Desserts with Anaar and Anjeer
The fig is the edible fruit of a small tree, the Ficus Carica, which belongs to the mulberry (shahtoot) family. As Anaar it is native to the Mediterranean and Western Asia, which have a temperate climate. It is one of the oldest trees cultivated by man both for its fruit and for its ornamental value. The Bible has Adam and Eve covering themselves with a fig leaf when they ate the forbidden fruit and shame sprouted in their hearts. Today, various varieties of figs are also cultivated in California.
Figs are perishable products and unless dried and stored properly, high sugar content leads to overripe fruit and fermentation. This limits their shelf life. In India, while mostly wild fig trees are seen, dried figs are imported and strung together, or they are preserved in syrup and canned. Dried figs are soaked, mashed and eaten for dessert with cream. It is a nutritious fruit rich in calcium, potassium and phosphorus. The Indian name for figs, Anjeer just Injir, a variety cultivated in Smyrna, Greece. In California they renamed it Calimyrna.
Figs became so popular in the East that laws were enacted to ban their export beyond a point. Pliny the Elder described many varieties and said that it was the food of the slaves that provided both nutrition and taste. Latin myths regard it as favored by Bachhus, the God of all good things, and therefore was used in many religious ceremonies.
The lucky emblem of Rome features a fig tree providing shade to the twins Romulus and Remus who founded Rome. There is a reference to Bindusara, son of Chandragupta who had a Greek mother, writing to Antiochus in Greece to send him figs. The British, while fighting the Marathas, would have lived on bread and figs.