Figs: Discover the Versatile Greek Superfood You Need to Try Today
3 min read
Chances are you are not eating enough figs – σύκα (sika) in Greek. But this versatile fruit is a staple in Greece as part of the uber-healthy Mediterranean Diet. Whether you enjoy them fresh, dried or in preserves, figs bring a unique texture and flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. In this article, our guest blogger, Jean Fleming, who now lives in the Peloponnese, will introduce you to the wonders of Greek figs and show you how to incorporate this underrated fruit into your diet – with some easy-to-prepare recipes that put figs in the spotlight.
Get to know Greek figs
As a native Midwesterner, I had not encountered fig trees until I moved to Greece. In fact, as a kid, I always had a hard time imagining how Adam and Eve could use fig leaves to cover up. But once I moved here, the mystery was solved. The leaves could definitely provide ample coverage.
Figs are the edible fruit of Ficus carica, a species of small flowering tree, and are one of the first foods cultivated by humans. Fossil evidence of culinary figs has been found throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, with samples dating back to 9400 BCE. In Greek mythology, figs are associated with Dionysus, the god of wine, fertility, and ecstasy. The fig tree was revered as a symbol of abundance and prosperity, and its fruit used in religious ceremonies and rituals.
Greece offers the perfect climate for figs, as they like lots of sun and don’t need too much water – and they can grow in a wide range of soil conditions. You’ll find them almost everywhere, growing along rocky shorelines, up through abandoned buildings, and in cultivated groves. Their heady scent is one of my favorite fragrances of Greece!
Greeks have been cultivating and selectively breeding figs since ancient times, and nowadays, Greece is one of the largest fig producers in the world. Many different varieties of figs grow here, including Black figs, Royal figs, and Red figs – depending on the region. Figs from Markopoulo (where the Athens airport is located), Kalamata and the Peloponnese, and the island of Evia are particularly prized. Evia is especially renowned for its Kimi figs, which have a slightly thinner skin thanks to the island’s unique terroir.
When selecting fresh figs, look for ones that are plump, tender, and have a slight give when gently squeezed. Avoid figs that are overly mushy or have bruises, as these may indicate spoilage. Fig marmalade, and fig bars and pastes are also excellent ways to enjoy this fruit.
Nutritional benefits of figs
Beyond their delectable flavor, figs are packed with essential nutrients that offer a range of health benefits. They are a good source of dietary fiber, which supports digestive health and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Figs also contain vitamins and minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin K, all of which contribute to overall wellness.
The high fiber content in figs can aid in weight management and promote feelings of fullness, making them a satisfying and nutritious snack option. Additionally, the natural sugars in figs provide a quick source of energy, making them a good choice for pre- or post-workout fuel. Figs are rich in antioxidants, too, offering protection against oxidative stress and inflammation.
Incorporating figs into your diet can support heart health, bone density, and overall vitality, a winning combination of taste and nutrition.
Fig recipes and cooking ideas
Figs complement a wide range of flavors, both sweet and savory. That, along with their nutritional power, makes them a valuable addition to your favorite salads, snacks and main courses. Here are a few recipes that can help you incorporate them into your repertoire.
The versatility of figs extends to their culinary applications, with many ways to incorporate them into recipes.
This easy recipe for a fresh fig tart makes a great centerpiece dessert.
In savory cooking, figs can be incorporated into sauces for grilled meats, added to grain-based dishes for a touch of sweetness, or used as a topping for flatbreads.
Where to buy figs
Figs are readily available in most grocery stores, particularly during their peak season, which typically runs from late summer to early fall. If fresh figs are not in season or are difficult to find, dried figs, preserves and pastes are a convenient alternative and can be found year-round.
Get a burst of Greek flavor with versatile, nutritious figs. Their luscious taste, gorgeous color and shape, rich history, and health benefits make them a valuable addition to any diet.
Discover the Versatile Greek Superfood You Need to Try Today at Zelos
Enjoy the delicious taste of PDO Kimi figs from the island of Evia and bring the flavors of a Greek summer to your table. Hand-crafted by Kumilio using traditional techniques with no additives, preservatives, artificial coloring or flavors.