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Figs 101

The Martha Stewart Show, September 2008

The fig could be considered the perfect fruit -- except that it's not a fruit at all, but rather a "false fruit," or syncomium. Within the globe of the "fruit" are little clusters of flowers that look similar to threads.

The common fig is female and needs no pollination; but there are three other varieties that require that a tiny fig wasp, which enters through the bottom of the fig, pollinate its flowers. The ficus carica, which produces the fig, is just one of more than 800 species, including trees, shrubs, and vines, within the ficus genus.

Why Are Figs So Healthy?
The fig has more fiber -- soluble and insoluble -- than any other fruit, which is great for weight management and cardiovascular health, and has more minerals than any other fruit, including calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese.

Figs -- particularly dried figs -- are a good source of antioxidants, polyphenols, essential fatty acids, and phytosterols -- all important dietary additions for disease prevention. When shopping, look for figs that have a little give but are not mushy. Figs need to ripen on the tree, and are best eaten immediately, though they will keep for two or three days in the refrigerator.

Fig Glossary
Calimyrna

  • Calimyrna figs ripen to a purpleish blue sometime between October and November. Less sweet and moist than mission.
  • These figs, whose season begins in August, are named for its variety, the California smyrna.

Turkish (Dried)

  • Original smyrna cultivar, they are large, sweet, and light colored.
  • Turkish figs are primarily used for drying; their season is August to September.

Brown Turkey (Fresh)

  • These dark brown figs are one of the most abundant varieties in the United States. Their flesh is pinkish amber, and they are sweet, with a juicy pulp.
  • Available from May through October/November.

Kadota (Fresh)

  • Kadota figs, also known as dottato, can be green or white. They have few seeds and can be used for many purposes.
  • They have a wonderful flavor, but a shorter season that ends in late September or early October.

Black Mission (Fresh and Dried)

  • Black Mission figs have a blackish-purple skin with pinkish flesh. They are the most common and popular variety in the U.S.
  • Introduced to California in 1769 when the San Diego Mission was established, these figs, also known as franciscana, are good for drying. Their season is July to September or October.

Conadria (Dried)

  • Conadria's season is August through September. They are yellow-green with thin skin and white to red flesh.
  • They are good for eating fresh or making into preserves.

Martha's Figs
For more information on Martha's figs, check out her blog entry from August 2008.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Melissa's Produce for supplying the figs used in this segment.