The second crop of honey-sweet figs is ready! Fig trees can produce two crops per year depending on variety. Branches bearing the spring/summer crop develop on the previous year’s new wood, and the August/September crop is from summer’s growth.
Figs are enjoyed as a fruit, but are actually fleshy flowers with their blossoms on the inside – the reason we do not see blossoms on their branches. Hundreds of tiny flowers produce the crunchy, little edible seeds to create the figs’ unique texture.
Figs are nutritionally rich, cholesterol free and relatively low in calories and fat. Best of all is they taste great and come with their own natural sweetness. California is proud to produce virtually 100% of the nation’s dried figs and 98% of the fresh figs.
Figs vary only in skin color, from purple-black to white and shapes from round to oval. Most popular of the fresh figs in our markets are the Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Calimyrna and Kadota.
Tree ripening is a must for figs. The sweetest figs must ripen on the tree and get harvested before the squirrels get them! They do not continue to ripen after picking.
How do you tell if figs are ripe? The narrow necks soften and the figs droop slightly, signaling they are ready to be hand-picked. If you harvest your own, consider using gloves and wearing long sleeves – fig latex is exposed when the stem is cut and can cause skin irritation.
Fresh figs last three to four days in the refrigerator and may be frozen for up to six months. Frozen figs lose their shape, but may be pureed and used in baked goods, preserves, with cheese, in yogurt and on pizza.
Figs are a natural humectant, meaning they help retain freshness and moisture in baked goods.
Be creative and try this fresh fig and prosciutto sandwich. Cut a baguette in half lengthwise and remove some of the bread from the center of each half. Drizzle olive oil and coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves over both bread halves. Arrange 4 – 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto and 8 ounces blue cheese or brie (at room temperature) over the bottom half of the bread, then top the cheese with thin slices of ripe figs (about 3 figs). Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and finish with freshly grated black pepper. Cover with the top half of the bread and wrap in aluminum foil (leave the seam on the top of the foil open slightly).
Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is heated through, about 15 minutes. Cut into 8 equal pieces. Serves 4.
The Orinda Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Orinda Way in Orinda Village. For more information visit www.cccfm.org, facebook.com/OrindaFarmersMarket and Instagram at OrindaFarmersMarket or call the market hotline at 925.322.6228.
National Farmers’ Market Week is August 7 – 13. Visit the growers and vendors and shop for some of the best and freshest, in-season produce. Orinda is one of more than 8,000 Farmers’ Markets nationwide and one of over 700 in California.
Barbara Kobsar sells her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies at the Jam Stand at the Saturday Orinda market and the Sunday Walnut Creek market. She is also president of Contra Costa Certified Farmers’ Market (CCCFM) Association Board of Directors. Barbara Kobsar can be reached at Barbara@cotkitchen.com.