Figs are a traditional pantry staple for healthy eating in Middle Eastern and North African countries as fig trees grow abundantly in such hot and dry climates. Despite the importance of this species, chemotypic diversity has gone unheeded and therefore its valorization pathways remain poorly documented. For this reason, high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) alongside vibrational spectroscopy were used to investigate the changes of antiradical potency and primary and secondary metabolites in fresh figs with regard to the combined effect of the cultivar factor and the fruit peel chromatic coordinates. Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) fingerprinting displayed six major peaks assigned to functional groups of the investigated samples with significant differences in their vibration intensities. Biochemical screening revealed highly significant variability (p < 0.05) among the investigated cultivars. Antioxidant activity was found to be higher in free radical scavenging using 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) compared to ferric reducing ability (FRAP). Chemometric investigations of both biochemical and FTIR fingerprinting showed satisfactory resolutions, and the total phenol contents and chromatic coordinates had the highest scores in the dataset. However, the cultivars' geographical origin seemed not to have a clear impact on the clustering results. The aforementioned analytical procedures were found to be equally important and can be jointly used for high-resolution screening and discrimination of fig trees.
Keywords: FTIR fingerprinting; Ficus carica L.; antioxidant activity; chemometrics; secondary metabolites.