Feed The Yogi
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F is for Fig
Categories: Food, Ingredients

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The fig originated in southwestern Asia and was one of the first cultivated fruits from Asia to the Mediterranean. The ‘Bo’ tree is a species of fig under which Siddhartha Guatama (Buddha) sat and became enlightened, giving birth to the Buddhist tradition.

buddha fig tree

The edible fig is one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. Nine subfossil (incomplete in the process of fossilization), parthenocarpic (seedless, or “virgin”) figs dating to about 9400-9200 BC were found in the the Jordan Valley. This find predates the domestication of wheat, barley, and legumes and may be the first known instance of agriculture.

Worldwide, Turkey is the top producer of figs, producing 285,000 tonnes annually. Egypt and other Mediterranean countries are also top exporters, followed by Fresno, California, the top US producer of figs which named itself “The fig capital of the world”.

Culturally we may think of figs for their leaves which were used by Adam and Eve to cover their genitals after they were banished from the Garden of Eden. Fig leaves have been used since by many artists to mask the genitals of their subjects, or in many cases, fig leaves were added to a piece after its completion by an order of papal decree. In fact, it is this association which is the root of the metaphorical expression “fig leaf“, meaning to cover for any thing or behavior that may be considered shameful, with the implication that the cover is only a token gesture and the truth is obvious to all who choose to see it. (Here we have reference to the human capacity for choice; the resulting situation of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, is freedom of choice.)

adam and eve fig leaves

Considering the metaphorical significance of the leaf, it is interesting to note that the fig fruit is in fact, not a fruit at all, but a flower who’s blossoms are internal and invisible unless bitten into.
“Botanically, the fig is fascinating. Bite into the small opening (ostiole) at the bottom of the fig- dried or fresh- and surrounding the hole you’ll see the threadlike male stamen. Beyond that opening, hundreds of seeds fill the fig’s cavity. Imagine these when immature as hundreds of miniature buds, which blossomed, were pollinated (although some varieties self-pollinate), and then matured into seeds. It reminds me of a secret harem hidden inside the oval fruit.”
– Rebecca Wood from The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

"Strong man Benjamin Falk liked to impersonate mythic figures"

"Strong man Benjamin Falk liked to impersonate mythic figures"

For more information on the amazing sex lives of figs, including the Smyrna variety’s pollinization by wasp go here.

Domestically (N. America), most figs have between 1-3 yields per year lasting from mid-spring to early autumn. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), figs are neutral in their thermal properties and are beneficial for harmonizing the body’s energy, in Ayurveda figs are tridoshic, but dried figs best balance kapha and fresh figs best balance vata. Figs increase energy, reinforce the stomach, spleen and pancreas and are lubricating to the lungs and large intestine. Medicinally figs are used as a mild laxative and as an expectorant for a dry cough. Figs aid digestion by cleansing and soothing the intestine.

Ounce for ounce figs are higher in calcium than cow’s milk and contain a fair amount of protein. According to the USDA data for the Mission variety, dried figs are the richest plant source in fiber, copper, manganese, potassium, calcium and vitamin K and contain smaller amounts of other nutrients. Many of these minerals need adequate amounts of the other minerals to be assimilated by the human body. Figs contain adequate amounts of minerals for proper absorption. They are also a good source of antioxidants, flavonoids and polyphenols.

1 Comment to “F is for Fig”

  1. […] grain of rice per day, but realized this was also not the answer. Finally he vowed to sit under the Bodhi tree until he had his answers. Sitting under the tree Siddhartha fasted and meditated for a week and on […]

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