Food

California figs

Fig

Although the fig is not indigenous to the U S A, since ties introduction in California by Spanish missionaries in 1759 fig trees in the warm climate of the San Joaquin Valley.

The good fathers planted the first fig tree in San Diego. That variety is now called mission to their honour but all of the trees are descendants of the original.

Figs have sustained entire populations for generations in the Middle East.

The tree is said to have originated somewhere between India and Turkey today.

The fruit was first mentioned in 2000 B C in a Babylonian hymnbook and the tree was sacred in Egypt, Greece, and Italy.

Interestingly enough the fig is the most frequently mentioned fruit in the Bible.

Greeks of antiquity were great admirers of figs, and Attica was famous for its figs. So much so, that Solon (639 – 559 B C) made it illegal to export the fruit allowing the population of the region to enjoy it.

Much later the Persian ruler Xerxes, after his defeat in 480 B C at Salamis, had figs served to him at every meal to remind him of his defeat, also to motivate him to redouble his efforts to conquer the territory.

Alas, the opportunity never materialized.

Pliny the Elder (52 – 113 A D), one of the most famous and prolific writers of the Roman Empire, claims to be restorative, and to increase the strength of youth, and its nutritional value to help preserve the human body.

Figs have the highest amount fibre of all fruits and vegetables.

Romans used to fed geese dried figs to fatten them so as to obtain fattened goose liver. The French learned about fattened goose liver (foie gras) from Romans, but perfected the production and invented numerous recipes that are still popular today.

In the Middle East, figs were the first to be dried, and to this day fresh fig consumption represents only a fraction of those dried, and/or stewed.

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the following fig species are planted – mission (purple in colour and mostly used for drying), kadota ( a descendant of dattato, an Italian variety, is thick-skinned, amber-coloured and mostly used for canning, or drying, or preserving), brown Turkey (yellow-skinned, and sweet ), calymyrna (brought to California in 1882 by Armenians from Symrna, is brown with a nut-like flavour), Adriatic (the most prolific and sweetest of all).

Manufacturers of candy bars and pastes prefer Adriatic over other varieties.

Califrnia’s dried prodution in 2010 was 20 million tons. Fresgh fig consumptiopn in Nroth America is small ebcause the fruit is grown commercially in california exclusively, and must be flown to major markets int eh east.

Fihs are highly perishable, and delectable only when ripened on the tree. This is one of few fruits that can eb dried on teh tree, as is coconuit.

Indigenous cooks creates innumerable recipes over time, pariign them with prosciutto, bakign them in breads, pasdtries, adn squares.

Soem even sue them in salads, main coruses and desserts. Try dipping dry figs into chocolate, or slit a pocket and insert a walnut for texture contrast, of a piece of cheese for balacne.

The fig season is shrot from mid-October to the first week of Nvoemebr pendign on weather. Italian and high-end grocery stores in major North American cities carry small inventories.

Once you try a ripe fig you will understans whay ancient Azegyptians, Greeks and Romans had a love affair with this luxurious fruit.

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