18 May 2022
When someone says “fruit,” figs are probably not the first thing that comes to your mind. They are very small and shaped like a tear drop. The flesh is pink and very mild; the peel is either purple or green, and edible, and it is filled with hundreds of tiny seeds. It is part of the mulberry family and probably began somewhere in Asia Minor but now are grown in most Mediterranean countries. They are also a product of California and Texas.
Some varieties are pollinated by wasps, which is an interesting story. As the immature fruit is ready for pollination, it sends out a scent that will attract only female wasps and only those that are specific for the tree that is budding. The wasp finds a small opening in the pod and squeezes through losing its wings and possibly antennae in the process. Between the size of the hole and loss of body parts, she is now trapped.
It is no matter because the female wasp is busy visiting all the flowers inside the fruit and laying eggs. Her travels inside also spread the pollen from one blossom to another. The seeds will grow, some to feed her eggs and some just to grow into fruit. Her job is done and she dies inside the fig.
The wasp eggs evolve into grubs and then emerge from the seeds. The males emerge first but have no wings, will never fly, and their only job is to fertilize a female and then die inside the fruit. The females come out already fertilized and carrying loads of pollen. They move on to another fig tree and the whole process starts over again.
But back to the point of this article, which is their nutritional value.
A small fresh fig is 30 calories and dried only 20. However, the sugar becomes concentrated when the fig is dried. While they contain small amounts of lots of vitamins and nutrients, they are particularly high in copper and B6.
Copper is not one of those elements you hear a lot about. Actually it helps create red blood cells, forms collagen to support bones and tissues, helps in iron absorption, supports immunity, and converts sugar to energy. If you are low on copper you could be diagnosed with anemia or osteoporosis.
In general, figs work in the digestive system and are often recommended as a natural relief for constipation due to their high fiber count. Vascular health is improved which can lead to a reduced risk for cardiac issues. Controlling sugar is still uncertain since the dried version are especially high. There are ongoing studies to see the effect of figs and fig leaves on cancer cells and dermatitis.
There are some significant downsides. While they are fine for helping with constipation, overdoing it can lead to diarrhea or other digestive issues. High in Vitamin K (Potassium) this can cause problems with some medications intended to thin the blood. Check with your prescribing physician about this since the K could make the drugs less effective. If you are allergic to latex, you may have an allergic reaction to figs as well. It is also found that those individuals who are allergic to birch pollen may be more prone to an allergic reaction to figs.