History of Figs
Figs are one of the earliest fruits cultivated by man. Native to areas from Asiatic Turkey to northern India, figs spread to all the countries around the Mediterranean. Today, the United States, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Spain are the primary producing nations of dried figs.
Worldwide, there are thought to be more than 1,600 varieties of figs. 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 or consumed fresh.
The Spaniards brought figs to the Americas in the early 1500’s. Figs made their way to California through the missionary fathers who planted them from San Diego to Sonoma. The “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. California’s commercial fig growing efforts started in 1885. It was not until about 1900, however, that the unique caprification and pollination method for the Calimyrna fig was discovered and established, making wide-scale production a possibility.