Sweet and earthy with a mouthfeel that is a texture revelation, soft and smooth with intervals of grainy little seeds; I am a huge fan of the fig.
Figs are delicious raw, baked, sautéed, dried, just about any way possible to prepare them makes them delicious. They are also versatile being an amazing addition to both sweet and savory dishes. Just to illustrate my point, today’s flavor comes straight from a scrumptious cheddar, tomato and fig quiche served up at Woodruff’s Organic Café in Stroud. Upon initial perusal of the menu, I thought how odd to find those flavors all mixed together in a savory quiche. So odd, in fact, that I had to give it a try. It was delicious, simple flavors, both savory and sweet, with the fig adding a depth of both flavor and mouthfeel complexity that was delicious.
Figs are probably one of my favorite foods, not least because as a child I loved fig newtons. They are native to the Middle East and parts of Asia but have been cultivated all over the world. When I lived in the Sonoma, California area there were fig trees galore growing everywhere and I could pick my fill when they were in season. Not surprisingly, it appears that the fig tree was one of the first plants cultivated by humans, cultivated well before grains and other domesticated fruits and vegetables.
From a culinary perspective, figs are a wonder. Obviously, eating them raw is a nice option, as is eating them dried, however, they can also stand alone to make some pretty amazing small plates. They can be added to a variety of sweet and savory dishes ensuring a level of fully encompassing culinary experience that will wow the palate. You can get dried figs year round but fresh figs are seasonal and available late spring, summer and early fall depending on location.
Nutritionally, figs are a great source of nutrients. They contain polyphenols which add to their ability to decrease oxidative stress, systemic inflammation, and cardiac disease. They also are a great source of potassium, manganese, copper, and vitamin’s B6 and K. While we typically think only of eating the fruit (or actually false fruit as it’s often referred to) science also demonstrates that eating the leaves can also be valuable for things like blood sugar balance, lowering triglycerides, and contributing to protection against cancer.
I say, if you can get your hands on some fresh figs, do it! One of my favorite ways to eat them now that I’m all grown up (and know what’s really in a fig newton, ugh) is to cut them in fourths and bake them with goat cheese, drizzling them with honey before I serve them.