A lot of people have never tasted — or even seen — a fresh fig. The closest most people get to a real fig is when they're shopping for cookies at the grocery store.
The fig has an interesting and delicious history, according to the California Fig Advisory Board:
- The fig tree is the symbol of abundance, fertility, and sweetness.
- Figs made their first commercial product appearance in the 1892 introduction of Fig Newtons® Cookies. (See http://www.nabiscoworld.com/newtons/.)
- For many years the fig has been used as a coffee substitute. The fruit contains a proteolytic enzyme that is considered an aid to digestion and is used by the pharmaceutical industry.
- And, because of its high alkalinity it has been mentioned as being beneficial to persons wishing to quit smoking.
- Figs contain a natural humectant -- a chemical that will extend freshness and moistness in baked products.
- A chemical found in figs, Psoralen, has been used for thousands of years to treat skin pigmentation diseases. Psoralen, which occurs naturally in figs, some other plants and fungi, is a skin sensitizer that promotes tanning in the sun.
- Figs provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable. The fiber in figs is both soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber are important for good health.
- Figs have nutrients especially important for today's busy lifestyles. One quarter-cup serving of dried figs provides 5 grams of fiber -- 20% of the recommended Daily Value. That serving also adds 6% of iron, 6% of calcium, and 7% of the Daily Value for potassium. And, they have no fat, no sodium, and no cholesterol. Recent research has shown that California Figs also have a high quantity of polyphenol antioxidants.
- Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes or the real fruit.
You'll start to find plenty of figs and other fruits at the farmers markets around town. Check out the Larkspur farmers market at Marin Country Mart every Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, and the Corte Madera farmers market at the Town Center every Wednesday, from noon to 5 p.m.
Pork with California Pinot-Infused Chutney
- 1 cup chopped dried California figs
- 1 cup Pinot Noir wine
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon coarse pepper
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, smashed
1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin
Preparation: For chutney, stir ingredients all together in small saucepan. Heat to boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Uncover; increase heat slightly and cook 10 minutes more or until liquid has all evaporated. Remove cinnamon sticks. (May be prepared several days ahead and stored in refrigerator.)
For brine, combine boiling water and salt in mixing bowl and stir to dissolve; cool. Arrange a gallon-size re-sealable plastic bag in a large bowl to keep it upright and pour in salt-water, remaining brine ingredients, and pork; seal well. Chill for 48 hours, turning occasionally.
To serve, remove pork from brine, drain and rinse thoroughly; pat dry. Cook on a well-oiled grill over medium-high heat for about 40 minutes, turning occasionally, until pork is cooked to medium (165°F). Slice; serve with warm chutney and sprinkled with chopped fresh rosemary.
— Recipe courtesy of the California Fig Advisory Board