Sacramento has a great climate for growing figs, especially black mission figs, which is on the list of the world’s healthiest foods because of its mineral content. Having just put two fig trees in our garden, a look at the history of figs shows it has been used as a folk remedy since the days of ancient Sumer.
And the Carthaginian war, 150 BC between Rome and that North African city was fought, partly due to competition in the fig trading business in ancient times. Locally, the fig season in Sacramento runs from June through September, unless you buy the dried figs, available packaged all year.
Fig leaves are a common part of the menu in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, and for good reason, according to the article on Figs, at the World’s Healthiest Foods website.
The leaves of the fig have repeatedly been shown to have antidiabetic properties and can actually reduce the amount of insulin needed by persons with diabetes who require insulin injections. In one study, a liquid extract made from fig leaves was simply added to the breakfast of insulin-dependent diabetic subjects in order to produce this insulin-lowering effect. Here are some of the health benefits of figs, according to the article, “Figs,” at the Worlds Healthiest Foods website.
Interestingly, you can cook with fig tree leaves, which also have their own health benefits and have served as both food and medicinal tradition since the neolithic area in the Middle East and in most Mediterranean countries.
Bone Density Promoter
Figs are a fruit source of calcium (79 milligrams in an 8 oz-wt serving), a mineral that helps to promote bone density. Additionally, figs’ potassium may also counteract the increased urinary calcium loss caused by the high-salt diets typical of most Americans, thus helping to further prevent bones from thinning out at a fast rate, according to the article, “Figs.”
Cardiovascular Effects of Eating Fig Leaves
In animal studies, fig leaves have been shown to lower levels of triglycerides (a form in which fats circulate in the bloodstream), while in in vitro studies, fig leaves inhibited the growth of certain types of cancer cells. Researchers have not yet determined exactly which substances in fig leaves are responsible for these remarkable healing effects. Besides their potassium and fiber content, figs are a good source of the trace mineral, manganese.
Protection against Macular Degeneration
Data reported in a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily.
In this study, which involved over 100,00 women and men, researchers evaluated the effect of study participants’ consumption of fruits; vegetables; the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E; and carotenoids on the development of early ARMD or neovascular ARMD, a more severe form of the illness associated with vision loss. Food intake information was collected periodically for up to 18 years for women and 12 years for men.
Vegetables, antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids were not strongly related to incidence of either form of ARMD, fruit intake was definitely protective against the severe form of this vision-destroying disease. Try diced black mission figs, chopped apricots, pitted black Kalmata olives, and chickpeas/garbanzos in a salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon or lime juice. This salad has been eaten since ancient times, particularly in the Konyali area in Asia Minor and in the southern parts of Greece.
How to Cook with Fig Leaves
Sacramento is a hub for great Thai, Middle Eastern, and Greek cooking, especially with the abundance of both fig and lemon tree leaves found in both Thai, Middle Eastern, and Greek cooking and fig tree leaves found in Greek and Sicilian-style cooking. You can cook almost any type of fish that usually is baked wrapped in fig leaves. Here’s a way to cook with huge fig leaves even if your backyard fig tree never grows any fruit.
The leaves can be used to wrap food. So can the leaves of organic, clean lemon trees also be used to wrap food in as you steam the food.
Also, for dessert, you can wrap almost any fruit that can be baked in fig leaves. The same goes for lemon tree leaves. The only detail is to make sure both the fig leaves and lemon tree leaves have not been sprayed with pesticides.
For a great recipe of how to bake salmon wrapped in fig leaves with drizzled olive oil, check out the Salmon Baked in Fig Leaves recipe online. There’s also another recipe for salmon baked in fig leaves at the Salmon Baked in Fig Leaves with Kale site. For dessert, check out the recipe online for apricots baked in fig leaves.
You can substitute drizzled olive oil for the butter and leave out the sugar in the apricots baked in fig leaves recipe, substituting some other sweetener you prefer such as stevia, pomegranate juice concentrate, apricot syrup, or no sweetener.
The lemon zest adds flavor and tartness. For example, instead of greasing your baking dish with butter or dotting the fig leaves with butter, you can use grape seed oil, olive oil, or rice bran oil and avoid adding more saturated dairy fat to your diet. In Thai cooking, peanut sauce with vegetables, meats, or sea foods also are cooked in a satay style. See, Hors D’oeuvres – Sacramento Caterers – Hannibal’s Catering.
Basic Malaysian and Thai satay sauce often mixes coconut milk, crunchy peanut butter, onion, soy sauce, and brown sugar or other sweetener. Check out the basic satay sauce recipe at the Satay Sauce site at All Recipes.com. You can wrap fish or meat in fig or lemon leaves, for example and bake with a satay sauce for Thai or Malaysian-style cooking that mixes savory dishes with coconut milk, peanut butter, and sweetened soy sauce.
Cooking with Organic Lemon Tree Leaves
In addition to cooking with fig leaves that you don’t want to eat raw, you can cook with any almost type of meat, fruit, or vegetable that stands up to baking, wrapped in lemon tree leaves as long as the washed leaves are free of pesticides.
Certain organic citrus tree leaves may be used as a wrap in cooking. But first make sure the leaves you get from a backyard lemon tree has never been sprayed with pesticides because the pesticides will poison you. You need organic, never-sprayed lemon tree leaves.
Wrap any meat or fish item in the leaves and grill your food. The lemon tree leaves will impart a lemony, citrus fragrance to the meat or fish. Here is an illustrated recipe for lemon-tree-leaf-wrapped Sicilian meat balls from the FXcuisine.com site. In areas where there are no lemon tree leaves, frequently bay leaves are wrapped around grilled meat or fish.
Recipes for meat or fish wrapped in lemon tree leaves and grilled are also found in numerous East Asian countries. Lemon tree leaves also are used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
Cooking with organic lemon flower petals
At the Greek-Recipe.com site, you’ll see recipes for using the organic flowers (no pesticides) from lemon trees in your cooking recipes. Basically, you wash off the stamens from the petals of a lemon tree. Then you put the cleaned petals in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. The petals are stored in a jar full of lemon juice diluted with a little water. You let the mixture stand for a couple of hours.
Then you boil a spoon full of sugar and water for a few minutes, usually about ten minutes, until the water turns to light syrup. You rinse the lemon juice off the petals you just took out of the jar and put the petals in the syrup. Then you boil everything for another five minutes. As the mixture starts to cool, you squeeze the juice of a lemon over it. Let it cool some more. And put the syrup in a jar. Store it in your refrigerator.
To grow your own lemon tree indoors in containers close to natural sunlight, see the Citrus Growers cites. Also see the book, Lemon Tree Healthy Cooking (Paperback) by Sunny Baker Ph.D. Also try the recipes in the book for Tofu With Lemongrass and Coconut Curry Sauce or Lemon Shrimp on a Stick.
Lime leaves used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking are Keffir lime leaves which are a different plant than the usual lime tree leaves you see in California. Keffir lime leaves have odd-shaped twin leaves. Lemon tree leaves are used as wraps for meats, fish, veggie burgers/balls, or other vegetables. Don’t eat the tree leaves from lemons or keffir limes as you’d eat the fruit. The taste of lemon leaves is similar to lemongrass.
Lemon or keffir lime leaves are meant to wrap food with when cooking to give a flavor and scent, but not to eat. Grape leaves are edible when cooked. Wrap rice and tomato juice/paste, vegetables, and meat or fish with boiled and edible grape vine leaves. Also see the iVillage Garden Web for more ideas on which tree leaves are edible. Be sure to find out first whether the leaves are organic. Don’t use leaves that have been sprayed with pesticides in your food.