November is officially fig month in California – get’em and eat’em!
Did you know that California produces 100% of the nation’s dried figs and 98% of the fresh figs? You should be eating these yummy, local treats more! Figs are great as appetizers (see the bacon wrapped ones we are sharing here), main dishes, snacks, and desserts.
Figs not only taste great with natural sweetness, but they have enough fiber to fill you up, more so than other traditional fruits. If you are looking for a gluten and dairy free snack that is low on the glycemic index – figs are for you! Find our more health info on figs, here.
Here’s something else we love – not only will fresh figs last 5-7 days, but you can freeze them for later, up to six months! Plus you can puree figs and use them to replace less healthy ingredients in baked goods – we should be so lucky to be the #1 producer of these wonderful little gems. #eatmoreCAfigs
Here is why figs love CA… and how they grow & make their way to you!
The soil and climate in the San Joaquin Valley are ideal for growing figs. Figs thrive in the Valley’s hot, dry summer sun.
New fig trees begin producing fruit at age 5-7 years. Fig trees have tremendous longevity, some trees planted at the onset of California’s commercial fig production are still actively bearing fruit today, almost 100 years later!
Most of the activity in the orchards begins in May as the fruit appears on the tree and culminates in October when the final “picking” of the dried fruit is completed. For Valley Fig Growers, the largest handler of figs in North America, however, fig production is a year-round business – their cooperative handles 40% of the CA fig industry. They are continually preparing the soil, monitoring irrigation, and pruning the trees for maximum yields from their orchards.
Unlike other tree fruits or nuts, fig trees have no blossoms on their branches; the flowers are inverted and actually develop inside the fruit. These many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little seeds which give figs their unique texture.
Figs must ripen on the tree as they do not continue to ripen after picking. The California Fig Industry requires that all incoming deliveries of fruit be 100% sampled, i.e. a sample is drawn from each bin to determine if the fruit meets all incoming standards established by the State of California Marketing Order for dried figs.
Only when a grower’s delivery meets the incoming standard will the fruit be allowed to be processed.
Upon delivery to Valley Fig Growers, all fruit meeting the high quality standards required for whole fig usage is segregated and size graded.
The dried figs are washed and processed bringing their moisture content up from the 14-20% as delivered, to a moisture content as high as 31% which make our figs plump, moist, and delicious.
The fruit then travels through at least 2 more “sorts” to remove blemished fruit before moving into packaging.
Fascinating Fig Facts
- California produces 100% of the nation’s dried figs and 98% of the fresh figs.
- Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches. The blossom is inside of the fruit! Many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little edible seeds that give figs their unique texture.
- Figs are harvested according to nature’s clock, fully ripened and partially dried on the tree.
- Figs naturally help hold in moisture in baked goods, keeping them fresher.
- Fig puree can be used to replace fat in baked goods.
- California grows many varieties of figs, but the two most common are the amber-colored, slightly nutty-flavored Golden and the dark purple, sweet Mission.
- The Spaniards introduced Mission Figs to the California territory in the early 16th century.
- The priests at Mission San Diego originally planted figs in California in 1769. This is how the dark purple fig became known as “Mission.”
- Figs made their first commercial product appearance with the 1892 introduction of Fig Newtons® cookies.
- The fig tree is a symbol of abundance, fertility, and sweetness.
- Eating one half cup of figs has as much calcium as drinking one-half cup of milk.
Source: Valley Fig Growers
Find more facts and recipes at the California Fig Advisory Board