July 7, 2007
Plant of the Week
Without a doubt, today’s most publicized food-related topics are dietary fiber, calcium and potassium. The perfect fruit to make a valuable contribution in each category is figs. Pound for pound, or ounce for ounce, figs:
- have the highest dietary fiber content of any common fruit, nut or vegetable
- are from 90 % to over 1,000 % higher in calcium than other common fruits. (In fact, on an equal weight basis, figs have a higher calcium content than whole cow’s milk)
- are 80 % higher in potassium content than bananas (generally thought of as the best source of potassium)
In addition to high dietary fiber, calcium and potassium, a few of the many other reasons to enjoy figs frequently are as follows:
- plant protein content that is nearly twice as high as other dried fruits, and over 10 times that of most fresh fruits
- a high content of easily digestible natural sugars such as glucose and fructose
- a higher overall score in mineral content than other common fruits
- one of the few alkaline foods, and is considered beneficial in balancing alkalinity and as an aid to digestion
- the only fruit listed in the “Foods & Nutrition Encyclopedia” as a “good” source of calcium
- a natural humectants which extends shelf life or freshness of baked items
- lower in calories per gram of dietary fiber than other popular fruits, and even lower than nearly all of the highly promoted bran cereals
- over 40 % higher in dietary fiber than other Raisin Bran
- higher in pectin fiber than other fruits (pectin is a soft soluble fiber which helps toxic waste removal and reduces cholesterol level)
The fig is native to the Mediterranean Basin. You may already be familiar with some members of the fig family, such as the rubber tree, the mulberry, and the Osage orange or hedge apple. If your soil is well drained and reasonably fertile, you will most likely have success growing figs.
Another exciting fact about figs is that they produce reasonably well in shaded areas. In fact, some say that the fig actually does better in a shady location, so it qualifies as one of the only shade-tolerant fruits.
The Common fig is of significant importance to southern fig growing. It is a seedless fruit which does not require pollination. The fruit is produced as a main crop on wood that has grown the same season. The fruit of southern fig varieties must have a closed “eye” to prevent entry by insects like the dried fruit beetle. Other types of figs like Caprifigs, Smyrna and San Pedro are thus not recommended for the above mentioned reasons. Also, other varieties including Magnolia, Brunswick, Mission and Kadota are not recommended because they have the open “eye.”
Recommended Common Fig varieties for Central/South Texas:
Celeste (Sugar Fig or Malta) is a small brown-to-purple fig which has a tight, closed eye and a very sweet taste. The bush is vigorous, large, productive and the most cold- hardy of the common fig varieties. The Celeste bush should not be pruned heavily, for this can reduce the crop.
Alma is a Texas A&M University released fig which is medium sized with a cream-colored peel. The fruit is extremely sweet and delicious. The bush is moderately vigorous, medium sized, and extremely productive. The eye of the fruit is sealed with a drop of thick resin which inhibits on-the-bush fruit spoilage.
Texas Everbearing (Brown Turkey) is a medium-sized, light brown fig which ripens over a 60-day period and has a mild sweet flavor. The eye is moderately closed which helps reduce fruit spoilage on the tree. The bush is very vigorous, large, and productive. Everbearing figs grow best in the cooler areas of the south.
For more information and recipes on figs, please visit these links at:
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!
David Rodriguez is County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For more information, call the Master Gardener ‘Hotline’ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu, click under Horticulture and Gardening.