18 July, 2011
The fig is a sweet, tart fruit that boasts a long history, stretching back to ancient Greece and Egypt. Figs were originally native to Western Asia, but have been spread throughout the Mediterranean and today are grown in sunny climates from Germany to California. There are hundreds of varieties of figs, but four major types of figs dominate the market in the United States.
Calimyra figs are recognizable by their green-yellow skin and amber coloring on the inside of the fruit. They're grown primarily in the San Diego region of California and are highly prized among fig connoisseurs for their sweet, nutty flavor. Their cultivation is unusual -- small pollinator wasps are used to pollinate the figs in a process called caprification, which gives the calimyra figs their distinctive flavor. Calimyra figs are more perishable than other varieties of figs and are often dried and used in confections and pastries.
Black mission figs are so named for having been cultivated by the Franciscans in their missions in San Diego in 1769. Black mission, or simply "mission" figs are still primarily grown in the San Diego region, although you can also find them in warmer climates in the Southeast. Black mission figs are recognizable for their black-purple coloring, elongated shape and pink "watermelon" colored flesh. Black Mission figs are a particularly sweet and syrupy variety of fig and pair well with fresh cheese or yogurt. They can also be dried or eaten fresh.
Kadota figs have a distinctive light green-yellow outer skin and amber flesh with a pink tinge radiating out from the center of the fruit. Kadota figs thrive the best in hot, dry climates, such as the Mediterranean. In general, kadota figs are more likely to be used in baking and canning as they are less sweet than other varieties and are naturally seedless. Kadota figs are the American version of the Italian dattato fig.
Brown turkey figs originated in Provence, France, but can be found today throughout the southern U.S., particularly Southern California, although they are also adaptable to colder climates. Brown turkey figs are also know as San Pedro or black Spanish figs. The skins of brown turkey figs are smooth and brown-purple in color, with yellowish pink flesh inside. Brown turkey figs are sweet and good for eating fresh, dried, or to be used in baking and cooking.
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