Why You Should Be Eating Figs

20 Aug 2015
POSTED BY Y Magazine

They’re good for you, can be used in many ways and are grown right here in Oman. What more reason do you need to include fantastic figs in your diet?



Next time you’re in the supermarket, take a wander down the fruit section and put a handful of fresh figs into your shopping basket.

These wonder tree fruits may be small but they pack a big punch in terms of flavour and goodness, and are positively bursting with fibre and essential nutrients such as Vitamin B6.

The Grand Hyatt Muscat hotel has been celebrating the humble little fruit throughout the month of August with all manner of fig-inspired desserts on the pastry trolley every day at its Sirj Tea Lounge in the lobby.

Dried figs are available throughout the year but there’s nothing like the taste and texture of fresh figs, with their lusciously sweet and chewy dark flesh and smooth skin.

“It’s a fruit that’s revered among the food cognoscenti and among Old World Italian and Mediterranean types,” says cookbook author and culinary arts teacher Robert Wemischner.

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Figs, which grow on the ficus tree, are believed to have first been cultivated in Egypt. Now they are produced in Oman, counting as one of our national fruits along with the more renowned dates and pomegranates (which are grown on the slopes of Jebel Akhdar), so are easily accessible during the summer season.

You can even have a go at growing your own figs in your garden or outside space. Try a pot on your balcony or terrace.

What marks them out is their versatility, making a great ingredient for savoury or sweet dishes, adding a distinctive, nutty flavour. Figs can liven up Middle Eastern-inspired tagines, make great desserts, cookies and cakes, act as a perfect accompaniment to crumbly cheese or simply be enjoyed on their own.

You can stuff them, bake them, boil them and grill them. Or blend them into a fig smoothie.

Wemischner prefers the savoury use of figs and say they are best eaten “with the sun still on them” fresh off the tree, within a day or two of being picked, having never seen the inside of a refrigerator.

Figs also have numerous health benefits. Results of a study carried out by a team of researchers, including three from Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, was published in March this year. It suggested figs grown in Oman could help to improve memory, anxiety and learning skills, and could also be useful for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Other reasons to be a fig fan are:

Helps lower high blood pressure

Figs are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure.

A sweet way to lose weight

Figs are satisfying fruits and rich in fibre. They help to fill you up. They’re also a good low-calorie snack – containing just 47 calories per large fig – and can form part of a calorie-controlled diet.

Insulin lowering

Fig leaves are not only edible but also provide anti-diabetic properties by lowering the amount of insulin the body requires.

Good for the heart

Again it’s those fig leaves, which, in studies, have been shown to lower levels of fat circulating in the bloodstream.

Get stuck into figs with this tasty savoury dish:

Chef Scheihings world-famous lamb and fig tagine, a succulent Moroccan-inspired dish

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Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

  • 500g lamb shoulder, cubed or on the bone
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  • 1 container of spice mix
  • 1/4 cup runny honey (Omani honey is good)
  • 1/4 cup coriander, chopped
  • 10-12 dried figs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Toss the lamb in half the spice mix to coat well. In a heavy bottom pot, bring some olive oil to the smoke point, add the lamb and brown well on all sides, remove and set aside.
  2. Add the onions and garlic to the pot, saute for 10 mins or until soft but not browned, add the remaining spice and cool until it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add 2 cups of water or stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the spice. Return lamb to the pot along with dried figs, mint, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 1.5 hours or until the lamb is tender. Remove lid and add the honey, cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in coriander, adjust seasoning and serve in a tagine over couscous.

Source: Cuisine Magazine NZ


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