Contrary to popular belief, fig leaves are not poisonous… It is the sap of the plant that irritates the skin and should therefore be avoided. In fact, you will probably be surprised to discover that fig leaves are not only edible but also delicious. More people use them as papillotes to steam, bake or grill meat and fish. Once dried, they can be infused to make an herbal tea. They are a good addition to rice, cooked vegetables, stews or soups as an alternative to spinach.
Fig leaves and toxicity: myths and reality
Everyone knows that figs are delicious: they are made into jams, crisp pies, salads, etc. But you might avoid the other parts of the carica tree, right? As already mentioned, fig leaves’ poisonous reputation is due to the plant’s latex. It’s the milky white stuff in the stems that shows up when you cut them. It can be very irritating to the skin, even causing phytophotodermatosis, so rinse the leaves thoroughly, remove their stems and wash your hands well after touching them.
What does the leaf of Ficus carica taste like?
The flavor you get from fig leaves can be described as vanilla, with a dominant coconut flavor and a delicate hint of hazelnut. Be sure to use fresh bright green leaves that look healthy. Older ones become too fibrous and bland and do not deliver the same flavor results.
What are the benefits of fig leaves?
Fig leaves contain vitamins A, B1 and B2 as well as potassium, sodium, manganese, calcium, iron and phosphorus. Many people claim that drinking the leaf or brewed tea fights constipation, soothes painful periods and provides significant general health benefits. You should of course always consult your general practitioner before introducing new products into your diet.
Fig leaf syrup recipe
This syrup is really easy to make and you can add it to your cocktails, sodas or herbal punch as a sweetener instead of simple syrup to enhance the taste. To prepare it, you need:
3-4 fresh fig leaves
2 cups of water
1½ dl sugar
Place water, sugar and fig leaves in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat to let the mixture cool and steep for about an hour. Remove the leaves and transfer the syrup to an airtight bottle or container. Stored in the refrigerator, the syrup will last for up to two weeks.
Salmon fillet in edible foil
Using the fig leaves to wrap the salmon before cooking is another brilliant idea that is simply a must. This way of cooking gives the fish a smoky and sweet fruity flavor that is quite irresistible. Plus, the baked leaves are the best veggie chips in the world! Here is the list of necessary ingredients:
1 kg of medium-sized potatoes
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus a little more for brushing
15 fig leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 kg salmon fillets, skinless
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 lemons, peeled and sliced (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cover the potatoes with water in a large pot, bring to the boil and cook over a medium-high heat for about 12 minutes or until barely tender. Drain and let cool, then cut the potatoes into approx. 2-3 cm cubes.
Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange the sheets on the baking tray to form ovals 10cm larger than each salmon fillet. Place the salmon on the plates, brush with olive oil and season with pepper and salt. Add lemon wedges if using. Fold the leaves over the top of the salmon and cover with additional leaves if necessary. Brush the packets with more olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the salmon for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the leaves are crisp.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the potatoes and cook over medium-high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring regularly, or until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley and garlic. Serve each salmon papillote garnished with sautéed potatoes.
Similarly, you can prepare sea bass, halibut, cod and trout or any other type of fish you like to eat. The same applies to poultry and pork suitable for grilling or baking.