidding the export of the best quality figs. Sycophant then derives from the Greek word meaning one who informs against another for exporting figs or for stealing the fruit of the sacred fig trees. Hence, the word came to mean a person who tries to win favor with flattery.
  • Every inhabitant of Athens, including Plato, was a philosykos, literally translated a friend of the fig. Mithridates, the Greek King of Pontus, heralded figs as an antidote for all ailments, instructing his physicians to use them medicinally and ordering his citizens to consume figs daily.                             The Romans
    •    Figs were respected in ancient Rome and considered sacred while according to myth the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, rested under a fig tree.
    •    The Romans regarded Bacchus as the god who introduced the fig to mankind. This made the tree sacred, and all images of the god were often crowned with fig leaves. The first figs of the season were offered to Bacchus, and at festivals in his honor, devout females wore garlands of dried figs.
    •    Pliny, the Roman writer (52-113 AD) said, “Figs are restorative. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.”

Middle East and Asia

•    The Persian King Xerxes, after his defeat by the Greeks at Salamis in 480 B.C., had figs from Attica served him at every meal to remind him that he did not possess the land where this fruit grew.
•    It is said that the prophet Mohammed once exclaimed: “If I should wish a fruit brought to Paradise it would certainly be the fig.”
•    Figs are mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, as well as the Odyssey; by Aristophanes, Herodotus and Cato; and the fig is reported to have been the favorite fruit of Cleopatra, with the asp that ended her life being brought to her in a basket of figs.

Europe and Elsewhere

•    In 812 AD, Charlemagne attempted to introduce the fig to the Netherlands, but was unsuccessful because the fruit could not adapt to the cold weather.
•    Captain Bligh is credited with planting the first fig tree in Tasmania in 1792.
In California
•    The story of figs in California is relatively short in comparison the history of figs throughout the world. Figs were probably one of the first fruits to be dried and stored by man.
•    California Dried Fig production has averaged 28 million pounds over the last five years. All dried figs harvested in the United States are grown in California’s Central Valley.

More About Figs

•    The fig tree is the symbol of abundance, fertility, and sweetness.
•    Figs made their first commercial product appearance in the 1892 introduction of Fig Newtons® Cookies. (See http://www.nabiscoworld.com/newtons/.)
•    For many years the fig has been used as a coffee substitute. The fruit contains a proteolytic enzyme that is considered an aid to digestion and is used by the pharmaceutical industry.
•    And, because of its high alkalinity it has been mentioned as being beneficial to persons wishing to quit smoking.
•    Figs contain a natural humectant — a chemical that will extend freshness and moistness in baked products.
•    A chemical found in figs, Psoralen, has been used for thousands of years to treat skin pigmentation diseases. Psoralen, which occurs naturally in figs, some other plants and fungi, is a skin sensitizer that promotes tanning in the sun.
•    Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable. The fiber in figs is both soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber are important for good health.
•    Figs have nutrients especially important for today’s busy lifestyles. One quarter-cup serving of dried figs provides 5 grams of fiber — 20% of the recommended Daily Value. That serving also adds 6% of iron, 6% of calcium, and 7% of the Daily Value for potassium. And, they have no fat, no sodium, and no cholesterol. Recent research has shown that California Figs also have a high quantity of polyphenol antioxidants.
•    Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes or the real fruit.
•    California figs are the only fruit to fully ripen to complete sweetness and semi-dry right on the tree before falling to the ground to continue drying.
•    After harvest, the figs are inspected and packaged. Packaging includes rings of figs tightly packed and over-wrapped, moisture-proof bags, wrapped finger packs, plastic cups or bulk. California figs are generally found in the produce or baking section of your favorite supermarket.
•    Figs are harvested in the late summer and early fall, but because they are dried and conveniently packaged, they are available all year long. They are popular additions to a wide assortment of baked goods, and also a part of traditional American and Jewish holiday feasts such as Succoth, Hanukkah and Passover.

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