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Figs, their Fresh Fruit and their Health Benefits

The fresh fruit of figs comes in different colors - purple, yellow and even green but the dark purple or black varieties are highest in health benefits, coming with up to three times the amount of phytochemicals.  This is because of the high anthocyanin content that is concentrated in the peel.  However, the green figs are rich in tannins which are potent antioxidants.

What are the other health benefits of figs?

There is quite a long list!

  • They are one of the richest sources of vitamins A, C and K.
  • They are rich in potassium and magnesium.
  • They have high levels of polyphenols with the resulting antioxidant activity.
  • They are an excellent source of fiber - even more than prunes!
  • They come with pectin, a prebiotic fiber that fuels our gut microbes to increase the diversity of beneficial bacteria while promoting good digestive health. 

Planting and nurturing fig trees

Fig trees are best planted in large containers, our own is planted in a cut down (and cleaned) old oil drum.  They grow particularly well in a sheltered sunny spot next to a wall where they can be trained in a fan shape to allow as much light as possible to ripen the fruit.  They fruit better when their root growth is confined to a container. Ideally, a Mediterranean type climate will ensure two crops per annum but otherwise outdoor trees grown in a cooler temperature region will crop once.  

Pollination of figs is very different!

And the makeup of the fruit itself is very different too, consisting of hundreds of tiny flowers that are enclosed inwardly inside the syconium.  Figs are fertilised by very small wasps.  These crawl inside the base of the fig and deposit their eggs there.  When the eggs hatch, the young wasps pick up pollen from the flowers before chewing their way out and transferring to another syconium where they kindly fertilize the flowers - and deposit more eggs.  

That is the natural way but...

Most figs in cultivation produce fruits that are pathenocarpic - meaning they are seedless and develop without the need for a pollinating wasp. 

Dried figs are an alternative

Although they come with less health benefits, dried figs are a cheaper option if you don't grow your own and have to buy your own supply.