The Oldest Sacred Fig Tree in Sri Lanka

Before diving into our sugar-free fig cookie recipe, let's explore the fascinating world of Sri Lanka's fig trees. These trees are not only a part of the country's rich natural and cultural heritage but also symbolize a commitment to a sustainable planet. Sri Lanka, the gem of the Indian Ocean, is home to the Fig and Bo trees, both from the Fig family, which play a pivotal role in preserving the island's ecological and cultural legacy. These trees form the backdrop to our story of nutritious culinary delights inspired by local Sri Lankan methods and the charm of dried figs. Join us in uncovering the captivating history of these fig trees, woven into the tapestry of Sri Lankan culture, and our healthy sugar-free fig cookie recipe.

Bodhi sacred fig tree

The Bo tree, known as “The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi” in Buddhist traditions, stands as the oldest sacred fig tree in Sri Lanka. Characterized by its heart-shaped leaves and a unique bluish-green hue, the Bo tree is not just a plant but a symbol of meditation, worship, and the roots of Sri Lankan Buddhism. Its spiritual and historical significance runs deep, intertwining with the stories of bodhisattvas and the spread of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, making it a cornerstone of the nation's spiritual heritage.

fig fruits hanging from a fig tree

The Ficus Family

In the warm climates of Sri Lanka, the fig tree, or Ficus, flourishes in diverse forms, from the iconic banyan with its aerial roots to the sacred Bodhi tree, deeply rooted in cultural and spiritual traditions. Known locally as 'Attica' in Sinhalese and 'Atti' in Tamil, these species are not only an integral part of the nation's heritage, wrapped in myths and traditions, but also play a vital ecological role. The island boasts a diverse array of Ficus species, each with unique features, such as the majestic banyan tree, renowned for its impressive aerial roots. The Ficus benghalensis is a prime example, its roots creating a distinctive, enchanting appearance.

But the significance of fig trees in Sri Lanka extends beyond their beauty. Fig trees play a crucial role in sustaining wildlife like bats, monkeys, and birds, thus enhancing biodiversity in Sri Lankan forests.

The Ficus family is diverse, encompassing around 850 species including woody trees, vines, and epiphytes. Originating from various tropical regions, these species also thrive in adjacent subtropical areas. The common fig (Ficus Carica), for instance, adapts well to cooler climates and is widely found in tropical areas.

branches of the ficus benghalensis with the sky as a background

Health Benefits of Figs

Figs have many healthy properties and are highly valued in Ayurveda, one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems. In Ayurvedic practice, figs are used to regulate blood pressure, alleviate constipation, piles, digestive problems, and detoxify the body. Both the leaves and fruits are utilized as medicinal herbs. Let’s explore what are the health benefits of adding figs in your daily diet.

piled dry figs with three leaves on top of them

Rich in Antioxidants:

Figs are a powerhouse of antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids. These nutrients protect your body from free radical damage, which can lead to aging and diseases like cancer and heart disease. Ayurveda Specialist Dr. Vivek Joshi, with a strong following on YouTube, recommends adding two figs to your daily diet for significant health benefits.

Boosts Digestive Health:

Figs have long been used as a natural remedy for digestive issues. Dried figs are high in fiber, aiding in preventing constipation and diarrhea. Most adults don't meet the daily recommended fiber intake of about 30 grams, but adding dried figs can help bridge this gap. Figs also contain prebiotics, fueling the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Supports Menstrual Health:

Research indicates that dried figs can ease menstrual pain. Women who consumed figs reported less discomfort and stress during their periods compared to those who didn't.

Reduces Inflammation:

Figs, especially when combined with olives, can help prevent inflammation. They inhibit certain cytokines linked to various inflammatory conditions, such as allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, sinusitis, and tuberculosis.

Controls Blood Pressure:

High in potassium, figs are great for lowering blood pressure naturally. This is particularly beneficial for those with hypertension.

Aids in Weight Management:

Incorporating dry fruits like figs into your diet can assist in weight management. Figs promote a feeling of fullness after meals, which can help in controlling hunger and blood sugar levels. The high fiber content in figs contributes to this satiating effect.

Potential Cancer Protection:

Compounds in figs might help prevent the development and spread of cancer cells. Although more research is needed, early studies are promising in showing figs' ability to suppress tumor growth and metastasis.

Fig Consumption During Pregnancy: Benefits and Risks

Adding fresh or dried figs to a pregnancy diet offers numerous benefits. Figs are rich in essential nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, crucial for the healthy development of the fetus and the well-being of the expectant mother. They also pack a variety of vitamins, including A, D, E, K, and B-complex.

Figs are high in dietary fiber, easing digestion and helping to alleviate common pregnancy-related issues like constipation. They're low in calories, making them a healthy choice for managing weight gain during pregnancy. Plus, their alkaline nature helps balance body acidity, which can be beneficial during pregnancy. Figs also contain psoralen, a compound that may assist with pigmentation issues like melasma.

However, moderation is key. Dr. Sharma recommends limiting fig intake to no more than three a day during pregnancy. This helps manage high sugar levels, which is especially important for preventing gestational diabetes. Overeating figs can lead to side effects like loose stools, decreased blood pressure and blood sugar, allergies, and conditions like photodermatitis.

For more information, you can explore Figs (Anjeer) During Pregnancy: Benefits And Side Effects. This resource provides deeper insights into how to safely incorporate figs into a pregnancy diet.

Figs: Good and Bad

Figs are tasty and healthy, but they're not great for everyone. If you get allergies from things like latex or birch pollen, figs might bother you too. And if you have a sensitive stomach or IBS, figs could upset it because they're high in FODMAPs. If you're not sure if figs are okay for you, it's a good idea to ask your doctor.

Sri Lankan Food: Tasty Mix of Many Flavors

Sri Lankan food is really flavorful. It's got spices, fruits, and fresh veggies. The food has been influenced by lots of different places like India, Malaysia, and even countries in Europe like the Netherlands, Portugal, and Britain. This mix makes the food really tasty and interesting.

Recipe: Yummy Sugar-Free Fig Cookies

Want a sweet snack without sugar? Try fig cookies. Figs are naturally sweet, so you don't need to add sugar. They're used a lot in Sri Lankan sweets. These homemade fig cookies are better for you than the ones you buy at the store because they don't have extra stuff added like conservatives or sugar. Let's make some delicious, healthy fig cookies that are easy to bake.

Equipment Necessary to Make Fig Cookies

  • Oven
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper or baking mat
  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk or electric mixer
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cookie scoop or spoon
  • Cooling rack
  • Piping Bag
  • Knife

Conclusion

These homemade sugar-free fig cookies, a cut above store-bought, are crafted without artificial preservatives and sugar, offering pure goodness for you and your family. Infused with a unique Sri Lankan twist, these cookies, filled with delicious figs and paired with fine tea, are sure to delight. As you enjoy these treats with a cup of green tea, let the rich tapestry of Sri Lanka's heritage and beauty unfold with each bite.

Super Delicious Sugar-Free Fig Cookies Recipe

To make sugar-free fig cookies, here's the time you'll need for each step:

Prepping the figs and making the cookies:

You'll need around 20 minutes to prepare the figs.

Cooking the fig paste:

It takes about 30 minutes to cook the fig paste.

Dough resting:

The dough should rest for about 2 hours, or even better, overnight.

Baking time:

Finally, baking the cookies will take around 16 to 18 minutes.

Ingredients

Fig filling

Cookie dough

Instructions

Fig filling

1
Prepare the Figs. Trim off the stems from the dried figs, as they can be bitter. Then, cut the figs into quarters to make them easier to blend later.
2
Make the Fig Paste. Now let’s prepare a delicious fig spread which we’ll use as a cookie filling. In a saucepan, combine the quartered figs with fresh orange juice, a cup of water, and a pinch of salt. Heat over medium and stir until it reaches a gentle boil. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring now and then, until the liquid reduces. Once done, whizz it all up in a food processor until smooth, then let it cool. Stir in a teaspoon of honey once it's cool for extra flavour.
view inside of a mixer bowl with the finely mixed fig paste in it