FRESNO, Calif., November 5, 2009 – Alaska and Hawaii have joined the Union as America’s 49th and 50th states. Astronauts have walked on the moon. The Berlin Wall has been torn down. Gone, too, are leisure suits, black and white televisions, shag carpet, and disco music. Although much has changed since 1959, certain things have remained consistent – Valley Fig Growers continues to grow and market the highest quality California figs to meet the increasing demand for naturally nutritious food products.
Linda Cain, Vice President of Marketing for Valley Fig Growers, noted, “Valley Fig Growers was established in 1959 to ensure a consistent supply of fair-priced California dried figs. Today, we are the leading supplier of quality dried fig products to home cooks, culinary professionals, and food manufacturers. Marketed under the Blue Ribbon®, Blue Ribbon® Orchard Choice® and Sun-Maid® brands, our California figs are always rich in complex carbohydrates, an excellent source of dietary fiber and a wealth of essential minerals such as potassium, iron and calcium. From whole dried figs to fig paste, cooking enthusiasts trust Valley Fig Growers to deliver the highest quality California fig products.”
In celebration of Valley Fig Growers’ 50th anniversary, the grower-
owned cooperative is sponsoring a contest to discover fig enthusiasts’ favorite recipes, products and anecdotes. Linda Cain observed, “The “Fabulous at 50” contest will enable our consumers and buyers to utilize today’s digital technology to share their enthusiasm for fig products and recipes during the peak consumption period. Starting November 16, 2009, “Fabulous at 50” contest details will be available on our web site, valleyfig.com, and entries will be accepted via email to email@example.com until January 31, 2010.”
Native to the Mediterranean, figs are the ultimate “functional food” – they are naturally free of fat, cholesterol and sodium, contain calcium, iron, fiber and antioxidants, and as much potassium as a banana. Extremely versatile, figs can add tremendous flavor and texture to everything from salads and entrees to desserts. Sweet-tasting and portable, figs are the perfect high-energy snack for before or after a workout.
As the largest producer of dried figs in North America, Valley Fig Growers includes 30 growers that account for 50 percent of California’s fig production. Paul Mesple, Chairman of the Board of Directors and son of a founding member, Henry Mesple, said, "For the past 50 years, Valley Fig Growers has provided excellent returns to its members and stability to the California fig industry. My family and I are proud to be a part of this top notch organization.” The company produces a variety of quality fig products, including dried figs, paste, concentrate, diced and sliced figs, Fruit Nuggets™, fig slurry, fig balsamic vinegar, and powders.
Figs enjoy a rich history that dates back to ancient times. Originally found in areas from Asiatic Turkey to northern India, figs were brought to the Americas in the early 1500’s by Spanish explorers. Figs ultimately made their way to California’s fertile soils through the Spanish missionary fathers who planted fig trees from San Diego to Sonoma. The dark purple “Mission” fig takes its name from this history.
The Smyrna fig was imported in 1882 by a San Joaquin Valley grower who renamed it Calimyrna in honor of its new home. It was not until about 1900, however, that the unique caprification and pollination method for the golden-colored Calimyrna fig was discovered and established, making wide-scale production a possibility.
In California, four principle varieties of figs are grown: the amber colored Calimyrna; the dark, purplish colored Mission; the Adriatic and the Kadota. The Calimyrna and the Mission varieties are the most prevalent varieties in the whole fig market and represent over two-thirds of the California fig production. The Adriatic variety is used almost exclusively in the production of fig paste. The Kadota is canned in its fresh state for a small consumer market or dried for export.