Fresh fig season is upon us and you can usually find figs mid to late summer into early fall. If you have yet to try a fresh fig, you are missing out on some extraordinary goodness! You know how the saying goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Well, the same goes for figs. They can look a bit unappealing on the surface, but their beauty is on the inside, especially when it comes to flavor. Naturally sweet, figs can be used in a variety of desserts, salads, and main course entrées.
Figs grow from the Ficus tree which is a member of the Mulberry family. Most often, people enjoy dried figs. But when it comes to fresh figs, there are some interesting facts you may want to know. This seems crazy, but there are more than 150 varieties of figs! However, some of the most popular varieties are Black Mission, Kadota, Calimyrna, Brown Turkey, and Adriatic. Figs are believed to be originally cultivated in Egypt.
Fresh figs are a delicate fruit and should be used within 1-2 days of picking or selecting them in stores. They should be soft when ripe, without bruises, and have a firm stem. If you purchase them on the slightly firm side, you may be able to get a day or two extra from them so keep that in mind. To get the most of the antioxidants offered from a fig, it's best to eat them when fully ripe. Store them in your refrigerator until ready to use.
Numerous health benefits come from enjoying figs. About 1/2 cup of fresh figs is about 75 calories. They contain soluble dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which play an important role in maintaining optimal health. Figs are high in Vitamin A, E, and K which are all known to protect against cancer, diabetes, and degenerative diseases such as macular degeneration. Some studies suggest that the chlorogenic acid in figs helps to lower blood sugar levels and control blood glucose levels when it comes to type II diabetes. Figs are also a great source of B-complex vitamins.
Lucky for me, I have a good friend who has a fig tree in her backyard! So when figs start to ripen, she invites me to come and pick to my heart's desire. How cool is that! I love adding figs to some of our main course meals, in our morning breakfast bowls, and best of all, in fresh salads. This salad recipe I'm sharing with you is quite versatile. If you are vegan, simply leave out the prosciutto. And if you make the Dijon Vinaigrette, sub the honey with some maple syrup. If you can't have dairy, leave off the Parmesan cheese. It's such a simple, yet flavorful way to enjoy fresh figs. I absolutely love the combination of flavors going on here. I really hope you get a chance to try this recipe before fig season has come and gone.
3 cups arugula
3 cups baby spinach
8 fresh figs, quartered
2 ounces thin prosciutto, sliced (optional, omit for vegan or non pork eaters)
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 fresh Parmesan, grated (optional, omit for dairy free)
For the Dressing:
1. Mix the greens in a large bowl and toss with half of the dressing. Top with figs, prosciutto, avocado, pistachios, and Parmesan cheese.
2. Drizzle with remaining dressing and enjoy! Serves 6.