Studying abroad in Italy has been a trip full of firsts. One of these firsts included trying my first fig. From the fig trees to fig bars, and even caramelized fig gelato – this tasty fruit is everywhere here in Italy. Because many of my classmates and I had never tried a fig before back in the states, Dr. Leo purchased several of this false-fruit for us to taste during one of our guided walking tours through Rome. As seen below, the receptacle, or green outer portion of the fig, can be bit into and eaten along with the pink-red seeds/juicy flesh protected inside. The flavor is wonderful and the texture brings a unique dimension to this popular food. After this one tasting, I was sold. I took the liberty of researching, using a nutrition journal, the nutritional and health benefits of adding figs to my diet. Fresh fig fruits are low in calories, contain soluble dietary fiber, and a good source of vitamin A, E, and K. Likewise, dried figs contain a large amount of needed minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium. There are even studies in progress that are suggesting chlorogenic acid, present in figs, may help lower/balance blood glucose levels in diabetics.
In a following lecture regarding woody plants, we learned that figs root extremely easily. While Ficus carica, its scientific name, is native to the Mediterranean it can be grown in subtropical countries, such as the United States. Even better than this previous realization is the fact that Texas, along with California, is a main commercial center for figs – providing both tasty, fresh, and easily accessible fresh and dried figs. This trip has been one for the books and the taste buds! I am excited to arrive back home in Austin, Texas where I can explore my local grocery store in search for figs – a healthy, colorful, and yummy reminder of my time here in Italy. Until next time --