July/August/September 2009 Fig Focus

Valley Fig Growers Celebrates 50th Anniversary!

With health enthusiasts, home cooks and culinary professionals in ever increasing numbers throughout the country turning to figs for a convenient, sweet, richly-flavored way to obtain their dietary fiber, calcium, iron and potassium, Valley Fig Growers enthusiastically celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Approximately half of the dried figs harvested in California go to market through Valley Fig Growers. In an industry that has seen much expansion and contraction, the co-op has weathered the challenges and now sees growth through product innovation.

A Little Fig History

The concept of a fig cooperative emerged in the 1950s when a large group of fig growers became frustrated by the fact that prices weren’t what they should be. They negotiated for the purchase of two packing plants, one of which was owned by George Roeding, the nurseryman credited with bringing Calimyrna figs to the United States.

Valley Fig Growers came into being in 1959 choosing the Blue Ribbon brand to present the cooperative’s products to the public. The early years were not easy, but over the next several decades, the co-op continued to modernize and prosper; however, as with any agricultural product, mother nature would periodically step in to remind everyone just who is boss. From the perspective of many original grower families, much has changed over the past fifty years, but many of the basics have stayed the same. As one grower said, “The figs I grow today are still the same as when I started fifty years ago–the sweetest, most delicious fruit that’s ready for people to enjoy all year round.” Diversification over the years has taken form in products such as fig concentrate, fig vinegars, value added fig pastes, and extruded fig based products.

The success of Valley Fig Growers lies in being able to utilize an old product in an entirely new way that fits today’s consumer buying habits. The cooperative’s history of meeting challenges through innovation will take it into the future and circumvent extinction.

Excitement is growing at Valley Fig Growers in anticipation of our sponsorship of the upcoming season of Cooks Country TV. We know this is a show that you’ll enjoy and we think the folks are terrific and the recipes are ones you’ll want to make. Here’s one favorite that features dried figs.

Cook’s Country From America’s Test Kitchen uncovers the best of American home cooking. Their recipes are developed through in-depth kitchen testing. The result: foolproof recipes you can trust to work the first time and every time. Cooks’s Country features the cast and crew of America’s Test Kitchen, the top-rated cooking show on public television, now in its ninth season. The show is filmed in a renovated 1806 farmhouse with a full working test kitchen. Watch us update traditional American recipes, everything from Chicken Tagine with Dried Figs and Honey to Mashed Potato Casserole and Chocolate Blackout Cake. You’ll learn what makes a recipe succeed (or fail) as well as which kitchen tools, cookware, and supermarket ingredients have won their independent tests. Join Cook’s Country every week as they bring the pages of Cook’s Country magazine into your home.

On the Nutrition Front

By Cherryl Bell, RD, MS

People Over 65 Need Snacks Too

In a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, researchers found that snacking may help older adults meet their daily caloric needs. Non-snacking older adults in the survey averaged 1,466 calories per day, while snackers averaged 1,718 calories per day. The study did not indicate exactly what snacks were consumed, but did note that about one quarter of their daily calories and carbohydrates, 20% of their fat, and 14% of their protein came from snacks. Snacking may help ensure older adults get the calories they need. (JADA 2007)

Many older adults seem to find it easier to consume smaller portions more often. Emphasis must be on foods that are healthful and taste good to encourage solid, sustained nutritional benefits. Many adults like the sweet, crunchy texture of dried figs and find them easy to pick up. Figs are loaded with soluble and insoluble fiber which is very important for adults. A favorite older folks is Spiced Fig Compote. A combination of Mission and Calimyrna Figs, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, cardamom, and allspice, simmered in orange juice and served warm or kept in refrigerator for easy snacking. Some even add other dried fruits such as apples or a mixed bag of fruit.

Back to School Lunch Ideas

It’s hard to believe that school is just around the corner. During the summer, try some new recipes with your kids. When school starts, they’ll remember the treats you made together and not trade their lunch away quite so fast. Some favorites with the young crowd include our newest offering from Joanne Weir, Oatmeal Cookies with Figs, Chocolate Chips and Walnuts and our Fudgy Fig Nut Brownies.

Celebrating a Valley Treasure August 8

Savor Gourmet Food Samples from the Central San Joaquin Valley Culinary Leaders
Enjoy Fresh and Dried California Figs, Delicious Recipes and More at the 6th Annual Fig Fest!

Proceeds to benefit Fresno State Ag One Foundation, Slow Food Madera and The Bulldog Pantry

$10 Admission
August 8th
9:00 AM – Noon
Fresno State University – Ag East Lawn
Between the Ag Science Building and Satellite Student Union
For more information, visit: www.californiafigs.com

National Grandparents Day—September 13, 2009

Marian McQuade founded Grandparents Day in 1973 in West Virginia. She spent five more years bringing all the states on board, and now Grandparents Day is a U.S. holiday. Marian was a coal miner’s wife, who raised 15 children in her family, and still found time to give comfort to the old. Grandparents Day is her legacy.

Celebrate National Grandparents Day by sharing a special dish with your grandparents. Figgy Orange Streusel Cake,
with its wonderful light orange flavor and chunks of fig, will bring a smile to their face and perhaps a warm memory of a past favorite dessert.

Have grandchildren “interview” a grandparent about his or her life and
record the interview. Some questions children might ask:
Where were you born?  What year?
Did you have a pet when you were growing up?
Did you get an allowance?
What were your favorite foods growing up?
What were your favorite games and activities?
What chores were assigned to you?
When you were a teenager, what time did you have to be home at night?
How old were you when you got married?
What do you think the President should do for the country now?
What advice would you like to give me?

California Figs…Simply Beautiful

The latest word from the California Fig Advisory Board

We expect 2009 to be an excellent year of high quality product, good yields and continued demand for California Figs. With supply and demand currently balanced, the stage is set for a healthy industry. California produces 100% of the nation’s dried figs and 98% of fresh. Globally, figs produced in the San Joaquin Valley of California, southeast of San Francisco are ranked third for production.

California annually produces 22 million pounds of dried figs and over 10 million pounds of fresh figs. The combination of late spring frost and above average temperatures has not affected the anticipated good quality of California Figs so far this year, but has slightly affected first crop fresh production yields. We expect favorable weather conditions to continue which will support an excellent quality crop delivered to market.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and tag us @valleyfig —we’d love to see what you’re cooking on Instagram and Facebook!

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