For all of you regular blog visitors, you know my philosophy – maximize your produce. Make use of it in every way. Get the most out of it, consume all of it and love every aspect of it. I find the best way of ensuring I do this with all of my ingredients is to let my ingredients consume me! That is to say, I research them deeply, understand them completely and really get to grips with all that they are. Throughout the year I’ll be writing a number of ‘focus’ style blogs looking at key ingredients, seasonal musts and some of my favourite flavours. Where better to start than with glorious figs?!
It is now autumn so figs are absolutely in abundance. Now is the time to embrace the fig, celebrate the fig, get it all figured out – and please don’t pardon the pun, food puns will always be welcomed by me. They are the fruit of the ficus tree (part of the mulberry family) and whilst native to the Middle East and the Mediterranean, luckily for us, they grow exceptionally well in Australia and autumn is the time to enjoy them at their best. Choosing your figs couldn’t be more simple – look for the ones that are plump, tender and deep in colour, they should have a lovely sweet fragrance when they are ripe.
Figs are a little natural miracle. They have to have their very own, totally unique pollination system because of the way that they flower. Figs flower on the inside and as such cannot reply on wind or bees for pollination, hundreds of flowers create all those tiny little seeds, the fruit is then produced surrounding all those tiny little parcels of textured seedy goodness. I’ll let you read up in more detail about that in your own time, it’s really quite complicated, wonderful and astonishing. It involves a dedicated ‘fig wasp’ who cannot survive without the fig, and the fig cannot survive without the fig wasp – what a wonderful example of mutualism within nature. The most important thing is that as a result of all this ingenious nature occurring we end up with our beloved figs. Let’s have a quick look at all the fabulous health benefits:
- Figs are high in natural sugars and as a result can make a fantastic alternative to refined sugars within your cooking. You can make yourself a ‘fig syrup’ or paste which can be used a natural and delicious sweetener.
- They are a wonderful source of soluble fiber (very cleansing for the intestines) and can be used as a natural laxative should you be having any plumbing issues! Let that also be a warning though that they should be enjoyed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, or they could end up the cause of said plumbing issues.
- High in fundamental minerals – potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and copper. Of particular note here is potassium. A lot of modern, processed foods contain high amounts of sodium (salt). Consuming large amounts of sodium can lead to deficiencies in potassium within your body and this can be the cause of high blood pressure – with all that naturally occurring potassium in figs you can restore the balance to your body and keep your blood pressure in check.
- High in vitamin A for optimum neurological function and overall eye health, vitamin E to help restore our cells and keep us youthful and vitamin K to keep our bones and blood healthy.
I just love it when food that is good for you is also completely delicious, what a bonus. We can nourish our body and also thoroughly enjoy doing it. Figs are also a pleasure to cook with, because of their unique texture and naturally sweet flavour they lend themselves so well to all sorts of dishes, both sweet and savoury. Figs pair particularly well with cheese and honey, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I have put together a truly flavorsome, fabulously textured dish that I think celebrates the fig perfectly. It is so easy to create and is a sure winner if you’re entertaining. Or it makes the perfect salad for one if you fancy something fresh, a little bit fancy and a lot yummy. It’s got just the right amount of sweet, salty and nutty, it is both indulgent and super healthy…go FIGure: