Figs 101

by | Jan 7, 2019 | Aggie Life, Fall/Winter 2018-19, Food

There’s more to the fig than its snackability. Hussain Al-Asaad, associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, teaches a first-year seminar emphasizing the fig’s versatility. As a fruit-growing hobbyist, he finds figs some of the easiest and most nutritious fruits to grow. “Figs are an excellent source of fiber; they’re said to help reduce or cure many diseases, so I would consider them one of the superfruits,” said Al-Asaad. Here, he shares some little-known fig facts.

On growing figs:

California is the best place to grow figs, according to Al-Asaad, who is currently growing and testing more than 300 varieties in containers in his home backyard. And certain varieties — the San Pedro and Smyrna — require pollination by a wasp found only in one state: California. Plus, Al-Asaad said, the pollinated figs are the best tasting.

On myth busting:

Have you heard the one about dead wasps in figs? Al-Asaad dispells that myth. “The wasps go inside the fig and die there,” he said. “They actually disintegrate inside the fruit.”

On figs’ availability:

While more than 1,000 varieties of figs exist, only three are sold in stores: Black Mission, Brown Turkey, and Panache Tiger. “Figs in the market are often picked early to extend their shelf life, because they cannot stay good for long,” said Al-Asaad, adding that the fig must be fully ripened on the tree before it is picked to get the best taste. Growing your own figs allows you to experience more varieties and flavors.