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Fig leaves are harvested from mature fig trees. The leaves are a bright, vibrant green with thick veins and a prominent stem. Each leaf has five main veins and leaflets, much like fingers on a hand, and each leaflet is wider in the center and tapers to a point. Crushing the Fig leaves will release scents of coconut, peat, vanilla, and green walnut.
Fig leaves are available during summer, when mature trees begin producing fruit.
Fig leaves grow on the Ficus tree, botanically known as Ficus carica and are a member of the mulberry family. Fig leaves have been used in ancient times to treat sore throats, warts, and to cleanse the kidneys. In 1998, the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice published a study that showed the effects of Fig leaf consumption on type 1 diabetes. The study showed that patients who consumed Fig leaf with their breakfast had a lower blood glucose level after the meal and required less amounts of insulin. A 2005 study on diabetic rats that were given Fig leaves showed lowered oxidative stress and better antioxidant status.
Fig leaves are a good source of vitamin A, B1, and B2. They also contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, and potassium.
Fig leaves are most commonly used to wrap, grill or steam seafood. The leaves give the cooked meat a smoky, fruity flavor, and distinct coconut aroma. Dried Fig leaves can be used for making Fig leaves tea. Fig leaves can be used to make a syrup for glazing meats or to flavor cocktails. Add pectin to the Fig leaves syrup to create a jelly. The sap from Fig leaves may cause mild irritation to the skin in some instances so use caution when gathering leaves directly from the tree.
Fig trees have come to symbolize knowledge, enlightenment, passion, and fertility in various cultures. In Greek mythology, Dionysus the god of agriculture, wine, fertility, and ritual madness was the god who introduced mankind to the fig tree. His name translates to 'friend of the fig' and during festivals to honor Dionysus, nuns would wear garlands made of Fig leaves on their heads.
Fig trees originated in the Middle East and are believed to have been first cultivated in Egypt. Figs would later spread to parts of China and India and now grows every where except for Antartica. There is a record of Fig leaves being used in the 3rd century BCE as a wrapping material for food. They would preserve the leaves in salt to reduce the bitterness of the leaves and then wrap various seafood and meats within the leaves to cook over an outdoor grill or fire pit. Fig trees and Fig leaves have continued to be popular in Mediterranean cuisine, and also show up in the areas art and architecture as well.
Recipes that include Fig Leaves. One is easiest, three is harder.
People have spotted Fig Leaves using the Specialty Produce app for iPhone and Android.
Produce Spotting allows you to share your produce discoveries with your neighbors and the world! Is your market carrying green dragon apples? Is a chef doing things with shaved fennel that are out of this world? Pinpoint your location annonymously through the Specialty Produce App and let others know about unique flavors that are around them.