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Exploring Figs: Facts, Nutrition, Recipes, and Trivia


Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Fresh figs are delicious and nutritious

Fresh figs are delicious and nutritious

How Old Are Figs?

The fig (Ficus carica), a cousin of the mulberry, is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The fruit is not only luxuriously sweet and fragrant; it has been the centerpiece of many of the major religions of mankind.

"No other plants have held such sway over human imagination. They feature in every major religion and have influenced kings and queens, scientists and soldiers. They played roles in human evolution and the dawn of civilisation. These trees have not only witnessed history; they have shaped it. If we play it right, they could even enrich our future."

— Mike Shanahan, BBC Earth, January 17, 2017

It is said that Buddha was enlightened while sitting under the canopy of a fig tree. Dried figs were interred with the Egyptian Pharaohs to sustain them in the afterlife. They occur in numerous stories of Greek and Roman mythology, and they are mentioned in the Bible more than any other plant.

Were Figs the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden?

From where did the idea originate that the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was an apple? Let's review the story.

We are told in Genesis that Adam and Eve are living the perfect life in Eden. They may eat fruit from any tree except one, "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." Guess what? They eat the forbidden fruit and are expelled from paradise.

The original Hebrew says only "fruit," but in latter-day Western art, ranging from serious religious paintings to about a million cartoons, the item in question is invariably depicted as an apple. I don't think so. My vote is that it was a fig.

Think about it. Figs possess a honey-like (Heavenly) aroma, they're enticingly, luxuriously sweet, and after that first indiscretion, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves.

Not Your Typical Tree

Figs are an oddity in the plant kingdom—they’re actually more flower than fruit. You’ve probably always thought that those crunchy bits in a fig are seeds. Actually, they are a maze of many clusters of flowers contained within a large bulbous stem. If the flowers are internal, how are they pollinated? Here’s the story.

The World's Top 10 Producers of Figs

Source: https://www.atlasbig.com/en-us/countries-fig-production

CountryAnnual Production, in Tons













United States








Most Popular Fig Varieties

  • Black Mission: The black mission originated in Spain and was introduced to San Diego, California in 1768 by Franciscan missionaries. The flesh is dark pink, and it smells and tastes like honey. They gift us with two harvests each year—once in early summer, and again in October. They are a favorite for drying.
  • Brown turkey: This Texas fig is perhaps the easiest to grow; it survives cold winters that would kill other fig varieties. is has brownish-purple skin, pale pink flesh, and a subtle mild flavor.
  • Calimyrna: This large fruit is greenish-gold with a distinct nutty flavor. It’s best eaten fresh and shines on cheese or charcuterie plates.
  • Fiorone di Torre Canna: A large, dark green fig grown in the Apulian area of Italy. Harvest occurs in May-June. The flesh is brilliant red and very sweet. This fruit is best eaten fresh.
  • Syka Vavronas Markopoulou Messongion: This late-harvest fig (August-September) is self-pollinating. It grows in the Attica prefecture of Greece and is regarded as one of their finest figs. The black skin encloses dark burgundy-hued flesh.
  • Kadota: This not-so-sweet, nearly seedless fig works well in salads or mixed with other fruits for jam or preserves.
  • Figue de Solliès: This fig of the French region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur offers an explosion of sweet-tart flavor. It’s exquisitely juicy and fragrant, with an aroma reminiscent of watermelon, honeydew, and strawberries. They pair perfectly with the rich meat of wild game, fatty foie gras, salmon, or cheese. Figue de Solliès roasted with Roquefort is sheer poetry.

Are Figs Healthy?

Figs can be eaten fresh or dried; both are rich in antioxidants and give your bones a health boost with calcium and magnesium. Here’s a chart that shows what you get when you eat a fig:

Nutrition: Fresh vs. Dried Figs

Fresh California Mission Figs (1 serving = 4)Dried Figs (1 serving = 3)





240.0 mg

269.0 g


0.0 mg

15.0 mg

Dietary fiber

5.0 g

2.0 g


20.0 g

22.0 g

Vitamin B-6

6.0 %

0.0 %


6.0 %

13.0 %


8.0 %

0.0 %


6.0 %

17.0 %


6.0 %

0.0 %


1.0 %

0.0 %


  • Fig trees don’t display blossoms. The flower is inside the fruit.
  • There are 750 known ficus species in the world.
  • Nearly every species of fig tree is pollinated by its own distinct species of fig wasp, each a fascinating example of co-evolution.
  • Although the average female fig wasp is less than two millimeters long, she must often travel tens of kilometers in less than 48 hours to lay her eggs in another fig—a truly heroic journey!
  • Figs have played prominent roles in every major modern religion, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism.
  • Some fig species are trees, others are vines, shrubs, and even epiphytes. (An epiphyte is one plant that grows on another plant, but is not parasitic).
  • Fig puree can be used to replace fat in baked goods.
  • California produces 100 percent of the nation’s dried figs and 98 percent of the fresh figs.
  • The early Olympic athletes used figs as training food.
  • Figs were presented as laurels to the early Olympics winners, becoming the first Olympic “medal.”
  • Ripe figs are approximately 80 percent water and thus are very fragile and perishable.
  • Figs made their first commercial product appearance with the 1892 introduction of Fig Newtons cookies.
Simple Fig Jam

Simple Fig Jam

1. Simple Fig Jam

Our first recipe is one of the basics that will help you utilize figs in so many of your recipes. Simple fig jam uses the skin and fruit so that pectin doesn't have to be added to the mix. Fresh lemon brightens the flavor and sugar helps thicken. Use this jam on toast, as a baste on chicken or pork, on a cheese platter, or even as a topping on ice cream.

Figgy Barbecue Sauce

Figgy Barbecue Sauce

2. Figgy Barbecue Sauce

Dried figs are used to make this figgy barbecue sauce. The sweetness of California mission figs is balanced with the tangy tartness of balsamic vinegar. Garlic provides a subtle bite and bay leaf a savory, herbal note. You can use this "cue" on anything barbecued—it's superb on chicken and pork, but we like it on lamb, burgers, or even tofu.

Fresh Fig and Feta Salad With Toasted Walnuts

Fresh Fig and Feta Salad With Toasted Walnuts

3. Fig and Feta Salad With Toasted Walnuts

Use any fresh fig variety for this summery fig and feta salad (the brown turkey fig is a very good choice). I love the contrast of flavors and textures in this dish—the sweetness of the figs, the creamy feel and salty taste of the feta cheese, and the umami from the toasted walnuts. By the way, don't skip the step of toasting the walnuts. It really makes a difference.

You can layer this on a bed of arugula or romaine lettuce; add some diced cooked chicken breast (perhaps from a rotisserie chicken) to make this a complete meal.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Fig, and Kale Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato, Fig, and Kale Salad

4. Roasted Sweet Potato, Fig, and Kale Salad

Once again toasted walnuts make an appearance but (in my humble opinion) this salad has a more autumnal vibe. Fresh figs roast with sweet potatoes in a hot oven to take on a golden hue and caramelized flavor. Kale, that nutritional powerhouse, adds flavor and color. Pumpkin and walnuts seeds give this salad crunch and a sweet-savory dressing of cinnamon, maple syrup, cider, and sea salt ties all the flavors together. Roasted sweet potato-fig-kale salad is gluten-free and vegan.

Balsamic Fig Chicken Marsala

Balsamic Fig Chicken Marsala

5. Balsamic Fig Chicken Marsala

This recipe begins where just about every recipe should—"Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp." They had me at bacon. Then bone-in chicken thighs (the best kind of chicken, in my opinion) are sauteed in the same pan.

Marsala, figs, mushrooms, and balsamic then join in the fun to create a sweet-savory-salty sauce. Balsamic fig chicken marsala is a gluten-free and paleo dish pretty enough for company, but easy enough for a weeknight meal. Be sure to have some whipped potatoes, rice, or good crusty bread to mop up every bit of that flavorful sauce.

Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Fig Pizza

Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Fig Pizza

6. Chicken, Goat Cheese, and Fig Pizza

Balsamic vinegar and figs join together once again to make this sweet-savory chicken, goat cheese, and fig pizza. Melty mozzarella and goat cheeses wrap around warm sweet figs and juicy chicken to create a meal or appetizer that is both hearty and delicious!

Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Figs

Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Figs

7. Pork Tenderloin With Roasted Figs

This pork tenderloin with roasted figs looks quite elegant, but it's so very easy. Pork tenderloin cooks quickly, it's always moist and tender, and it's easy to carve (no bones). A simple marinade punctuated with garlic, Dijon mustard, and a touch of maple syrup flavors the pork.

After a two-hour marinade (or even longer) in the refrigerator, the tenderloins are seared on the stovetop. Fresh figs and a sprig of rosemary are then added to the pan, which is then slipped into a waiting oven and roasted to perfection.

Pound Cake Grilled Cheese With Brie, Fig Jam, and Rosemary Butter

Pound Cake Grilled Cheese With Brie, Fig Jam, and Rosemary Butter

8. Pound Cake Grilled Cheese With Brie, Fig Jam, and Rosemary Butter

I don't know how to categorize this grilled cheese with brie and fig jam sandwich. Is it breakfast, brunch, or a decadent dessert? Did I mention that this sammie doesn't use white bread, sourdough, or even a small-batch artisanal loaf—this sandwich is made with pound cake!

Italian Fig Cookies

Italian Fig Cookies

9. Italian Fig Cookies

Italian fig cookies are a traditional Christmas-time treat in southern Italy, especially in Sicily and Palermo where there is a significant Arab influence. Figs were introduced to the region many hundreds of years ago. A food processer will really come in handy in making these cookies.

Vanilla Coconut Fig Slice

Vanilla Coconut Fig Slice

10. Vanilla Coconut Fig Slice

Our tenth and final recipe is a true show-stopper. These vanilla coconut fig slices are almost too pretty to eat. A walnut-fig base is layered with vanilla coconut cashew cream and then topped with ruby red fresh fig slices. It's raw, vegan, sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free!


© 2021 Linda Lum


Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 28, 2021:

Adrienne, I've never seen a fig tree, so didn't have an opportunity to question the presence of flowers (or the lack thereof). And, I've never ridden a horse.

See, you are already up by 2 life events on me (hahaha). Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I always enjoy hearing from you.

Adrienne Farricelli on July 28, 2021:

Thanks for sharing these interesting facts about figs. As a child, I remember we had a fig tree in Italy. When I rode my horse, the horse would strategically park herself by the fig tree enticing me to pick up figs for her from the taller branches. Smart horse! Now, after reading your article, I finally know why I never saw any flowers on the fig tree.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 28, 2021:

Denise, I'm so glad I could bring a bit of laughter into your life. I enjoy writing the history lesson (actually, for me THAT's the best part of a recipe).

Blessings to you as well.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on July 28, 2021:

I really enjoyed this. It made me laugh that you think the best part of a recipe is the bacon! My husband would agree. I love the salads and need to try them. Thanks for the history lesson.



Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 28, 2021:

Flourish, you're so very kind. (By the way, I don't think figgy pudding actually contains figs, but perhaps I should put that on my 'need to explore this' list.)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 28, 2021:

Thank you EK. It must be wonderful to have one's own fig tree. Fresh figs are VERY expensive in my corner of the world.

FlourishAnyway from USA on July 28, 2021:

The first thing I thought was Fig Newtons which I used to love but haven't had in a very long time. And then I thought "Bring me some Figgy Pudding" whatever that is. But seriously, that history is fascinating and I think you're dead on with the fig vs. apple as the forbidden fruit. How clever! The wasps as explained in that video -- yuck! It makes you wonder how many other foods are like that. You are truly a one-of-a-kind kitchen diva.

EK Jadoon from Abbottabad Pakistan on July 28, 2021:

You have shared interesting information about figs. We have a lot of figs trees in our area and one in our garden as well. But the fig which is smaller is more flavorful than the big one. The tree in our garden produces large size of figs. We call it 'Anjeer' in Urdu. Thanks for sharing...

Stay safe and healthy...

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 27, 2021:

Brenda, have I convinced you to give figs a chance?

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on July 27, 2021:


I honestly have never tried a fig.

But I find your story about Adam & Eve quite interesting.

It indeed does say they covered themselves with fig leaves...so quite possibly a fig tree.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 27, 2021:

Chitrangada, I am so happy that you took the time to find this. Thank you. I do hope you can try a few of the recipes.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 27, 2021:

Excellent article about figs, and the interesting details about it. I didn’t know that there are so many types of them.

It’s one of my favourite fruit, because of it’s immense health benefits. We usually take it fresh. But, your recipes sound unique and worth trying.

I had read your article earlier, but it didn’t appear on my feed. Glad to find it now.

Have a wonderful day.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 27, 2021:

Because I follow your blog! :-)

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 27, 2021:

Sha, how do you know that it's really me?

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 27, 2021:

Linda, I love that you've changed your profile pic to the sweet you. You know I love kitties, but it's wonderful to see your face, Sis!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 26, 2021:

Thank you Rosina. I think when people consider figs in cooking, they envision a dessert. I wrote this hoping to share other possibilities.

Rosina S Khan on July 26, 2021:

It was really intriguing to know the variety of figs and their history. I also loved going through the recipes. Simple fig jam and Italian fig cookies appealed to me the most. I might try them sometime. It brings water to my mouth when I think of the completed recipes. Thank you, Linda, for the wonderful share.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 26, 2021:

Manatita, thank you for your kind words. As sweet as the fig.

manatita44 from london on July 26, 2021:

Excellent article!

We give the name to a banana variety at home. So I guess I explored figs in the UK some 47 years ago..God blessed that couple with the life of pleasure. Perhaps they enjoyed it too much! Still applies today!

Beautifully written piece! Too sweet for my poor adrenals as the forbidden fig was to Adam and eve.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 26, 2021:

Sha, you and a few other readers seem to think I'm on to something with my fig leaf theory. Yes, you need to find a source for fresh figs.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 26, 2021:

I had no idea there are so many varieties of figs! Interesting that the "seeds" are actually clusters of flowers. What a unique little gem! I don't think I've ever eaten a fresh fig. I'll have to fix that!

I like your Adam and Eve theory, Linda. Where else would those fig leaves have come from?!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 26, 2021:

Thank you Peggy. There is a variety of fig that grows in Washington state. I wish we could grow all of them.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 26, 2021:

I love the taste of fresh figs. How they grow and how they are pollinated is interesting stuff! Many of those recipes sound fabulous!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 26, 2021:

Thank you Liz. What luck to have a fig tree.

Liza from USA on July 26, 2021:

The first time of eating this fruit was when I was eleven years old after my teacher brought it back from one of the Middle Eastern countries she visited. Recently, I found that my brother has grown a fig tree in my parent's backyard, and I was so happy. I had a taste of the fruits and they were just sweet and juicy. Thanks for sharing information about the fig trees!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 26, 2021:

Thank you Dora. We'll never know, but I thought it was worth considering.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on July 26, 2021:

The connection between the forbidden fruit and the fig leaves is interesting, as are all the other trivia facts. Thank you.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on July 26, 2021:

Pamela, you're my first commenter today. I posted this article less than 10 minutes ago, and it's already on DiscoverHP. I hope that doesn't make it impossible for others to find.

Thank you for your kind words about this article. Until I met my son-in-law, I had never tried fresh figs. Like you, my only experience with figs was Fig Newton cookies. Sean has opened my eyes to a new world (he loves figs).

Also, I saw your comment on Bill Holland's post this morning. Thank you. I'll glad that you find the humor in what I write.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 26, 2021:

My mother use to love figs. I have eaten Fig Newton cookies some years ago, but I never buy fresh figs. I use to buy them for my mother though.

These recipes look delicious, so I am going to change my attitude and think about buying fresh figs.

This is a great article, Linda. I didn't know much of what you wrote. Thank for sharing the information.

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