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The fig is a fruit that has been enjoyed by man since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans, with evidence they were consumed by people who lived in the ancient cities of Pompeii and Sparta. Modern man enjoys figs as well, in both fresh and dried forms. There are numerous varieties of figs that grow on trees, with the Turkish fig being the most popular. The fig is an excellent source of phosphorous, calcium and iron.
The Turkish fig has a color that varies from brown to purple, and it is shaped like a small pear. Other types of figs are different colors, such as the green Adriatic fig. Turkey, their country of origin, is a leader in the production of dried figs. The Turkish fig and other varieties, such as Mission and Calimyrna figs, are available candied and canned as well as fresh or dried. People who enjoy cooking with figs must use them within several days of purchasing them fresh because they go bad quickly, and they should be refrigerated until use. Figs are also used in the form of a concentrate or paste in some desserts.
Dried Turkish figs are often the Smyrna variety. This Turkish fig tree needs to be pollinated before it will produce quality fruit, and the tree uses small wasps to accomplish the pollination. A favored cultivar of the Turkish fig is the Sarilop, grown in a region bordering the Aegean Sea.
Turkish figs need to be ripe before they are harvested, which usually occurs in late summer. Unlike some other types of fruit, a fig will not continue to ripen if picked slightly prematurely. After the fruit is plucked from the tree branches, it is sometimes left in the sun to dry out further before it is washed. Dried Turkish figs are sold in their natural form, without any need for preservatives. Dried figs will keep well for about six months.
In addition to their vitamins and minerals, figs are also a good source of fiber. The leaves are also eaten in some cultures, and they a good food to lower insulin levels. The leaves also have been shown to reduce triglycerides.