Spring in California’s Fig Orchards!
It’s spring in California’s sunny San Joaquin Valley—home to nearly 100 percent of the nation’s fig orchards.
At this time of year, most fig growers are completing the last of the winter deep watering. Pruning is near completion and new weeds are mowed and cleared. Replacement trees are planted in place of trees lost since last year’s harvest.
Until the caprification/pollination of the Calimyrna figs in late May, this is the time that growers enjoy spending time in their orchards watching the bright green new leaves form and the first figs of spring appear. Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches. The blossom is inside of the fruit! Many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little edible seeds that give figs their unique texture.
Worldwide, there are said to be more than 1,600 varieties of figs. In California, five principle varieties of figs are grown: the amber colored Calimyrna; the dark, purplish colored Mission; the Tena; the Adriatic and the Kadota. The Calimyrna and the Mission varieties are the most prevalent varieties in the whole fig market and represent over two-thirds of the California fig production.
Mini-Meals aka Snacks
Americans are snacking more than ever. Smaller bites and more frequent mini-meals with reduced portion size and increased variety looks to be a trend for 2013, predicts Phil Lempert, the Supermarket Guru. When choosing a snack, most consumers want something easy and convenient, but they also want to know that they’re making a smart choice. A recent study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reports that “people who eat snacks have healthier diets.” Smart snacking keeps energy levels high throughout the day and hunger at bay. Healthy snacks can provide important nutrients to help fill nutrient and fiber gaps.
Sensible Snack Tips
• Plan ahead. Stuff a variety of fruits, vegetables, or other convenient, healthy snacks into your lunchbox, backpack, or briefcase in the morning before you leave the house.
• Avoid mindless snacking. Eat a snack without doing anything else (like watching TV or surfing the internet) at the same time. Take your time and be aware of your snack occasion.
• Make ‘em count. Read food labels, and choose snacks with the nutrients your body needs. Check the serving sizes, too. Portion-pack your snacks. Look for snacks and mini-meals that provide fiber, potassium, whole grains, calcium and iron.
Figs Make Sophisticated Snacking
- Stuff figs with toasted almonds (or just chop them up and toss them in a bag together)
- Mix peanut butter and chopped figs together and use as a spread on mini-whole wheat toasts
- Make a batch of fig and cereal snack mix and portion into zip top bags.
- Eat figs right out of the bag—the best snack
- Cream Cheese, Dried Fig & Walnut Spread (use low fat or fat free cream cheese and spread on celery, whole grain crackers, endive or apple slices)
- Fig & Apple or Whole Wheat Fig Muffins
- Fig Lollipops
- Pita Crisp with Apple, Ginger & Dried Fig Salsa (look for whole wheat pitas)
- Applesauce Snack Cake
- Greek Yogurt Parfait (layer low fat or fat free yogurt with dried figs, nuts and whole grain cereal)
- Barley Bow-Tie Pilaf with Figs, Lemon & Thyme (serve cold, tossed with low fat dressing, in a cantaloupe section)
- Mix chopped figs, celery, and red onion together with water pack tuna or chopped cooked chicken (use with slice of low fat cheese for a mini-toasted tuna melt, and in a salad, and as a spread on multi-grain crackers
Healthy Tips and Counting
This year we’re highlighting one new lifestyle tip each month that you can incorporate into your day. By the end of the year, you’ll have 12 new ways to help you live a healthy, happy, active lifestyle.
Tip #1 for January—Vegetarian for a day…or two…or three
Tip #2 for February—Focus on fiber
Tip #3 for March—Be a breakfast believer
Tip #4 for April—Add a smart snack or mini-meal
When compared ounce for ounce to many fruits, figs are a nutrition standout with great nutrient density, great fiber content, and great phenol antioxidant content. Dried figs offer calcium content comparable to milk and more potassium than bananas. A tasty and smart snack alone or when combined with other healthy foods.