Nutrition 101

Fig Trees = Abundance, Fertility & Sweetness!

With its warm climate and dry conditions, California is the major producer of figs for the U.S. market. Figs can range dramatically in color and in texture, depending upon the variety. Figs are harvested in the late summer and early fall. Because fresh figs are so perishable, most figs are dried. Dried figs are readily available all year long.

Whether you are enjoying fresh or dried figs, both are nutrient dense. The main difference, nutritionally speaking, is the water content. Fresh fruit has more moisture than dried fruit which may make it a bit more filling. Surprisingly, a dried fig has a few less calories than a fresh one, but once for ounce, dried figs are higher in calories than fresh. Three to four medium fresh figs (1/2 c) is considered a serving and provides 120 calories compared to 3-5 dried figs (1/4c) that provides 110 calories. Both fresh and dried figs provide 5 grams of fiber and are good sources of potassium and calcium. Fresh and dried figs are also rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Fresh figs are excellent raw and can be enjoyed “as is.” They are also delicious added to salads, baked goods and items like ice cream and yogurts. See Spotlight on Taste for more ways to enjoy fresh figs. Dried figs are available in most grocery stores year-round. When buying packaged dried figs, make sure the wrapper is unbroken. The figs should give a little when you push on them, but overall they should be firm. If you are selecting dried figs in bulk, they should be clean; there should be no mold, and their aroma should be sweet, not sour. Dried figs should be wrapped so that they don't get hard. They can then be stored at a cool room temperature or in the refrigerator. Dried figs should keep for several months when stored correctly.

Dried figs are a great stand-alone snack and they can also add a lot of flavor and textures to many dishes. When using dried figs for recipes, it may be beneficial to rehydrate them so that they become juicier and plumper. Dried figs can be rehydrated by soaking them overnight or simmering them for several minutes in water or fruit juice. Either method is fine, just be sure to add enough liquid to cover the figs. To chop figs, the easiest way is to use a pair of scissors. If the scissors get sticky, run them under hot water. If you use a knife, rinse it often in hot water during the chopping process. To make dried figs easier to work with, try placing the figs in the freezer for an hour prior to cutting. If you are using dried figs in cake batter or any other kind of dough, coat them in a little flour first so they do not sink to the bottom of the pan. Dried figs can be used to replace other dried fruits. Instead of oatmeal raisin cookies, make oatmeal fig cookies. Instead of adding dried tart cherries to a muffin batter, add dried figs.

When cooking with figs, be aware of whether fresh or dried figs are called for in the recipe. Because fresh fruits have more moisture than dried, a recipe calling for fresh figs takes that moisture into consideration. To substitute dried figs for fresh, add moisture back by hydrating the dried figs with water or juices as noted above. This will work well in recipes like stews, cobblers, jams, grain dishes and some appetizers. Substitutions may not work as well with baked goods which have a more sensitive balance of wet and dry ingredients. In these cases, it is best to make recipes as directed. Substitutions can require some trial and error. Note: Because dried figs are so readily available, many recipes call for dried over fresh figs.

According to our Experts, you can enjoy fresh figs. Click here to find out how!