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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Glorious Figs | 08-21-2016
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Take A Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Aug 21, 2016

DianneErskineHellrigelIt’s that time of year when fresh figs are in the market.

Seeing as how there are more than 750 species of figs, you can never get tired of the varied flavorful fig. Figs grow in almost every jungle, every moist habitat in the world as well as dry, sunny areas. They like rocky areas and deep, fresh soil, as well.

Nearly every animal, including humans, eats figs. They are high in calcium and easy to digest. In many habitats, if figs failed to exist, the ecosystems would completely collapse.

Figs play a huge role in the reforestation of devastated land. They are one of the first plants to return, bringing the land back to life. The figs attract the animals and the birds, and the ecosystem returns.

In many parts of the world, figs are considered to be the homes of many spirits and gods. The fig tree can be found in many of the world’s religions, such as Buddhism; Buddha attained enlightenment under a fig tree.

figs3To feel the spirituality of the fig, one needs only taste the sweet, fresh fig. Figs are available from June to September in California. They are deliciously sweet with a little bit of crunch from the seeds. A fig is only 37 calories and is high in fiber, vitamin B6, copper, manganese, potassium and pantothenic acid. Figs help lower high blood pressure, may help you lose weight, can protect against breast cancer, and may help protect you against macular degeneration.

Some countries also consider fig leaves to be of value in preventing diabetes and lowering the amount of insulin a diabetic needs to inject. Of course, this has not been proven in the United States, so I don’t suggest you try it.

In animal studies, it has been shown the fig leaves are valuable in lowering trygliceride levels in the blood and are effective in killing some cancer cells. Some people consider the fig to be the world’s most healthy food.

In addition to these health benefits, there are dozens of micronutrients in figs, and they are filled with antioxidants. Ripe figs have the most antioxidants.

For human consumption, the most popular varieties of figs are black mission, Kadota, Calimyrna, brown turkey and Adriatric figs.

Figs were first cultivated in Egypt and are mentioned in the Bible. From Egypt, the cultivation of figs spread to Crete, Greece, Rome and then throughout Europe. The Spanish brought them to the West. They planted trees in San Diego in the 16th century.

figs1California, Turkey, Greece, Portugal and Spain are the world’s largest producers of figs. The cultivation of figs predates the cultivation of wheat, barley and legumes.

The fig has multiple unisexual flowers. Never seen a flower on a fig tree? That’s because the flower is on the inside of the fruit. Cut one in half and you can see the flowers on the inside.

Figs grow quickly and are fertilized by fig wasps that crawl into the ostiole (the small orifice on the bottom of the fruit) to fertilize the flowers and produce the tiny seeds inside.

Figs and fig wasps have been important life companions for 60 million years. When fig trees were first imported to California, the trees did not produce fruit. Fig wasps were finally introduced to California in 1899, and California had the first fig production in the U.S.

The oldest wild mountain figs can be found in the Zibad Mountains of Iran. They require no care and can survive in the worst, driest and miserably cold climates.

For you fig-o-philes like me, here is a recipe for fig and almond tart that you might enjoy:

 

figs2FIG AND ALMOND TART

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon

1 lemon, zested

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 tablespoons ice water

3-1/2 ounces almond paste, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons honey

6 large or 12 small fresh figs, sliced, stems removed or 20 dried figs, reconstituted (see cook’s note)

1/4 cup apricot jam

Combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon zest and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until blended. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, gradually add the water until moist clumps form. Turn the mixture out onto a work surface and form into a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for 1 hour.

In a clean food processor bowl, combine remaining sugar, almond paste, mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, and honey. Blend until smooth.

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a large, heavy baking sheet. Spread the almond filling over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the figs on top of the almond filling. Spoon the jam over the figs. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, pleating the crust loosely and pinching to seal any cracks in the dough.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then slide a metal spatula under the crust to free the tart from the parchment. Transfer the tart to a platter and serve.

Enjoy.

 

 

Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Sara says:

    In July of 2015. it was discovered that I got type 2 diabetes, By the end of the July month. I was given a prescription for the Metformin, I stated with the ADA diet and followed it completely for several weeks but was unable to get my blood sugar below 140, Without results to how for my hard work. I really panicked and called my doctor. His response?? Deal with it yourself, I started to feel that something wasn’t right and do my own research, Then I found Lisa’s great blog (google ” HOW I FREED MYSELF FROM THE DIABETES ” ) .. I read it from cover to cover and I started with the diet and by the next morning. my blood sugar was 100, Since then. I get a fasting reading between the mid 70s and 80s, My doctor was very surprised at the results that. the next week. he took me off the Metformin drug, I lost 30 pounds in my first month and lost more than 6 inches off my waist and I’m able to work out twice a day while still having lots of energy. The truth is that we can get off the drugs and help myself by trying natural methods..

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