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A Sacred Fruit

There is nothing quite like the unique taste and texture of fresh figs. They are lusciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds. In December, however, there are no fresh figs available but, a plentitude of dried figs are on sale in the weekly Mallorcan markets.

Figs were considered a sacred fruit by the Romans. But long before the Roman times, the fig tree (Ficus carica), which is a member of the Mulberry family, was cultivated in the Middle East and in particular, Egypt, possibly as long ago as 11,000 years. The plant was later introduced to ancient Crete and later, to ancient Greece before it began to spread throughout the Mediterranean area. It may well have been the Romans who brought the tree and the fruit to Mallorca. Soon enough, Mallorcan farmers became experts in drying the delicious fruit thus making it last throughout the year. Twigs of fennel were introduced and are still used today, to add some herbal aroma to the sweet and succulent fruit. Figs are inherently high in natural simple sugars and minerals. They are fairly rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese and thus, offer substantial health benefits.

Dried figs are sold either open, in boxes (photo top), as pan de higo (fig cakes, see photo below), preserved in Licor de Anis or in Brandy. They are simply a delight in any form or incarnation. Try some. Now is the best time.

The photos were taken in Mancor de la Vall, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 28th, 2010. The time was 13:32:24 and 13:32:30, repectively.

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