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Power Foods: Figs

Of all the fruits, figs are one of the most perishable; once harvested, they last only about a week, and no more than a few days in your refrigerator. And as wonderful as dried figs are, fresh figs -- available from June to October -- are an even more intoxicating experience, which is why throughout history they've been the inspiration for poetry, songs, and paintings. Don't miss this opportunity to grab them in your produce section, but do so delicately. Plump and soft, they yield even under gentle pressure.

Fresh Figs With Mascarpone and Warm Spiced Honey
Pan-Seared Figs on Baby Greens With Hazelnuts

Fresh figs are a great source of energy and vitality, which may explain the aphrodisiac and fertility-boosting powers they've traditionally been thought to possess. Nutritionally, they contain more mineral matter and alkalinity than most fruits and are one of the highest sources of calcium in the plant world. Both dried and fresh figs are impressive sources of soluble and insoluble fiber, which are important for cardiovascular and digestive health and for removing toxins from the body. Figs are also loaded with antioxidants. A single fig contains more polyphenols, which help fight free radicals in the body, than a cup of green tea.

Figs even contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with healthy heart and brain function, and lutein, which aids vision. Nutritionists recommend figs for helping to lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Four fresh figs only contain 120 to 148 calories and trace amounts of fat.

There are some 720 varieties of figs on the planet; brown Turkey and mission figs, both widely grown in California, are among the most popular in the United States. Purple to black in color, with pink flesh, figs were brought to California in the late 18th century by Spanish Franciscan missionaries. They knew a good thing when they saw it, and so should you.

Text by Kelle Walsh; recipes by Elizabeth Germain

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