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From the Los Angeles Times to the nation's leading magazines--such as Cooking Light, Bon Appetit, and Family Circle--figs are all the rage this

summer, and for good reason.

"California figs are more popular than ever," reports Karla Stockli, Chief Executive Officer, California Fresh Fig Growers Association. "Figs have been sold in their fresh form for many years, but sales have increased tremendously in the past decade. They've been rediscovered by a new generation of chefs and consumers, and it's very exciting."

They can all delight in the excellent quality of the 2014 crop now available across all varieties–Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Calimyrna, Kadota, Sierra, and Tiger Figs.

Peak season is underway for California Fresh Figs. Typically, the fresh season begins in mid-May, but this year the first fresh figs were picked in April due to warm weather. And, according to Stockli, there is a good chance there will still be some fresh figs in the marketplace from this season as late as January.

With fruit now available in stores, California fig farmers offer the following tips as a reminder when purchasing fresh figs:

>>Look for the softest figs; a soft texture indicates the fruit is ready to consume immediately.

>>Don't be concerned about small slits or tears in the skin as long as the fig has a fresh aroma.

>>Fresh figs are delicate. Handle gently.

>>Keep figs in the refrigerator for as long as five to seven days.

>>Too many to eat right away? Just rinse and freeze. Simply arrange in a single layer on a pan and put in the freezer. Transfer frozen figs to a sealed plastic bag, where they can be kept in the freezer for up to six months.

>>Avoid figs with a fermentation odor; it indicates that the fruit is overripe.

Stockli adds that everything except the stem is edible, and figs can be enjoyed by themselves or combined with other favorite summertime foods. Each variety has unique and different flavors–from the robust flavor of a pinot noir to the buttery nuttiness of Chardonnay–try them all to find your favorites. An excellent source of dietary fiber, fresh, flavorful California figs are also high in antioxidants, fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free.

Never tried a fresh fig? Although super delicious and sweet on their own, figs add flavor and fun to a number of classic dishes, such as this Waldorf Salad with California Figs–perfect for a hot, summer night.

WALDORF SALAD WITH CALIFORNIA FIGS

INGREDIENTS

Dressing
1 cup sour cream
¾ cup plain yogurt
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons verjus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and white pepper; to taste

  • Chicken
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4 ounces each); poached and diced
  • 4 stalks celery, ribs removed and sliced
  • 3 Granny Smith apples; peeled, cored, and diced ½-inch
  • 3 red radishes, shredded
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
  • ¼ cup dried California figs, stemmed and diced
  • ½ cup fresh California Mission figs, stemmed and diced
  • ¼ cup candied pecans
  • 6 to 12 butter lettuce leaves
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds only (optional)

PROCEDURE
Combine sour cream, yogurt, mustard, parsley, honey, ver jus, olive oil, salt, and pepper in large mixing bowl; whisk and mix together well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add diced chicken, celery, apples, peppers, radishes, raisins, and figs to mixing bowl and toss to coat well with dressing.

To serve, divide and scoop salad onto individual salad plates lined with butter lettuce leaves. Garnish with candied pecans and pomegranate seeds, as desired.

Serves: 6

Source: California Fig Advisory Board and California Fresh Fig Growers Association, californiafigs.com

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