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About the auther: Hope Anderson is an indulgent health nut, former Miss Louisiana, flea market fanatic and lover of beets who moved to Nashville to complete her training in becoming a registered dietitian (RD). Hope’s passion lies in inspiring people toward health and wellness, and she looks forward to doing so on a daily basis throughout her career as a (future) dietitian.

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H ealthy Table*

Ripe for the FIG-ing

By Hope Anderson
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{I t’s a phone call I anticipate all summer, one that usually occurs sometime in August when the Louisiana heat is inescapable. Being from the Bayou State, the only reprieve from the extreme summer heat comes in the form of a thermostat set to 68 degrees. Comfortable in the air conditioning, I answer and Meme eagerly says, “They’re ripe—come on down.” I am willing to sacrifice one pleasure for another: indoor cooling for the promise of fresh, succulent figs!

* No matter what form you enjoy figs in—fresh, preserved, roasted or dried—you are sure to reap the many health benefits...

My grandmother has long been aware of my fondness for figs, each season granting me first pick of the two ficus trees adorning her yard. Between selecting the ripest fruits with my grandfather and taking our reaping to the kitchen to make something delectable, some of my best memories stem from harvesting figs in Winnsboro, Louisiana.

Ficus carica, or the common fig tree, is a member of the mulberry family and is a deciduous tree, meaning it sheds its leaves annually. Figs grow in temperate climates and are suitable for cultivation in a wide variety of landscapes. The ideal environment for fig trees consists of hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters. Figs are thought to have originated in Asia Minor, otherwise known as modern Turkey. Symbolic of fertility and abundance, they are included in records from earliest history. In Genesis 3:7, Adam and Eve sewed together fig tree leaves to make clothing; other references to the fruit are scattered throughout the Old Testament. Furthermore, Egyptians reportedly consumed the fruit for energy while fasting, in addition to using figs as an aid to digestion.

No matter what form you enjoy figs in—fresh, preserved, roasted or dried—you are sure to reap the many health benefits they have to offer! Figs are rich in fiber, antioxidants, calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium. They also contain vitamin C and the B-vitamins. Studies show that fig leaves seem to lower blood sugar levels post-mealtime. According to research published by the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice Journal, individuals with type 1 diabetes who consumed tea made from fig leaves needed 12% less insulin on average after their meals.

Keep in mind that figs perish rather quickly. Figs should be eaten after picking or within two to three days of refrigerating, in which case you might place them in a bowl of water to bring them back to room temperature—doing so will enhance the taste.

Recipe

Fig, Honey and Ricotta Crostini

185 calories, 2 grams fat, 38 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 7
grams protein

Ingredients:

1 baguette, sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
1¼ cups fresh ricotta
¼ pound prosciutto
Figs, quartered
2 tablespoons honey
10 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions:

Preheat a broiler, oven or grill to medium-high heat.

Toast the bread until lightly golden brown on both sides—it should be crisp, but still tender on the inside. Spread ricotta on each slice of toast, and then layer with a slice of prosciutto. Top with figs, a sprinkle of thyme and a drizzle of honey over all.

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