Fig fruit is known by mankind since ancient times. It is assumed that it was first seen in South Arabia. Later figs appeared in Judea, Syria, and then at the Mediterranean coast. There are more than 400 varieties of it. Its ability to treat various diseases was applied in ancient Egypt, ancient Greece and Arabia. Though fresh figs are not available for everyone, mostly for the inhabitants of the southern countries, dried figs can be easily purchased by anyone.
How Are Dried Figs Made?
As it is not possible to keep these fruits fresh for a long time, they are dried right after harvest.
Ripe figs are harvested in the hottest period of the year. First they are sorted according to the size and quality. It is considered that smaller fruits are more tasty. They are put into the baskets or sieves to be washed in a vat of water. After that figs are spread on grids and each fruit is dipped into the boiling sugar syrup. It has to be done in order to prevent the process of decay or possible fermentation. Then it is covered with a special net to protect it from the insects and put under the sun for 8-10 days.
The figs’ skin becomes flexible and the flesh has jam-like consistency. Such wilted figs are put into the boxes where they should stay for few month. When they turn into bronze or amber color – they are ready for the consumption. Sometimes they have white scurf on the surface. It’s sugar crystals, not the mold. Dried figs can be preserved for several years.
Dried Figs Nutrition
They are quite high in calories – approximately 240 calories per 100 grams. In drying process the amount of protein in the figs rises to 3-6% and the content of sugar to 50-70%. But don’t be frightened by the amount of calories in dried figs. Natural sugar is easily digested and assimilated.
It contains starch and organic acids; unsaturated fatty acids, protein and fats (in small quantities); vitamins A, C, B, carotene; minerals – calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, iron and potassium (most of all). Dried figs have so much potassium that it can only be exceeded by the nuts. Potassium is vital for our nervous and cardiovascular systems. Besides, the amount of iron in the figs bypasses the well-known source of iron – an apple. As we know all the mental processes in the brain involve iron.
They are a record holder among the other dried fruits as to the content of dietary fiber. Due to that when you eat a dried fig you will feel fullness and at the same time the improvement in functioning of your digestive system. Dried figs can increase the energy produced by our body, improve our mood, performance and mental activity.
Health Benefits of Dried Figs
Dried figs are used to cure gastritis and constipation. The decoction made of them is used to treat the infections, bronchitis, tracheitis, and other respiratory diseases. It is used in case of exhaustion, high fever, angina, oral cavity infections, hoarseness, etc. In many cases it is recommended to consume it with milk. Put several figs (4-5) into a glass of milk for few hours, then mash them and eat ½ cup 2-4 times a day. Also, you can use dried figs with milk to treat skin abscesses and ulcers. It will help to speed up the healing process.
Essential oils of the figs saturate blood with oxygen. They are also used to prevent high blood pressure and venous insufficiency as they contain an enzyme called ficin. As to the other dried figs health benefits, they have mild laxative effect, help in cases of cardiopalmus and are a wonderful hematonic. People who suffer from anemia and liver diseases should definitely make dried uncooked figs a part of their diet.
Figs in Gastronomy
They usually are widely used in desserts, bakery, sherbet and other sweet dishes. But they are not used only in desserts. They are also added to the meat and fish dishes. Dried fig is a special treat for gourmets, it calls for experiments. They stuff poultry with these fruits, make meat rolls, bake cheese with them. Dried figs share their sweetness with the dish, making the taste more piquant and refined. You can combine dried figs with any kind of cheese, especially blue or goat cheese.