We are now in the middle of fig season here in California.
I remember eating my first fig when I was about 11 years old at a friends house. Her parents were Iranian immigrants and they had planted a fig tree when they bought their home in Southern California to remind them of home. The tree was huge with gorgeous green leaves. I remember seeing the tree with fruit on it for the first time and asking my friend what the fruit was. I remember her looking at me incredulously, grabbing a fig off the tree, and handing it to me, urging me to eat it. All it took was one bite and I knew that I loved figs. At the end of last month I got an email from the California Fig Advisory Board asking if I would be interested in receiving a package of “fresh-from-the-farm” figs. How could I turn an offer like that? Last Thursday I received not one, but two massive boxes filled with figs: 5 flats containing 36 figs in 5 different varieties, and 2 four pound bags of 2 different varieties of dried figs. I felt like Christmas had come early—the California Fig Advisory Board spoiled us rotten.
My kids have been going fig wild, eating their weight in fresh figs. I spent the past weekend cooking with figs—enjoying the pleasure of letting my taste buds lead the way. As a result, I have SO MUCH to share that I’m devoting this entire week to figs.
Spanish missionaries planted fig trees when they established a mission in San Diego, California, in the late 19th century. But it wasn’t until the early 20th century that California began to really cultivate and process figs, due to the development of more sophisticated cultivation techniques that improved the quality of the figs grown in California. Since that time California has become one of the world’s largest producers, along with Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. California fig growers produce 100 percent of the USA’s dried figs and 98 percent of our fresh figs. Although the fig is considered a fruit, it is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. (For the sake of cataloging, I’ll be putting any fig recipes into my fruit section, as I don’t think I have enough flower recipes to merit the addition of another category.) This “fruit” provides more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable and is fat-, sodium-, and cholesterol-free. Figs also have higher mineral content than many of the other common fruits. One serving of figs contains almost 10% of your daily potassium, 6% of calcium, and 6% of iron. Figs contain natural humectants—properties that extend freshness and moistness in baked products. Figs are very delicate and bruise easily, and should be kept in the refrigerator once they have become ripe, where they will stay fresh for about 2 days. Dried figs, on the other hand, will stay fresh for several months, and don’t have to be stored in the refrigerator, as long as they are kept in a cool, dark place.
My family has had a wonderful time learning about California figs. So far we have only used the fresh figs, as we had so many that I was worried about using them all before they went bad! There are actually five different varieties of California figs, and each is very different: Kadota, Black Mission, Sierra, Brown Turkey, and Calimyrna.
The Kadota fig has a green/yellow skin that is on the thicker side and creamy amber colored flesh. The flesh is sweet as honey and has been called “natures candy.”
Black Mission Figs
The Black Mission fig is tear-drop shaped with a thin black skin and reddish flesh, with a distinct mildly sweet flavor.
The Sierra fig is a new hybrid that has a thicker yellow-green skin, which helps protect the fruit against splitting when the climate changes, and amber colored flesh, and looks a lot like the Kadota fig. The flesh is milder and not as sweet as the Kadota flesh, but still delicious and creamy.
Brown Turkey Figs
The Brown Turkey fig has brownish/copper-colored skin with hints of purple, yellow, and green, and a mostly pink/red flesh mixed with a bit of white flesh. They have a wonderful fragrant flavor.
The Calimyrna fig has golden skin and tender yellow-golden orange flesh. Many people consider the Calimyrna to be the most delicious of all the varieties and refer to it as “the filet mignon of figs”, with it’s sweet flesh that has a distinct nut-like flavor. They are extremely perishable and so are often dried in order to preserve them.
Fresh California Figs Giveaway!
I cannot wait to share with you what we did with our figs, so come back each day this week to see how we used them (other than eating them straight)! But to get us started on our week of figgy goodness, how about a giveaway? The California Fig Advisory Board has agreed to help me share the fruits of fig season by sending one of YOU a box of figs!
The giveaway is now closed! To enter the giveaway, just leave me a comment telling me your favorite way to enjoy fresh figs! If you have never eaten a fig, tell me which variety you are most interested in tasting! I will keep the comments open until Thursday, August 26th, 10 PM PST, and announce the winners (using a random number generator) on Friday, August 27th. This giveaway is open to US addresses ONLY.
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* Figgy References:
* Disclosure: The California Fig Advisory Board provided me with the fresh and dried figs. I was under no obligation to write about the figs.