Figs Leaves as Edible Garden Herbs
By Dr. Arina Shairah Abdul Sukor
Department of Land Management, Faculty of Agriculture, Universiti Putra Malaysia
Did you know that the common figs (Ficus carica) can be planted in Malaysia? Figs, which originated in the Middle East over 11,400 years ago, are widely cultivated in different parts of the world, including Asia. Turkey and Egypt lead the world in fresh figs production of between 200,000 to 262,000 metric tons per year.
But Malaysia’s tropical climate is advantageous because our climate is suitable to produce figs all year round, instead of just during the summer.
Figs trees can be partitioned into leaves and fruits. Fig fruits are typically consumed either as fresh or dried. In Malaysia, however, it is the dried fruits, instead of fresh fruits, that are commonly used as healthy snacks. Figs leaves, though having multiple potential uses, remain under-explored.
Fig leaves, for example, can be shredded for use as ready-to-use natural food wraps, which help to reduce or eliminate the use of plastics. In fact, fig leaves as food wraps are 100% edible and biodegradable!
Fig leaves can be further boiled for tea. Fig leaves have a fragrant aroma due to their active volatile compounds content. You brew tea out of fig tea leaves, just as you would normal tea. Pluck the fresh figs leaves from your backyard garden. Wash, then boil the fresh figs leaves for 15 minutes, and strain. Next, enjoy your tea with a slice of lemon or a spoonful of natural honey. It is soothing, rejuvenating, and calming!
Scientific studies have found that fig leaves can regulate blood glucose level, lower triglycerides; thus, lowering blood pressure. Fig leaves contain phenolic and antioxidant compounds for health benefits. The effectiveness of fig leaves is mainly due to the interaction between the macronutrients (nitrogen and potassium), micronutrients (magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper, and iron), vitamins (vitamin A, B, C, and E), and antioxidant compounds. Studies on mice have further shown that fig leaves extract improved the sperm count in mice.
Figs trees can be propagated via stem cuttings. Apply some rooting hormones (Agradix) and fungicide (Previcur), at the end of about a foot-long of a healthy stem cutting.
Then, propagate these cuttings in a well-watered planting media until it reaches 7 to 8 leaves stage. The figs seedling is now ready to be transplanted into a bigger polybag, pots, or directly to the ground.
You can fertilize the figs seedlings using both organic and chemical fertilizers from the vegetative phase (1.2 kg per tree) until the fruiting stage (2.5 kg per tree), around 120 days from the germinated seedlings. Figs are ready to be harvested within 75-90 days after transplanting. Throughout the growing stage, make sure you monitor for any pests and diseases infestation.
Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), with the collaboration with some of fig growers within the Klang Valley region, have established various programs to encourage more people to grow figs in the urban areas, as well as the development of diversified fig products.
Growing figs trees in our home gardens brings many benefits. The trees are beautiful, and they have various health benefits and are environmentally friendly.
Figure 1. Figs trees can be planted all year round in our backyard gardens. Fig leaves can be boiled to make fig leaves tea that can be consumed daily to gain multiple health benefits.
Figure 2. Healthy stem cuttings soaked with fungicide (Previcur) and rooting hormones (Agradix) prior to planting in a well-watered planting media.
Figure 3a. The propagated stem cuttings will develop into 7-8 leaves stage within four weeks.
Figure 3b. The seedling is ready to be transplanted (after 45-60 days of germination) into a bigger polybag, pots, or directly to the ground.
Figure 4. Other than the fresh figs to be enjoyed from our home garden, fig leaves can also be consumed as tea, kitchen herbs, and food wraps. The volatile compounds in leaves create a fragrant aroma once the leaves are crushed.
Date of Input: 15/05/2023 | Updated: 15/05/2023 | wazien
Faculty of Agriculture
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan