Hang on to your American snack food hats!
Today is National Fig Newton Day.
It’s not surprising it passes almost unnoticed here in Greater Jacksonville, where we grow fresh figs in great abundance.
Though local fig trees are bare right now, by the end of March they’ll be budded out completely and chock full of ripe figs by May.
But what about people who don’t have ready access to fresh figs the way we do?
For them there is the Fig Newton.
Thank the Egyptians
Figs and people go way back.
Because they originated in the dry Mediterranean regions of Europe, fig trees are by their nature very efficient conservers of water.
On a trek across a dry plain? Headed out into the desert?
Take some figs and carry less water with you.
This may explain why figs were highly prized in the days of explorers and often regarded with great reverence.
Find a fig tree, and you’ve probably found potable water as well.
The idea of rolling a ripe fig in pastry dough and baking it is Egyptian and arises out of simple practicality – baked figs last longer.
Nowadays figs are a common fixture in contemporary cookery.
The Fig Newton is good medicine
Believe it or not – the Fig Newton made its way to the US as a cure-all.
Nineteeth-century wisdom held that we could cure most illnesses if we just changed our diets.
The distinctly shaped cookie made its way to the U.S. as a medicinal cure. Back in the 19th century, it was assumed that adjusting one’s diet could cure most illnesses.
History teaches us that prescriptions typically included instructions to eat fruit and (strangely) cookies.
The first fig Newtons turned out to be a two-fer.
The cookie doctors were more than a little right about figs, however.
Some health benefits of figs:
- The chlorogenic acid in figs helps lower blood sugar levels and control blood-glucose levels in type-II diabetes mellitus.
- Both fresh and dried figs contain high levels of B-complex vitamins – niacin, pyridoxine, folates, and pantothenic acid – that help the body metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
- Dried figs are excellent source minerals like calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron, selenium and zinc.
- Figs contain healthly amounts of soluble dietary fiber, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
- Fresh figs contain significant levels of the anti-oxidant vitamins A, E, and K. Called “phyto-chemical compounds,” they help scavenge harmful free radicals and protect the body from cancers, diabetes, degenerative diseases and infections.
- Fig fruit is low in calories. A little over three ounces of fresh figs have only 74 calories.
Stand up & salute Newton, Mass.
Many thanks to the Kennedy Biscuit Works of Newton, Mass. – now Nabisco – for finding a way to mass produce Fig Newtons.
By a stroke of good luck, one Henry James Mitchell invented a handy-dandy extruder to put the chewy filling inside the rolls of dough.
When cookie master Charles Roser sold his fig roll recipe to Kennedy, all the pieces were in place to roll out the first mass-produced Newtons in 1891.
It was a stroke of marketing genius to name the cookie after the town where it was made.
And not the first such for Kennedy Biscuit Works, also famous for naming their products after neighboring towns.
©2013 All rights reserved.
OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years, most recently in Texas, is a successful grant writer, knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design and wants to work in the public sector. Contact: email@example.com