August 2021 Produce Parable

Calimyrna Figs

By Adam Calder

Figs are in season, and we have an abundant supply in the Wheatsfield Cooperative produce department. Black Mission and Brown Turkey are the most widely grown and popular fig varieties in the United States, although there is a third and often overlooked option: the green Calimyrna fig.

At first glance, this fig looks like it is not even ripe. Do not be deceived, for under this soft, verdant skin is a luscious surprise.

The fruit’s interior is the color of amber, with a slightly pink tint. Each bite bursts forth with a delicious syrup that tastes of honey and vanilla. These figs are so syrupy that it is common for them to ooze juice from their stems or from the blossom end, but this does not adversely affect their quality.

These figs originated in Turkey, where they were called Smyrna figs. During California’s gold rush era, fig trees were imported and planted to feed hungry miners. The farmers who first brought over the Smyrna fig rebranded it the Calimyrna fig, a combination of the words California and Smyrna.

Fresh figs are a rare treat, as figs will not ripen further once picked and ripe figs are extremely fragile with a short shelf life. They can be enjoyed fresh after trimming the stems and a quick rinse. Serve them with a soft cheese and some fresh bread for a delightful appetizer.

These little gems are also nutritious. Fresh figs contain vitamins A, C, E, K, B6, Thiamine, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, dietary fiber and zinc.

Most fig trees produce two crops every year. The first crop in early summer produces large, juicy fruit that grows on the tree branches from the previous year. The second crop matures in late summer and is produced on the new plant growth from the summer. This second crop produces smaller fruits, but with a more concentrated flavor.

If you are fan of figs, do not hesitate to pick some up! The season is short, two or three weeks twice a year and that is all. Enjoy them fresh, chop them up and stir them into baked goods, or dry them and enjoy them on into the fall and winter.