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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
Figs
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." That was the story for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Me thinks they would have been better off eating the fruit than using the leaves for loincloths, but maybe it was a tough call.

The fact that figs appear in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, attests to the fact that these nutritious, delicious summer treats are old. How old? Glad you asked. There is evidence of cultivation on purpose that goes back about 5,000 years.

They are thought to be originally from the Middle East, roughly what is now Turkey, Iran, Iraq and the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, Syria, Jordan and Israel. As you may be able to tell, figs like it hot.

Today most our American supply of figs come from California's very toasty valleys. Madera and Fresno counties in the San Joaquin Valley account for most of the take with a decent supply also coming from the upper Sacramento Valley. The only other state that grows any other at all is Arizona. But mainly it is a Golden State thing.

The fig's successful trip to California began with the Spanish missionaries who carried seedlings with them from Spain, through Mexico and finally to their first mission in San Diego in 1759. The missionaries planted figs, grapes, olives and other goodies in all their missions all the way through to the last one in Sonoma in 1832.

Through their efforts, the padres got the most popular fig named after them. The long black fig called the Black Mission variety. It is a black/purple and a bit soft when ripe, with a rich, thick sweetness.

Right now the fig in the market place is this Black Mission, crop numero uno. These are figs that are grown on last year's wood. They tend to be bigger in size, but the size of the crop is smaller in volume. This crop lasts for a couple of weeks, from early to mid June and into July.

Unfortunately, this year due to the bad weather including rain and hail that we had in early spring, this first crop will be smaller than average.

But not to worry! A second crop, this time bearing fruit from this year's wood will produce a far bigger crop but with smaller sized fruit.

This crop, which begins after about a two week gap from the first, can bear into November! Now granted that is a stretch as the figs are small, fairly tough skinned and a bit dry ... but they are here! This crop all comes from northern California. The best fig gettin' is July, August and September.

Other varieties include the Kadota which is a greenish yellow fig that is primarily used for drying and canning. The skin is a bit thicker and I find that the sweetness is a bit more subtle than the mission. The shape is similar to the mission variety

The Calimyrna has a squatty shape with an amber color. It has a smooth, nut-like flavor. If you've ever eaten a Fig Newton you have sampled this delicious fig. And for folks looking for a backyard fig tree, make it the Calimyrna if you can. What a flavor.

The Brown Turkey (as in the country, not the gobble-gobble) fig bulks up in size more than the others. It has a brownish purple skin, a pink flesh and a more delicate flavor.

Fresh figs are VERY nutritious. They are high in dietary fiber, potassium, calcium and other trace minerals. At about 35 calories per medium fig they give you a big bang for your nutrition buck.

My favorite way to eat them is just wash them, hold them by the stem and plop them in my by-then watering mouth, skin and all. But the sweet flavor and chewy texture is a nice addition to many dishes. Chopped figs are real tasty in a white or brown rice dish. Or add figs along with other summer fruits into a breakfast bowl or yogurt snack. Toss some chopped nuts in there while you're at it. Keep in mind that chopped fresh figs can be substituted anywhere you use raisins. Rich, ripe figs also go well with a salty cheese like blue or gorgonzola and the classic fig wrapped in prosciutto. Molto bene!

Are you planning a BBQ? Toward the end of the meal, put halved figs on a slow fire cut side down. After a minute, turn them over and let them get real soft. The natural sugars will melt and transform a not so common fresh fruit into an absolutely memorable dessert. Just don't let them burn!

Adam and Eve may have been onto something, but figs leaves as loincloths is not one of them..... Fig leaves are VERY scratchy!