Everything You Need to Know About Dried Figs
Figs are one of the world’s most ancient fruits and have been widely consumed by humans for many thousands of years. In fact, the edible fig was one of the very first fruits to be cultivated by humans, and we have evidence of fig cultivation dating back to 9200 BC! With such a long and rich history, it’s unsurprising that figs also feature prominently in many religions. The fig holds important symbolism in Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism. In these religions, it represents a variety of things, including peace, fertility, and prosperity.
Where Do Figs Grow?
Of all the figs harvested each year, 90% of them are sold as dried figs. Dried figs have a much longer shelf life than fresh figs, making them easier to transport and store. Dried figs start their lives as the plump, fresh fruit of the common fig tree. When mature, the common fig tree can grow to be 33 ft tall - that’s as tall as a three-story building!
The common fig tree is native to the Middle East; however, it is now grown all over the world. Today, Turkey is the top fig-producing country, producing almost double the yield of Egypt, which takes second place. Some of the other top fig-producing countries include Algeria, Iran, Morocco, Syria, the United States, Brazil, Spain, Tunisia, Albania, and India.
How Are Dried Figs Produced?
Unless they are sold quickly as fresh figs, the vast majority of figs harvested each year are sold dried. Drying fruit is an age-old practice designed to preserve the fruit by reducing microbial activity and minimizing physical and chemical changes.
There are two ways to dry figs. The first is to allow them to dry in the sun, and the second is to process them using machinery. Here at Ayoub’s, we favor the traditional method of sun-drying to preserve our figs. Sun-dried figs retain more of their natural shape, and we believe they also have a much deeper flavor.
What’s the Difference Between Sun-dried and Processed Figs?
Before the invention of machinery and large-scale factories, figs were all preserved using the sun. Sun-drying is one of the oldest ways to preserve fruit, relying on the natural climate to drive away excess moisture. The problem with sun-drying figs is that it requires a hot climate and patience. For this reason, some fig producers now use machinery to process their figs, allowing them to dry much larger harvests in a shorter amount of time.
It can be difficult to tell how your dried figs have been processed. Some retailers will declare this information on their website or on their packaging, while others won’t. Sometimes it is possible to tell whether a dried fig has been sun-dried or processed by looking at its shape. Sun-dried figs tend to retain more of their natural roundness, while processed dried figs often look flattened where they have been laid on a conveyor belt.
Where to Find Sun-dried Figs
If you’re looking for high-quality sun-dried figs, then look no further. Here at Ayoub’s Dried Fruit and Nuts, we champion a variety of sun-dried figs, including dried Turkish figs and dried Black Mission figs. If you can’t choose between the two, check out our assorted fig mix containing Persian, Californian, and Turkish figs - can you taste the difference?
Are Dried Figs as Healthy as Fresh Figs?
We know what you’re thinking - “why would I eat dry fruit if I can buy fresh fruit?” After all, isn’t fresh fruit healthier than dried fruit?
If you have access to fresh figs and enjoy eating them, then by all means - tuck in! But don’t disregard dried figs together. Dried figs are a quick, easy, and nutritious snack that can be eaten on the go almost anywhere.
It’s a very common misconception that dried fruit is somehow less healthy than fresh fruit, when the truth is, high-quality dried fruits without any added sugar have a virtually identical nutritional profile to fruits in their fresh state.
What Happens When You Dry Fresh Figs?
When figs are dried, either in the sun or during processing, they are allowed to dehydrate. Removing water from figs during the dying process prevents them from rotting while leaving behind all of their nutrients. During the drying process, it’s only the water content of figs that changes, and the rest of their nutritional profile remains the same. The reason why dried figs taste a little different from fresh figs is that their flavor has become more concentrated. This happens because they shrink when dehydrated, and their sugar content is no longer diluted by water.
Are Fresh Figs Better for You Than Dried Figs?
The only reason why fresh figs are considered better for you than dried figs is because they appear to contain less sugar when compared side-by-side with dried figs.
A single dried fig contains no more sugar than a single fresh fig. The confusion occurs when people compare 100g of dried figs with 100g of fresh figs. Because dried figs have had their water removed, there are more of them in every 100g. This makes dried figs appear more sugary and more unhealthy than fresh figs when analyzed by weight.
We don’t know about you, but we wouldn’t eat a dozen fresh figs in a sitting, so we wouldn’t consume a dozen dried figs either. To account for their water loss, a serving of dried figs is generally considered to be around ½ to ⅔ of a cup, which is approximately 4 figs. Dried figs are very high in fiber, which means that eating too many of them can cause an upset stomach. To prevent gas, bloating, and diarrhea, eat dried figs in moderation and drink plenty of water.
How to Eat Dried Figs in a Healthy Way
If you’re a little suspicious of dried fruit or have been told that dried fruit will make you gain weight, this isn’t true so long as you stick to a healthy portion size. Depending on the size and variety of the dried figs you’re eating, a typical portion size will often be somewhere between a ¼ and ⅔ of a cup.
If you like to buy your dried figs in bulk, then weigh out your portions before you start snacking to help prevent you from accidentally overeating.
If you’re on a calorie-controlled diet and are trying to lose weight or have been told to limit your sugar intake, then dried figs can still be incorporated into your diet. Just be mindful of their sugar content and adjust your portion sizes accordingly.
If you’re new to dried fruit and are adding dried figs into your diet for the first time, then don’t be alarmed if it takes your gut by surprise. Dried fruit contains a lot of fiber which can take a few days for your stomach to get used to. If you often find that you get bloated after eating dried fruit, then reduce your portion a little and remember to drink plenty of water.
Five Health Benefits From Eating Dried Figs
Aside from still being a fruit and contributing to your five-a-day, dried figs also provide a number of other amazing health benefits. Here are just five of the things that make dried figs so great.
Dried Figs Are Very High in Fibre
- According to health experts, 95% of people don’t consume enough fibre in their regular diet. Dried figs are an excellent source of fibre, with 3.5oz providing a massive 40% of an individual’s recommended daily intake. While you shouldn’t rely on figs as your only source of fiber, a handful of dried figs a day can give you a boost towards meeting your fibre goals.
Dried Figs Are Rich in Calcium
People tend to forget that cow’s milk isn’t the only source of calcium. Dried figs are a particularly rich plant-based source of calcium and contain high magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus levels, which all work together to help prevent bone loss. Whether you’re vegan or not, eating a portion of dried figs on a daily basis will help to ensure that you’re getting enough calcium in your diet.
Dried Figs Can Help You to Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Although dried figs may be calorie-dense, when eaten in moderation, they make a great weight-loss snack. Because dried figs are high in fiber, they help to keep you feeling full for longer, and because they’re full of natural fruit sugars, they’ll help to curb your sweet cravings and keep your diet on track. If you tend to reach for candy, chocolate, or cookies, then give some dried figs a try instead.
Dried Figs Can Help to Make Your Hair and Skin Glow
We are what we eat, and so it’s no surprise that eating more healthy fruits and vegetables can make us glow from the inside out. Dried figs are a particularly great fruit to eat if you’re trying to improve the health of your hair and skin because they contain high levels of antioxidants. These antioxidants help to fight free radicals, slowing down the aging process and protecting your skin and hair from the effects of sun damage.
Dried Figs Can Help You Control Your Blood Sugar
While dry figs may be quite high in sugar, they’ve been proven to help stabilize blood sugar levels. Dried figs are also rich in vitamin E and a range of other bioactive compounds with proven anti-diabetic properties. When consumed in moderation, dried figs make a very healthy snack for diabetics and could help to prevent or even reverse their type-2 diabetes.
So Are Dried Figs Good For You?
We think it’s pretty clear that dried figs have a number of health benefits to offer and should definitely be considered as a healthy snack. Their high levels of fibre make them ideal for people with diabetes or people looking to lose weight, while their vitamin and antioxidant content help to improve the overall health and fight signs of aging.
Four Ways to Incorporate More Dried Figs into Your Diet
While dried figs taste great on their own, we understand that some people will need to get a bit creative in order to fit more dried figs into their diet. Here are just four things that you can do with dried figs.
Create Your Own Personal Figgy Fruit and Nut Mix
Fruit and nut mix is the ultimate snack. Whether you need a pick-me-up in the office, a post-workout snack, or something to graze on while watching a film, fruit and nut mix is a healthy option to choose.
There are dozens of different dried fruits that you can incorporate into your fruit and nut mix, including sticky, sweet dried figs. When making your fruit and nut mix, chop your dried figs up into small bite-size pieces, and don’t be afraid to toss in some other dried fruits too for some variety.
Make Figgy Cakes or Muffins
The natural sweetness of dried figs makes them a perfect dried fruit to include in your baking. When cooked, dried figs have an almost caramel taste and can act as a very convincing sugar substitute. The next time you’re craving oat and raisin cookies, or blueberry muffins, try using dried figs instead.
If sweet cakes and bakes aren’t your cup of tea, then dried figs also work very well in more savoury dishes. Try adding them to a goat's cheese tart or even throwing a few into your tagine instead of dried apricots.
Make a Dried Fig Jam
While whole dried figs are already fairly versatile, turning them into a jam will open up a whole new world of culinary opportunities. Fig jam can be mixed into cakes, spread on bread, eaten alongside meat, and makes a fantastic accompaniment to cheese! Here’s how to make your own fig jam.
- Add 28oz of dried figs to a saucepan, cover with four cups of water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the figs to plump up for about 30 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove your dried figs from the water. Keep the water to one side.
- If your dried figs have stems on, then remove these now that the figs are soft.
- Chop your dried figs roughly and set them aside.
- Next, add the juice of two lemons, three cups of sugar, and the reserved fig liquid to a saucepan and bring these to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. The juice should thicken slightly.
- At this point, add in your chopped figs and then simmer for a further 15 minutes.
- At this point, add in vanilla or any other flavorings that you like before ladling the mixture into sterilized jam jars.
- To preserve your fig jam for a more extended period of time, process your jars by canning them in a hot water bath for ten minutes.
Add Dried Figs to Your Bliss Balls
Finally, another great way to snack on dried figs is to blend them into your bliss balls. Certain varieties of dried figs are pretty moist, especially if partially rehydrated. These dried figs can be used in place of dates when making bliss balls or finely chopped and added in with your other ingredients.
We’ve already written a post about bliss balls and how to make them, which should help you create your own.]
What’s the Difference Between Black Mission Figs & Turkish Figs?
Black Mission figs and Turkish figs are two of the most popular varieties of dried figs. While they may both be figs, they have very different flavor profiles, and you may find that you prefer one over the other.
What are Black Mission Figs?
Black Mission figs earned their name thanks to the Franciscan missionaries who first planted them in California in the 18th Century.
Black Mission figs are easy to identify because of their distinct dark purple skin, making them appear black. Black Mission figs are a very popular Californian variety and are exported all over the world. When dried, Black Mission figs have a gummy internal texture, which makes them perfect for desserts and soft without rehydration.
If you’re buying dried Black Mission figs for the first time, then don’t panic if you see a little bit of white powder on their skin surface. This white appearance is caused by the fig’s natural fruit sugars and isn’t mold. If you don’t like the white spots, then they can be removed by gently wiping or washing your figs, but they are entirely natural and edible.
What are Turkish Figs?
Turkey is one of the oldest producers of figs, and for this reason, Turkish figs are prized as some of the best in the world. Turkish figs tend to have much paler skin than Black Mission figs, giving them a light green or almost white appearance.
Which Type of Dried Fig Should You Buy?
If you’ve never had a dried fig before, then we’d suggest buying our assorted fig mix. By purchasing an assortment of dried figs, you’ll be able to see firsthand how different each variety is and learn those that you favor. In Ayoub’s dried fig assortment, you’ll find figs from California, Persia, and Turkey.
How to Soften Dried Figs
Depending on their variety and how much they have been dried, dried figs can either be sticky and chewy or quite firm. If you prefer softer dried figs, then the easiest way to soften them is to partially rehydrate them. Dried figs can be partially rehydrated using water or milk; simply place your dried figs into the liquid and allow them to soak it up. When they’ve reached your preferred softness, don’t throw the liquid away! Fig water and fig milk are both tasty to drink.
Where to Buy High-Quality Figs in Canada
There’s a big difference between cheap, low-quality dried figs and high-quality dried figs. Poor quality figs tend to be bland and mushy, while high-quality sun-dried figs are fruity and sweet with an almost caramel-like taste.
If you love dried figs, then finding high-quality dried figs is a must. Here are a few places that you can find high-quality dried figs in Canada
Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods Market is definitely a more premium-end supermarket, so their products tend to be on the more costly side. That being said, sometimes you get what you pay for, and when it comes to dried figs, you can pretty much guarantee that Whole Foods will have sourced some of the best. If you also like your dried fruit to be organic, Whole Foods will likely stock a selection of organic options. While it may not be affordable to stop by Whole Foods Market regularly, if you’ve got a craving for dried figs, then they’re a good place to go.
We hate to admit it, but Amazon has become a great place to find high-quality pantry ingredients. In recent years, Amazon has become the one-stop online shop for virtually anything, including dried fruits. If you’re going to buy dried figs from Amazon, then pay close attention to the product descriptions and make sure that you look for verified customer reviews. For every high-quality pack of dried figs on Amazon, you bet there’s going to be a poor quality pack on there too, but if you do your research and know that you can trust their suppliers, then Amazon is a great place to shop.
Ayoub’s Dried Fruit and Nuts
Of course, we couldn’t list the best places to buy dried figs without mentioning ourselves at Ayoub’s. If you're looking for delicious sun-dried figs, then look no further. We stock a wide selection of figs graded at the highest quality, including Turkish figs, Black Mission figs, and our fig assortment. Our figs are sun-dried for maximum flavour, and they never have anything added to them because they don’t need it! Whether you want 1lb of dried figs or 3 lb, we’ve got you covered and can even accommodate larger bulk orders. Wherever you live in Canada or even the United States, our dried figs are available to buy online, so you can sit back and relax knowing that the best dried figs are going to be delivered straight to your door. If you’re more of an in-person shopper, then we’d love to welcome you into one of our Ayoub’s stores, where you’ll find our full range of delicious hand-roasted nuts and dried fruit.
Although we may be biased, we have to say that we’re confident that we have some of the very best dried figs in the whole of Canada. But wherever you choose to buy your dried figs from, we hope you enjoy them!
How Should You Store Dried Figs at Home
So you’ve gone out and bought yourself a huge bag of dried figs - now what? Unless you plan to eat them all in one go (which isn’t advisable), you’re going to need to store your dried figs until you can use them.
While the drying process is designed to help preserve fresh fruit for longer, it won’t stop it from going bad altogether. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to properly store your figs so that they stay delicious until the very last one.
The Best Place to Store Dried Figs
The best place to store dried figs is in the pantry. However, to prevent them from becoming too soggy or any pests from getting into your fruit, we recommend storing your dried figs in an airtight container once the bag is open. When stored in the pantry in an airtight container, dried figs can last for up to 12 months!
Can You Refrigerate Dried Figs?
If you live in a very hot or humid country, then you may want to store your dried figs in the fridge. When stored in the refrigerator, dried figs can last for up to 18 months - though we don’t think they’ll be around for that long! To prevent your dried figs from becoming rubbery or too soggy, store them in an airtight container.
Can You Freeze Dried Figs?
If you’re a fan of freezing things, then you'll be happy to learn that dried figs can be frozen. Unfortunately, freezing dried figs can alter their texture a little, and so we only recommend it as a last resort. If you need to use up a big batch of dried figs, then consider making it into a jam instead!
How to Tell if Your Dried Figs Have Gone Off
When correctly stored, dried figs can last a very long time, but they do eventually start to go off. If you’re worried about your dried figs and think that they may have gone bad, then here are some things to check.
Do They Smell?
If you open the bag or container and give it a sniff, does it smell? Dried figs should smell sweet and fruity. If your dried figs smell musty or stale, then they may have started to go off.
Do They Have Any Visible Signs of Mold
A white powdery coating on your dried figs isn’t necessarily molding. When figs are dried, their natural fruit sugars can crystallize on their skin, causing a white bloom. The key to telling this apart from mold is to take a closer look. Crystallized sugar will look like tiny crystals, while a mold is usually fluffy.
Do They Taste Funny?
Lastly, if your figs smell ok, and they look ok, but you’re still not convinced, then a taste test will be able to determine the fate of your figs. Take a small bite and see whether your figs taste good or if they taste bad. Your body is pretty good at telling you when something isn’t right, so trust your gut and throw out any dried figs that have been in the pantry for a long time and that no longer taste right.
How Many Dried Figs Can You Eat Per Day?
Like most dried fruit, dried figs can be extremely moreish, but it’s very important not to eat too many in one sitting as they can give you an upset stomach.
What is a Portion of Dried Figs?
If you’re trying to work out how many defied figs you should eat, then the first thing to do is to check the packet. Most packaging will give a suggested serving size. Alternatively, another easy way to work out how many dried figs you can eat is to think about how many fresh figs you would eat in a sitting. You probably wouldn’t sit down and eat 12 fresh figs, so don’t eat 12 dried! Most people stick to 3-4 dried figs per sitting, which equates to about ¼ cup.
What Will Happen if You Eat Too Many Dried Figs?
If you’ve eaten too many dried figs, then don’t panic! The reason why it isn’t advisable to eat more than three or four dried figs in a sitting is that they are very high in fibre. Consuming too much fibre can cause your stomach to have a bit of a meltdown, and you may experience bloating, gas or diarrhea. If you think you may have eaten too many dried figs, then drink plenty of water and lay off the figs for a couple of days to allow your body time to get back to normal.
How to Prevent Yourself From Eating Too Many Dried Figs
As lovers of dried figs ourselves, we know how hard it is to limit your portions of dried fruit. However, if you regularly find yourself overeating dried fruit, then we’d recommend weighing out your snack sizes first and maybe even cutting up your dried figs to trick your brain into thinking you’ve eaten more than you really have. Alternatively, mix your dried fruit in with some nuts or another snack to help you feel more satiated.
So there you have it! That’s everything you need to know about dried figs. If you found this article interesting check out our piece on Everything You Need To Know About Goji Berries
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