Fig Fiesta!

8.23.17 — It’s fig season! Here is all you need to know about harvesting the “Fruit of the Gods,” along with some fun fig facts!

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Hang out with Food Forward long enough and you may develop what we like to call Fruit Goggles. The next thing you know you’re completely in-tune with the seasons and exactly which fruits and vegetables are growing around you. That is why it would come as no surprise if all of you fruitanthropists out there have already spotted what comes next on the Food Forward fruit calendar.

That’s right! Figs are here and we want to talk about it!

Whether you are an experienced Food Forward Pick Leader, volunteer, or homeowner dealing with the “Fruit of the Gods” this season, Food Forward would like to throw some fun facts and tips that hopefully will make you look at this fruit in a whole new way.

First things first, if you’re getting ready to harvest figs this season, do you know what to look for? How do we know a fig is ripe and ready to be harvested? Whether you’re harvesting Golden figs or sweet Mission figs, here is a list of tips to help you FIGure this one out!

– When plucked, fruit should not drip white sap (fig latex)

– Make sure the stem holding the fig to the branch is limber

– How a fig hangs can often be a better ripeness indicator than color

– When ripe, figs will droop forming a J-shape between fruit and stem

– Fruit should be soft

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It is important to keep in mind that not all of the fruit on a fig tree becomes ripe together (unlike citrus) so, for those of you who like to pick a tree clean every time, figs may not be your cup of tea, although we hear tea made from fig leaf is both good for your health and very tasty indeed! Back to the issue at hand… while this unsynchronized fruiting can make our work here at Food Forward a bit more challenging, it is important to only harvest the fruit that is ready to be picked and wait until the next batch matures in a few days or weeks. For this reason Food Forward volunteers often harvest the same fig tree multiple times during the short fig season

One of the reasons it is really important to know when a fig is ready to be picked or, more importantly, when it is NOT, is because of the potential skin irritation that some people can develop when coming in contact with the white sap present in unripe figs. Known as fig latex, the sap contains an enzyme called ficin that can be a skin irritant to some people. So next time you’re out picking figs, leave the green unripe fruit to be harvested a different time, and be sure to wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt, just in case. With that said, it’s not all bad news when it comes to ficin. The same enzyme is also a main contributing ingredient that makes the fig a powerful laxative.

Here are some additional fun FIG-Facts we thought you’d enjoy:

– Figs are highly perishable so should be consumed within a day or two of harvest/purchase.

– The natural sugar content in figs is 55 percent, which makes them the sweetest fruit in the world.

– Because figs can hold moisture, they are a great substitute for butter or oil in baking. Don’t forget to bring us some if you try this!

– Fossil records date figs back to between 9400 – 9200 B.C

– 98% of the figs produced in the U.S come from California

– Figs are rich in potassium and fiber, which are said to help lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure

– Figs thrive in Mediterranean climates like Greece, Spain and, of course, Southern California!

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