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Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites

Trader Joe's Turkish Fig Bites

Trader Joe’s Not Quite Fig Newtons

Broadly speaking, Trader Joe’s products fall into three categories:

Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites fall squarely into that final category. As should be clear from the packaging alone, these are Trader Joe’s own take on that classic, love-’em-or-hate-’em after-school snack, the Nabisco Fig Newton.

Ranking: 3 stars 3 star ranking

What it is: Fig Newtons, by Trader Joe’s
Price: $1.99 for a 10 0z. pack
Worth it: Yes. They’re not perfect, but they’re cheap

Usually, when Trader Joe’s goes through the trouble of re-creating an another brands product in their own image they actually end up improving on it. TJ’s seems to have a genuine devotion to only putting their name on quality products that they stand behind, which is truly laudable in this day and age. For example, when they recently released their take on the Sour Patch Kid candy with sweet-and-sour T’s and J’s gummies, I found myself strongly preferring Trader Joe’s delicious, nuanced flavors and all-natural ingredients to actual Sour Patch Kids.

It’s unusual, then, that Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites fall short of the original Fig Newton. You’d think that improving on these would be a piece of cake (or fruit and cake, as the case may be), but instead TJ’s delivers an inferior version – heavier on the dry cake, with less fruit.

This is a particularly surprising outcome given the super pretty packaging, which manages to bite on the Fig Newton’s signature “yellow” look, while also keeping Trader Joe’s signature quaint whimsy. How could such attention to detail on the packaging be betrayed by underwhelming contents? Well, I guess that’s just life, isn’t it?

Figs are something Trader Joe’s does well, and in fact we’ve looked at them several times before, along with their incredible mythic history. And, in fact, the fig part isn’t all that bad. Trader Joe’s promises Turkish figs, which I’m sure these are, but you’d be hard pressed to tell, given the serious mushing and processing they necessarily undergo to be worked into a sweetened cookie.

No, it’s the “Newton” part that Trader Joe’s has trouble with. Nabisco must have found just the right recipe to deliver their original drupe-based treat to the world, because no one else ever seems to get it quite right. The generic fig roll snack you come across in drug store always tend to be too dry. Trader Joe’s doesn’t have that problem, but instead screw up the fig to cake ratio – giving you way too much thick and bready cake to the relatively meager amount of filling. It’s simply not all that satisfying to bite into, giving you a dry mouth without enough sweet fruit to balance it out.

To compare I bought a box of Nabisco brand Newtons and compared them side by side. As you can see the Nabisco Netwons are much more refined looking – an elegant balance of just enough dough to the filling. As a result the Nabisco Newtons are much more snackable, while the Trader Joe’s “Newtons” tire you out after two or three.

Trader Joe's Fig Newton Comparison

Trader Joe’s Fig Bites on top, Nabisco Fig Newton on bottom

Of course, if it’s the price you’re considering Trader Joe’s more than compensates for its short comings. Each package of Trader Joe’s Fig Bites is a mere $1.99, in comparison to the $5 and up you’ll be asked to pay for Fig Newtons. I may not like TJ’s version quite as much as Nabisco’s, but that price point make a compelling argument for choosing them anyway.

By the way, before I get out of here – just what is a “Newton”?

It turns out that Fig Newtons don’t owe their name to the revered Grandfather of Gravity (a connection that I always presumed and found troubling, given the absence of apple), but to the humble town of Newton, Mass. where they were first made by the Kennedy Steam Bakery all the way back in 1891. And now you know!


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Not really, the original Fig Newton is better.

Would I Buy Them Again: The price is low enough, and I’m enough of a cheapskate, that I probably would.

Final Synopsis: Fig Newton knockoffs for a reasonable price.

Trader Joe's Turkish Fig Bites - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites – Nutrition Facts

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Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Green Figs

 

Trader Joe's Organic Whole Green Figs

Everything you want from a fig – except the texture.

Do you sometimes crave a whole green fig, but all the ones you find are either not organic, or not frozen rock solid? Well I have good news! Trader Joe’s is solving both of your problems at once with their frozen Organic Whole Green Figs!

The last time we looked at any of Trader Joe’s figs it was their Black Mission Figs, which I found pleasantly sweet and tasty, if you can get over the somewhat unnerving fleshiness of them. Well fleshiness isn’t a problem this time around, because they’re coming to you in the form of rock hard iceballs!

The first thing you’ll notice when you pick these figs up is that Trader Joe’s didn’t go looking for the small ones. Each fig in the bag is a hefty little monster, considerably larger than the fresh Black Mission Figs you might be able to find in the produce aisle. Apart from the size, these green figs (also called kadota figs) are somewhat less sweet than the black figs from before. That said, they’re still figs – which means they’re still quite sweet indeed, and have the same mushy-soft / crispy-seedy center that gives them such a unique bite.

We spent plenty of time reviewing the history of these meaty drupes last time, so I won’t bore you all again with a lecture on prehistoric agriculture. This time let’s take a look at the religious perspective.

As you might expect from a fruit man has had such a long history with (11,000 years+), religion has a good deal to say about figs – in particular considering that they’ve been cultivated widely through the that fertile belt of religion that begins around the Mediterranean and stretches all the way to South East Asia.  As such, all the big time religions feature figs in their holy books to a considerable degree.

Adam and Eve, for instance, sought to cover up their shame from God with the trusty old fig leaf – maybe not the best choice considering that figs are a notable skin allergens, and that the natural latex that the fig tree produces is a serious eye irritant. Nevertheless, thanks to A&E, fig leaves entered the art world for a pretty good stretch of centuries as the de facto tasteful genital cover in paintings and sculptures.

Meanwhile, in the religion of Islam, the fig is considered one of the two sacred trees, along with that other old favorite the olive. Going further we find that the historical Buddha went out and achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree – otherwise known as the sacred fig tree –  and that the fig is even considered to be the “world tree” from which all springs in Hinduism. Even Jesus got in on the fig tree, when he chose to kill one in Mark 11:12 by cursing it to death for not bearing fruit. Harsh Jesus!

That’s a pretty good pedigree, the fig! But all that said, what reason do I really have to buy these things frozen?

Obviously, getting them fresh is always going to be your best option, but due to their high sugar content, figs ripen and spoil very quickly. A ripe fig will even split under the strain of it’s own sweet innards if left too long, so transporting the fresh produce is a considerably trickier prospect than, say, an apple.

If you’re feeling a hankering for figs, know that the frozen solution is not a perfect one. For starters, the figs seem to freeze inconsistently. In my bag, I found that three or four were somewhat mushy, even when the others were frozen solid – and that’s after a few days in the back of my freezer! These mushier figs didn’t seem to be bad necessarily, just soft. That said, you might want to feel around for a couple different bags to find one that’s perfectly hard and frozen.

If you want to enjoy your green figs right away, you can throw them in a blender and try out this tasty and quick smoothie recipe.

If you’d rather enjoy your figs thawed,  you’ll need to slowly defrost them in your fridge for a few hours. However, at this point be prepared for a shock. These defrosted figs are incredibly slimy and incredibly mushy. That’s simply an unavoidable aspect of the freezing process – and the price you’ll pay if you want figs you can defrost any time.

It’s somewhat off putting, and nowhere near as nice as handling actual fresh figs, but while the texture is somewhat compromised the taste is still the same.

If you can stand the wait to thaw these, and the softness, there are lots of great recipes that call for the refined sweetness of green figs.

Here’s one that I like, a rather laid back recipe for laid back times.

Fig, Arugula and Goat Cheese Flat Bread - straight out of the oven.

Fig, Arugula and Goat Cheese Flat Bread – straight out of the oven.

 


Fig, Arugula and Goat Cheese Flat Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 flat bread
  • 1 or 2 tsp olive oil
  • Some arugula
  • Some awesome goat cheese
  • Trader Joe’s Organic Green Figs (quartered)

Directions

  • Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  •  Paint the flat bread with olive oil, until it has a nice sheen.
  • Lay down a bed of arugula. On top of this add your (thawed) quartered, green figs and as much  goat cheese as you feel comfortable with.
  • Pop you prepared flat bread in the oven and heat until toasty. About 5-10 minutes
  • Enjoy the hell out of it with a few friends while discussing philosophy, the sunset, or Game of Thrones.

 


Note to you, the reader If you like this recipe, or want to see more, let me know! And feel free to share your notes on it in the comments.


 

The Breakdown:

Would I Recommend Them: I’d look for fresh figs first – but these are a good stand in.

Would I Buy Them Again: Sure, I really like that flat bread!

Final Synopsis: Not as good as getting your figs fresh, but more convenient.

Trader Joe's Organic Whole Green Figs - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Organic Whole Green Figs – Nutrition Facts