Sweet California Figs
Figs have been around for thousands of years and are believed to have originated in Eastern Asia, spreading through all of Europe and eventually brought to California by the missionaries in 1769. By 1867 there were over 1,000 acres of fig trees in the Sacramento Valley and 35 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. Figs are still grown mainly in the central valley around the Fresno/Madera area to up north of Sacramento in Corning. Maywood Farms in Corning, CA, Stellar in Madera, CA and Susie Bee Farms from Chowchilla, in the central Joaquin Valley, bring you some of the best organic figs.
Figs need the hot Mediterrean weather to grow. The sweet spot is between 85 to 105 degrees. When temperatures go above 105 degrees the tree goes into shock and shuts down to survive. Temperatures in the fig growing regions reached as high as 110 last week. As we mentioned in our blog last week, the heat affects not only the fruit but also the workers. Susan Bidvia-Kragie from Susie Bee Farms in Madera says her growers stopped picking by 12:30pm. During extreme heat the greener fruit won’t ripen any further and ripe fruit can become overripe. This week temperatures in the central San Joaquin Valley have gone down and are averaging about 95 degrees. Susan says “Figs are remarkable at recovering without any long term effects. The figs just jump back to it”.
The fig season continues through September as long as the weather holds. Join us at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences Foodie Nightlife on Thursday night, August 18th where we will be sampling delicious fresh figs.
Look for the figs that are not too hard and not too soft. A fig that is too firm is an indication that it was harvested too immature. Figs are the only fruit that ripens on the tree. Once the fruit is picked that is as sweet as it’s going to get.
We recommend that you don’t refrigerate your figs. Buy only what you can eat within 2-3 days and buy often. Place them on a counter on a cotton cloth and let them dry up a little bit. The flavors and the sugars will become more concentrated and intense. They are like honey nectar!
- Figs are considered a fruit but the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself
- California produces 90% of the fresh figs grown in the United States
Black Mission: The most common variety with deep purple to black skin, watermelon to pink colored flesh and good flavor. They are delicious eaten fresh or dried.
Excel: Similar to the Kadota with yellow green skin and sweet light amber flesh. The shape is blocky with almost no neck. They are great for eating fresh or used for cooking.
Brown Turkey: Large sized fig with a brownish-dark purple skin, light pink flesh and a mild flavor. They are commonly used in desserts.
Kadota: Has thick light green skin with sweet white flesh tinged pink at the center.
Adriatic: Light green or yellowish skin with beautiful strawberry colored flesh.