Figs. It’s one of the oldest fruits on the planet. In fact, Adam and Eve used fig leaves to clothe themselves— much to God’s chagrin perhaps. Despite its longevity, fresh figs are not that easy to find in grocery stores these days. Specialty food stores, farmer’s markets/fruit stands, or direct sales are the best ways to find fresh figs, which should be available now.
We have an old Mission fig tree on the farm that I pick for our fruit stand customers. I started picking the “first” crop last week and will continue picking on-and-off through the end of July. It’s a huge tree and I only harvest the “low-hanging fruit” as they say. (At my age, ladders-on-soft-dirt and I are not friends!) It’s fun to see our customer smile when they see the fresh figs, and even more fun to watch little children try them for the first time – think Fig Newton cookies!
Figs have a rich history in Central California, although there aren’t that many commercial fig producers left in our area. Most of the production is centered in Madera County with a little left in Fresno County. The commercial fig varieties produced here include the popular dark-skinned Black Mission and Brown Turkey, and the light-colored Kadota, Sierra and Tiger.
California produces 100% of the dried figs and 98% of the fresh figs sold commercially in the U.S. It’s a true reflection of our prized Mediterranean climate and growing region. CA’s San Joaquin Valley is one of five such growing regions in the World, the others being the Mediterranean Sea Basin, Central Chile, Western Cape- South Africa, and Southern Australia. Worldwide the fig tree is the symbol of abundance, fertility (it’s rumored to be an aphrodisiac), and sweetness!
If you haven’t ever had a fresh fig, give one a try this summer. You can enjoy that fresh fig using one of Michela’s (and Shelley’s) recipes provided here, too!
Liz, her husband Earl, their grown children and their families make up Hudson Farms, a fifth-and sixth-generation family farm in Sanger, CA.