October 2012 Fig Focus

Fresh to Dried–Figs are Marvelous!

Figs ripen on the trees August through October. Beginning in October, the growers harvest the semi-dry figs and bring them to our packing plant in Fresno, California.  We wash, sort and process the figs, ultimately packing the best ones available for you to enjoy throughout the year. Drying concentrates the flavor and nutrition and gives our California figs a wonderful chewiness. Whether fresh or dried, figs uniquely deliver a delightful little crunch of tiny edible seeds in every delicious bite.

California Dried Figs taste great right out of the package as an energy-rich snack. After school, at work, or on the way to the gym, figs are easy to eat and conveniently portable. When it comes to cooking, dried figs deliver taste, nutrition and appetite appeal in appetizers, entrees, side dishes and especially desserts.

With the fresh fig season being so short and availability throughout the country limited, we often get asked if dried figs can be substituted for fresh in recipes. The answer is yes, no and maybe.

Like most fresh fruits, fresh figs have more moisture than dried. A recipe calling for fresh figs takes that moisture into consideration. If you are wanting to substitute dried figs for fresh, you will need to try to add some of the moisture back. Hydrating dried figs by simmering them in water, wine, port, liqueurs, or juices often works well. However, recipes that rely on a sensitive balance of wet and dry ingredients, like many baked goods, are probably not good candidates for substitutions. Recipes such as stews, cobblers, jams and preserves, puddings, grain dishes, salads, some appetizers (stuff figs with goat cheese and wrap with prosciutto), jams and preserves can work well.

Ideally, it’s best to make recipes as directed. Substitutions can take some trial and error and are for the more adventuresome. You’ll find lots of fresh fig recipes at the California Fig Advisory Board web site, www.CaliforniaFigs.com, and lots of dried fig recipes at our web site, www.valleyfig.com.

Chocolate-Fig Banana Bread

A great after-school treat or lunch addition. Make several loaves. Slice and wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt      
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas (about 4)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup stemmed, chopped Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Figs
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate morsels

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350˚. Oil 9-x-5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. In separate bowl, whisk together bananas, eggs, oil and vanilla. Whisk liquids into dry ingredients, mixing just until blended. Stir in figs and chocolate. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake 60 to 70 minutes (cover with foil after about 30 minutes to prevent overbrowning) or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Run sharp knife around edge of pan and remove bread from pan to wire rack to cool. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature or freeze. Makes 1 loaf.

Our Kind of Guy

Bassem Samaan, of Bethlehem, Pa., shows off one of many rare fig varieties in his garden.

In Alastair Bland’s recent blog on NPR’s the SALT, we read with great interest about Bassem Samaan, “A Man on a Mission to Save Rare and Unusual Figs.” Bassem, who lives in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, grows almost 300 varieties of figs. His goal, along with a handful of others, is to preserve rare or unusual fruit varieties. Samaan operates a small business called Trees of Joy, selling cuttings to farmers and gardeners. His fig varieties include Celeste and Panache, along with many Greek, Syrian, Portuguese and Italian varieties he has found in ethnic neighborhoods in Pennsylvania. Another fig lover, Jon Verdick of San Diego, has 800 varieties and is part of a preservation project called Figs4Fun, which is striving to have 3,000 varieties. In Sacramento, at the Wolfskill Experimental Orchard, the US Government has over 10,000 varieties of fruit trees managed by the Department of Ag and UC Davis. The Wolfskill fig plot includes about 300 varieties.

From growing figs to cooking figs to eating figs, more and more people around the world are jumping on the fig bandwagon, and we can’t be happier!

Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/08/22/159750471/meet-a-man-on-a-mission-to-save-rare-and-unusual-figs?sc=emaf

Yummy Fig Recipes Spotted

  • Southern Living Magazine, August 2012, Celebrate Fig Season, Figgy Focaccia, Pancetta and Fig Pasta, Baked Fig Crostini, Rosemary Flank Steak with Fig Salsa, Bacon Wrapped Figs
  • Culinary Institute of America’s online recipe collection, Foie Gras Fig Newton
  • Better Homes & Garden Fall Baking 2012, Fig and Pear Cobbler with Cornmeal-Amaretti Biscuits, Figgy Brie Rolls
  • Pinterest: Figs Stuffed with Nutella

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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