Thursday, 13 August 2015

Go Figure!

We have five or six fig trees in the garden. So it made sense to use the fruit. To be honest I had never been a fig lover. But I was seduced after buying a bag of dried figs off a village woman earlier in the year. 

The next job was to learn what to do with them. A You Tube video gave one method, which involved drying them in the sun on a large tray under a muslin or cotton cloth.

Our 80-year-old neighbour Ayşe Hanem reckoned I was doing it all wrong and it would never work. Apparently in the village they pick them, just leave them in the sun for a week, then squash them like they do with steak or burgers and then put them in jars for the winter.

Anyhow, I persevered with my internet method.

My fig method

Figs can trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt. 

They spread to ancient Crete and then subsequently, around the 9th century BC, to ancient Greece, where they became a staple foodstuff in the traditional diet. 

Figs were held in such esteem by the Greeks that they created laws forbidding the export of the best quality figs. Figs were also revered in ancient Rome where they were thought of as a sacred fruit. 

According to Roman myth, the wolf that nurtured the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, rested under a fig tree. During this period of history, at least 29 varieties of figs were already known.

The Romans introduced figs throughout the Roman Empire - all around the Mediterranean and to northern Europe and England. 
Figs probably first traveled east to China along the Silk Road. We first hear about figs in China in about 700 AD during the T'ang Dynasty.
Chinese peopled called figs by their Arabic name, "tin". 
But it took a long time before people started to farm figs in Southern Africa. When Spanish settlers came to Mexico and California from Spain in the 1500s they brought figs with them and planted them in North America as well.
In the late 19th century, when Spanish missionaries established the mission in San Diego, California, they also planted fig trees. 
These figs turned out to be inferior in quality to those that were imported from Europe, and it wasn't until the development of further cultivation techniques in the early 20th century that California began focused cultivation and processing of figs. Today, California remains one of the largest producers of figs in addition to Turkey, Greece and Portugal.

Figs are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure. 
Since many people not only do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, but do consume high amounts of sodium as salt is frequently added to processed foods, they may be deficient in potassium. Low intake of potassium-rich foods, especially when coupled with a high intake of sodium, can lead to hypertension. 

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