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Food

Smells Like the Spirit of Summer: Fig Trees

Day by day, temperature rises in Greece with a mini-extreme heat wave in the middle of May, reminding us that Climate Change is a real thing for the next generation. The extreme heat of May reminded us about August at the seaside or at some island place.

There are other indicators of the Greek summer too. One of the most iconic plants of August is the fig tree. After the olive tree, figs are the most common plants in Greece, and you can find them everywhere! Maybe we are not exaggerating if we say that in each house’s backyard you can find a fig tree.

Even though the fig tree is not native to Greece, its dates back to pre-historic times. It is said that its origin is in Asia, but that has not been confirmed. On Limnos island they have found charred figs in a pre-historic settlement. It is unknown how they came to Greece, but for Greeks it was “love at first sight.” Homer talks about the cultivation of figs and mythology presents the fig tree as a holy tree of fertility and the god Dionysus (one of his names was ‘sykitis’ from the name ‘sykia’ – fig tree. Its cultivation is very easy in hot Greek weather conditions. If you plant one of those…it will never die! Even if you log and prune the tree from the ground, it will rise again!

There are many Greek varieties derived from the local conditions where figs are cultivated. Before WWII figs were one of the main export products from Greece. Dried figs constituted 20% of agricultural exports. Also, it had an important role in public nutrition. Even in cities, you could have a fig tree outside your home. Figs are actually a superfood, as they offer important nutrients in large amounts. Although bananas are a great source of potassium (an important electrolyte boosting your good muscle function, mood, and brain activity), figs are rich in potassium as well as calcium (for your bones and metabolism). Half a cup of figs has as much calcium as half a cup of milk! Some research supports that figs are a key plant for animal survival.

A simple Greek-ish recipe to get the most of figs’ taste is honey figs with goat cheese and walnuts. You will need one cup of finely chopped walnuts, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, 6 oz of goat cheese, and 12 fresh figs. Place the walnuts in a dish and season them with salt and pepper. Roll the goat cheese into a log over the walnuts to evenly coat. Put it in the fridge for two hours to firm, then make small balls and press them to have a flat surface. Cut the figs in four and top each fig onto the rolls; drizzle with two tablespoons of honey.

So, next time you find free tree figs in Greek countryside…feel free to devour them!

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.

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