December 30, 2020 by D.Fathia
Fresh or Dried Figs
Ficus carica, or commonly labeled simply figs, is a seasonal fruit that has been cultivated in the Middle East and the Mediterranean soils. It formed an essential part of agriculture in these countries from ancient times and has earned a place in the local food culture. Certain climate characteristics such as high temperatures and the abundance of rain boosted the growth of this plantation and resulted in the production of high-quality fruits.
Tunisia, a Mediterranean country with a globally renowned sunny climate, has a standing history in cultivating, producing, and consuming figs. In the local culture, this fruit invades Tunisian cuisine especially from July to September, the ficus carica harvest season. Nevertheless, the consumption of this fruit lasts year-round as Tunisians have a custom of drying figs and preserving them for different uses.
Fresh figs, though are generally healthier than the dried ones, do not last more than a week, which is a calamity for those preferring raw ripe watery products. Yet, the wisdom of our ancestors refused to yield to this harsh reality and invented a way to naturally preserve this extraordinary yet short-living food. The southern regions of Tunisia are best known across the country for their perfect and delicious charih or garbouz. Ben khdesh and toujen are but two celebrated cities thanks to their long-standing tradition of drying figs. These two areas located high on the mountains are naturally prepared for the cultivation of this fruit. The ancient craft of preserving figs in these places resulted in an exceptionally delicious food appreciated by all and consumed excessively either alone or in various recipes.
Types of the Common fig:
Common fig trees are generally medium-sized and can be cultivated in home gardens without the need for vast spaces. Fig trees are sensitive to cold hence they usually die during winter and thrive again in spring. People living in cold climates cultivate these trees in containers to protect them; however, it is not always the best option because fig trees have a large root system that’s why they prosper much better in the land. This is precisely why Mediterranean countries enjoy a flourishing fig plantation thanks to their mild often sunny climate.
Though there are more than eight hundred types of common fig, only a handful of varieties are widely known and commercially distributed. Among this list we come across:
· Brown turkey figs: brownish dark purple color with pale pink flesh and nearly no seeds, slightly lower in quality than other types, yet a good option for people preferring low sugar since this type has a moderate flavor. It can be a valuable addition to salads, desserts, and several recipes with no possibility of spoiling the food at hand with intensive sweetness.
· Black mission figs: unlike what the name suggests, this type possesses a rather deep blue-purple color; they are insanely sweet with an inside pink pulp, which might quite often ooze a bit of syrup when the fruit is extremely ripe.
· Kadota figs: a light green variety with pale sallow skin. It is certainly not the best type, but it is enough as a fruit, and it can make excellent jam material.
· Adriatic figs: sometimes called white figs due to their light color; they range from pale green to pale yellow with a seductive pink flesh and a sweet taste.
· Calimyrna figs: they are larger than other varieties. They are extremely pink from the inside while enjoying a greenish slightly golden skin.
Some Types of fresh figs in Tunisia:
· Bayoudi: medium in size, with green skin and rose-colored pulp.
· Safouri: dark yellow.
· Tayouri: light red.
· Zidi: dark purple.
· Sawoudi bedri: dark purple.
· Bouhouli: a purple super sweet variety cultivated in the Roman town of Djebba, Beja, a city located between the Medjerah River and the Mediterranean, northwest of Tunisia, overlooking the greening meadows and enjoying a fertile soil. This variety has earned local and global recognition and launched important export lines. Bouhouli is now the best fruit available in markets with high-quality standards.
How to dry and preserve figs?
To eliminate the problem of fig sensibility and address the shortage of this product in all the seasons, apart from summer, a drying process is recommended. To be safely stored for long periods, people discovered that the reduction of watery moisture content is a must.
Two main steps are applied for this end; first, the crop must be harvested while still ripe. Second, it must be immediately exposed to the sun after washing it to make sure no dust or parasites are stuck to the fruits. The tradition states that the dried crop has to be soaked in olive oil to preserve its soft texture.
Though not an obligatory practice, some people add certain herbs such as salvia Rosmarinus, commonly known as rosemary, and dry leaves of thyme to the dried crop mostly to obtain a distinctive fragrant and an additional heavenly flavor.
This might seem like a way to cruelly eliminate the nutritious constituents of the figs; however, the dried fruit still contains a valuable quantity of alimentary elements.
Soluble sugars contents of Tunisian dried figs:
To address the issue of soluble sugar rates, studies have been applied to samples from the plantation of the Tunisian Arid Land Institute. Using the High-Performance Chromatography, fructose and glucose were found as the most abundant sugars, and the highest were detected in sawoudi bedri, while lesser levels of fructose were found in bayoudi. Sugar contents are about 35.064 g /100 g; this renders figs a very energetic product, and that’s why it generally makes part of breakfast tables and snacks.
The myth goes that Adam and Eve were not condemned to descend to earth because they ate an apple. It was a fig fruit that led to their expulsion from heaven. Leaving all scriptures aside, this sounds interesting to the ear because the deliciousness of figs, their ethereal aroma, and celestial flavor has the power to seduce anyone.