Pity the poor fig: Once a mainstay in the winter months, this fruit has fallen out of favor in the last few decades. But now the fig is making a comeback, and manufacturers are finding new ways to package old favorites, like Fig Newtons.
Health Benefits. Figs are rich in calcium and iron, two nutrients that are traditionally low in the American diet. In addition, figs are a rich source of dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble), shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. What’s more, the fruit is a particularly good source of quercetin, a phytochemical that also has been linked to decreased risk of these diseases. Figs are low in sodium and high in potassium. No wonder studies have shown that fruit-eating animals prefer figs even when other foods are abundant!
Storage. Fresh, tree-ripened figs do not keep as well as dried figs; that’s one reason most recipes call for the latter. Fresh figs should be picked when ripe; they can then be dried like any other fruit. Whole figs can be canned or frozen; they are also delicious pickled or preserved in jams.
Use. Soak dried figs in orange or apple juice overnight, and serve as you would stewed fruit. To stuff figs, drain the soaked fruits, cut a slit in each and stuff with nutmeats. Roll in coconut or finely chopped nuts. Treat your kids to a fig parfait by layering cut-up figs with alternating layers of low-fat yogurt.