Everyone give a warm welcome to fresh fig season! Let's talk the best fig recipes, plus where they come from and how to choose and store fresh figs. Also, a trick to treat your dog while cutting back on food waste. And finally, how one start-up is protecting the bees.
Produce of the Week: Figs
Where do Figs Come From?
Figs are amongst the most beautiful fresh fruit. In season from early June through September, now is the time to bring home some figs. Most figs you'll find here in the US are grown in California, though figs are native to the Mediterranean region.
Most dried figs, which you can enjoy throughout the year, are imported from Europe and Turkey. In fact, Turkey is responsible for 20% of the world's fig production and half of the world's dried figs!
Because figs are native to the warm Mediterranean region, they're common in the cuisine too. Because fresh figs have a delicate and somewhat brief shelf life, drying helps preserve these fruits throughout the year. Dried figs are more easily transported and last well over a year, so you can still add some to your mid-winter granola bowl.
Today, though, we're covering all the delicious ways you can cook with fresh figs!
Fresh Fig Nutrition and Health Benefits
Figs are high in potassium. While we generally don't have an issue eating plenty of sodium, potassium can be harder to come by, yet we need potassium to balance the sodium in our diets. A healthy intake of potassium- and sodium-rich foods can help prevent heart disease and hypertension.
Figs also pack a lot of fiber. High-fiber diets, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, can help keep weight stable. Fiber is filling, which helps regulate hunger. It's also linked to reduced risk of cancer.
Figs pack a ton of antioxidants. These help fight off cancer-causing free radicals in your body. In order to get the most antioxidant bang for your buck, look for the ripest figs. The darker in color, the more antioxidants they provide.
How to Select and Store Fresh Figs
Fresh figs tend to be very delicate and they often last only a day or two. When choosing your figs at the store, give them a gentle squeeze and a sniff. You want dark-colored, not bruised flesh. It should have a bit of give to it when held, but you don't want mush.
When you smell a fully ripe fig, you'll pick up on the delicious floral notes that indicate the wonderful flavor inside.
As with most fresh produce, you'll want to store anything fully ripe in the fridge. They're best kept in an airtight container or the crisper drawer. This keeps them from drying out.
If you've picked up some not-quite-ripe figs, store them at room temperature on a plate or bowl. Then transfer them to the fridge as soon as they ripen.
Are figs vegan?
We hear this question a lot. Some varieties of are pollinated by wasps, which during the pollination process die inside of the fig and are then broken down by a protein-digesting enzyme.
Since some fig varieties technically contain dead wasps, some vegans believe they should not be consumed by humans. It's important to note that the wasps are completely broken down by the time we eat them, so you're not going to cut open a fig to see a wasp corpse!
While I certainly understand not consuming man-made animal proteins, this pollination process of figs is an entirely natural occurrence. Furthermore, many varieties of figs are grown without wasp pollination, so in most cases, there's absolutely nothing to worry about.
With that being said, here's how you can enjoy fresh figs this year...
Best Recipes with Fresh Figs
Now that you've stocked your fridge with perfectly ripe fresh figs, let's talk recipes. Here are some of our favorite ways to make the most of these last few weeks of fig season:
Fresh Fig Energy Bars from Snacking in Sneakers. These are packed with rolled oats, chia and fresh figs. They also store well and make a delicious on-the-go snack.
Homemade Fig Cherry Jam - the perfect way to use up a bunch of figs that are starting to go bad!
Cast-iron Fig Scones from Mama Likes to Cook. These make a warm and comforting breakfast for cool fall mornings.
Dark Chocolate Dipped Figs with Flaky Salt. These are not only one of our most popular recipes, they're also insanely easy and beautiful. They take only three simple ingredients but make a truly impressive dessert.
Fig Moscow Mule. This is one of our favorite late-summer cocktails. Fig-infused vodka gets warmed up with cinnamon simple syrup.
Fig Avocado Salsa from Small Footprint Family. This is a unique spin on a classic tomato salsa. The figs give it a nice sweetness.
Broiled Figs with Honey and Vanilla from Umami Girl. These are another brilliantly easy dessert. The caramelization is SO delicious though.
Gluten-Free Fig Newtons from Strength and Sunshine. A childhood throwback (and personal favorite snack of mine) gets a vegan and gluten free makeover.
Food Waste Tip: Add Scraps to Your Pet Food
Any dog parents out there? Between the full Crowded Kitchen team, we have three lovable labs. In the full color spectrum, too. I (Lizzy) have Phoebe, a chocolate lab who loves nothing more than a good soggy tennis ball and a swim. Lexi has Cody, a big and cuddly black lab with the sweetest disposition. And Beth has Ollie, a wily yellow lab who's the youngest of the group and certainly acts like it 🙂
We want to give our dogs the best quality food. Serving them a nutrient-dense diet that isn't weighed down with fillers is one of the best way to ensure your dog lives a long and healthy life. Of course, this all comes at a fairly steep price. High-end dog food can be incredibly expensive.
Yet, there's one fantastic way to boost the nutrient quality of your dog's food while you reduce food waste. You probably guessed it: add leftover vegetable scraps to your dog's food. Especially veggie peels, like carrots and cucumbers. Even kale stems! The dogs love them (at least ours do!).
But before you start piling your dog bowl with leftover spaghetti, check this list of all the foods that are safe for dogs.
Here are some of the safest foods to feed Fido:
- Corn. Cut off the cob, corn kernels are a sweet veggie treat for dogs.
- Grains. Leftover rice, barley, etc. are all safe for dogs. Grains are also a healthy source of protein and fiber.
- Peanuts and peanut butter. You probably already know if your pet is a PB fan. And don't hesitate to scoop out every last bit of peanut butter from the jar into your dog's bowl. Not only will she love it, but she'll also get plenty of healthy fats.
- Coconut. That includes coconut oil and butter. Coconut can help keep your dog's coat nice and shiny, thanks to fatty acids.
And here's what to keep away from your pets:
- Garlic. Alliums like leeks, onions and shallots can be poisonous to dogs. Signs of consumption include pale gums and weakness.
- Cinnamon. This spice can irritate the inside of a dog's mouth and stomach, so skip sharing your PSL with your pawed pal.
- Chocolate. You've probably heard this one before. And it's true, just a bite of chocolate can cause serious tummy trouble for dogs.
- Pecans, walnuts & macadamia nuts. These nuts are all toxic to dogs.
Currently Happening in the Food Industry
Bees are vital to the future of our food supply. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, bees pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90% of food worldwide. And yet, their populations are in alarming decline. Since 2006, the U.S. has seen a 30% decline in the bee population, according to the USDA.
Nectar is among a slew of start-ups focused on rebuilding the bee population through technology. Nectar offers cloud-based solutions to help beekeepers monitor and protect their hives remotely.
Their device (the Beecon) monitors a hive's interior temperature, movement, sound, and climate. It transmits these data points to the cloud. From there, beekeepers can keep tabs on their bumbles, better understand their hives and provide optional conditions for pollinating success.
The Beecon harvests in-depth data on everything a good apiarist needs to know. From the queen's wearabouts to mortality rates to the external weather and even population trends inside each hive.
This sort of high-tech reporting from inside a buzzing hive could have a major impact on bee population regulation. It has obvious implications for large-scale bee farms, where everything needs to be closely monitored to avoid disease and other catastrophes.
And at the same time, Nectar's devices make it easier for laypeople to take up beekeeping as a hobby. Even small-scale beekeeping can make a difference in overall pollinator availability. So if you're considering growing a hive or two, be sure to check out what Nectar and its competitors have to offer.