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Home » Food History, Food News

Fresh California Figs Still Available

Submitted by on October 13, 2018 – 8:16 amNo Comment

California Fig Advisory BoardDid you know there are two California fresh fig crops, Road Trips Foodies?

The first crop (typically May-June) is called the “breva” crop and the second crop (July-November) is considered the “main” crop.

This year’s main crop is plump and plentiful (according to the California Fig Industry newsletter), so when you see them, buy them.

Below are the fresh varieties still available at most major grocery retailers.

Black Mission. Purple and black skin with deep earthy flavor like a Cabernet. Available mid-May through November.

Brown Turkey. Light purple to black skin with robust flavor like a Pinot Noir. Available mid-May through November.

Sierra. Light-colored skin with a fresh, sweet flavor like a Riesling. Available June through November.

Tiger. Light yellow color with unique dark green stripes and a bright red-purple interior fruit with fruity, raspberry, citrus flavor like a Sparkling Rosé. Available mid-July through November.

Here are some “fig facts” from the California Fig Advisory Board:

Although considered a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that is inverted into itself. The seeds are drupes, or the real fruit.

Figs are the only fruit to fully ripen and semi-dry on the tree.

For many years the fig has been used as a coffee substitute. The fruit contains a proteolytic enzyme that is considered as an aid to digestion and is used by the pharmaceutical industry.

This proteolytic enzyme, also known as ficin, primarily contained in the stem of the fruit, helps to break down tissue and was for many years the major ingredient in Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer. Because of its high alkalinity, it has been mentioned as beneficial to persons wishing to quit smoking.

Dried figs were first sold in a commercially manufactured cookie in 1892.

Figs contain a natural humectant – a chemical that will extend freshness and moistness in baked products.

Another chemical found in figs, Psoralens, has been used for thousands of years to treat skin pigmentation diseases. Psoralens that occur naturally in figs, some other plants and fungi, is a skin sensitizer that promotes tanning in the sun.

The common fig probably originated in the fertile part of southern Arabia and ancient records show that the Sumerians and Assyrians were familiar with it. Even though the edible fig most likely came from ancient Arabia, the cultivated fig industry most certainly began in western Asia or Asia Minor, probably in that center of ancient civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers known as Mesopotamia.

Figs spread slowly through Asia Minor and Syria to Mesopotamia, Persia and the Arabian Desert, becoming highly developed in Iran, Armenia, and Afghanistan.

India first cultivated figs in the fourteenth century and edible native varieties can still be found growing in the Punjab hills.

The first verifiable report of figs in China was reported in the fourteenth century as well, and it is assumed that by then they were firmly established in the Far East.

Evidence indicates that the fig industry spread by the Phoenicians and the Greeks throughout the Old World, and that their efforts resulted in the introduction of figs along the African coast, Spain, Portugal, and up to the English Channel by the end of the 14th century and prior to introduction into Greece and Italy.

Figs were first introduced into the New World by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries, most notably to the West Indies in 1520 and to Peru in 1528. From the West Indies, Greece, and France, figs quickly spread across the southeastern United States where they are most commonly known as a dooryard tree rather than a thriving commercial industry. They were imported from the West Indies to Spanish missions in Mexico and subsequently spread to California with the Franciscan missionaries who planted them in the mission gardens at San Diego in 1769 and up the Pacific coast to Santa Clara by 1792, Ventura by 1793, and later on to Sonoma, giving the name Mission to those first dark purple California figs.

(Photo courtesy of California Fig Advisory Board)

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