Figs are a great source of potassium, which supports healthy nerve function and muscle contraction. A diet with many potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is linked to lower blood pressure compared to diets with little potassium. Figs have little calcium, but their potassium helps decrease the amount of calcium lost in urine, which makes figs a net supporter of bone health. The dietary fiber promotes healthy digestion, regulates cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and may support weight loss. Research on the benefits of fig leaves suggests phytonutrients within the leaves can help lower the amount of insulin needed by dependent diabetics. They may also reduce triglycerides in blood and inhibit the growth of some cancers. Watch for future discoveries of the health benefits linked to fig trees.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – trace amounts
Minerals – Potassium and Manganese
Figs are linked to a lower risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. They also support bone health, perhaps forestalling osteoporosis. Heart healthy, they may reduce complications of high blood pressure.
How to Grow
Figs are a cool, tasty little specialty fruit to have growing in the back yard. They can be trained as fan trees, bush trees or left alone to do what they will. Bush trees will grow roughly 10 feet high, fan trees 15 feet. Let the tree shape itself with some minor pruning. Figs need a sunny site and soil that holds moisture well but has good drainage for the excess. The pH should be around 7 or just below. If your garden area is small and you don’t want to risk casting shade over other plants, grow the figs along a south wall so it gets full sun. If growing more than one tree, plant trees 12-15 feet apart. Choose a tree well adapted to your climate. Self-fertilizing trees are easier to grow. The local nursery should have a young transplant geared for your environment. Dig a deep hole and amend it with aged compost, planting mix or well-aged manure. Plant the fig in and fill the hole with the amended soil. Water manually during first year and during dry spells. In winter, prune out old wood. Thin out branches in summer so fruit can ripen in sun. Also, cut away any sucker sprouts that come up from roots during growth. Replant these or give away. Figs are ready to harvest when skin changes color. Dark skinned ones turn dark purple; light skinned turn yellow. Eat straight off tree or store by drying or freezing.
Figs rarely have serious pests. Sometimes birds, botrytis and canker can be a problem. If birds are a serious issue, the only sure way to protect the tree is to surround it with netting. You may also try planting a mulberry tree to divert them to what they love. Canker starts with eroding patches of bark that grow bigger. When you notice it, cut off the diseased patches or branches and dispose of them. Botrytis is gray mold that thrives in cold, moist conditions. To avoid Botrytis, make sure the tree has good air circulation, drainage and no excess water. Remove infected growth and destroy immediately.
If fruit yield is your top priority, restrict root growth to encourage more energy into fruiting. Do this by digging a wider hole and putting sediment on the bottom. Then barricade the sides with bricks or metal sheets.