From California to Europe, groups are proclaiming 2011 to be the year of the fig, but no one let the figs know.
The sweet, nutritious fruit is somewhat fashionably late this season because of the cool, wet spring in California. Depending on which grower you ask, the first crop of California figs started coming in anywhere from a few days to as much as three weeks late.
But fig fans say the wait is worth it.
“We just finally got our first figs of the season in our office two days ago,” said California Fig Advisory Board chief executive officer Karla Stockli on June 17. “They were a little late, but they had the best flavor I’ve tasted in years.”
The fig board didn’t realize the crop would arrive late when they declared 2011 the year of the fig. But they did know the fruit would get a special boost this year after two culinary organizations proclaimed the fig as the No. 1 emerging fruit, relative to increased use and growth in popularity.
That proclamation came from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Atlanta, and Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Louisville, Ky. “This increased interest should help us with our biggest challenge,” Stockli said, “which is to liberate the fig from the Newton.”
Stockli and several California growers said they expected overall volumes to be close to last year’s, though the first crop may be a little off.
Despite being a week late, grower George Kragie, president of Madera, Calif.,-based Western Fresh Marketing Services Inc., said the figs in his first crop were looking a little larger than usual.
The trees have a lot of new growth on them, which should produce a large second crop, Kragie added.
At Stellar Distributing, Madera, Calif., director of business development Casey Hollnagel said on June 17 that the first crop was up to three weeks late.
“Normally, we would have been picking black missions by now,” he said. “The rain didn’t hurt the figs, but the cool May slowed them down. Prices are looking normal, though.”
One-layer flats of size 35 brown turkey figs from California brought $31 in Baltimore, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cartons of 24 14-ounce packages film-wrapped calmyrna figs brought $62. Flats of 12 8-ounce lidded containers of brown turkeys brought $24.
Further north, at Passion Fruit Farms in Merced, Calif., third-generation grower-owner Tonetta Simone Gladwin said on June 17 that she hadn’t been able to start harvesting.