Recipe and photos by Katie Olsen. Courtesy: Valley Fig Growers
FRESNO — Sumerian stone tablets dating back to 2500 B.C. record culinary use of figs, and remains of fig trees were found during excavations of Neolithic sites from 5000 B.C. Some historians consider it the first of the domesticated crops. Figs hold a position of symbolism in many world religions, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, and Buddhism, representing fertility, peace, and prosperity.
Valley Fig Growers, producer of Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice Figs, is the largest handler of figs in North America. Established in 1959, the cooperative has more than 50 grower members and is headquartered in the fig capital of the United States — Fresno, California. The fertile San Joaquin Valley is perfectly suited to grow figs. Resilient and hardy fig trees thrive in the hot, dry summers and rainy winters. Figs have been growing in California since the early 1500s and are now a sizable participant in the world of California agriculture. Figs sweetened all types of desserts before the widespread use of sugar, and still appear as the main ingredient in many popular holiday dishes and the commercially venerable Fig Newtons cookie since 1891.
The fig-grower-owned cooperative is one of the largest handlers of figs in North America. Whether you’re using their dried figs or fig products in a commercial kitchen or enjoying their dried figs at home, the benefits of dried figs are countless. You can find them in your favorite store or online, under the brands: Sun-Maid, Orchard Choice, and Blue Ribbon.
Figs are a whole food source of important nutrients and have no fat, cholesterol, or sodium, and they help you meet today’s Dietary Guidelines established by the US Department of Agriculture. A daily lifestyle that focuses on balancing calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active can help you attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health. Figs, especially dried ones, are rich in antioxidants thanks to their high polyphenol content. Research shows figs’ polyphenol content is higher than both red wine and green tea.
California figs are GMO-Free, vegan friendly, and packed with nutrition. Whether you enjoy figs for their nutritional powerhouse reputation, their wonderful taste, or their reputed aphrodisiac qualities, California figs are an excellent food source and smart addition to any diet. Figs grow from June to late August and are allowed to fully ripen on the tree from August through September. The figs then fall to the carefully prepared ground where further drying and then harvesting occurs. The figs will be harvested several times during the season.