The soil and climate in the San Joaquin Valley are ideal for growing figs. Figs thrive in the Valley’s hot, dry summer sun.
New plantings of fig trees reach bearing age at 5-7 years. Fig trees have tremendous longevity, some trees planted at the onset of California’s commercial fig production are still actively bearing fruit today, almost 100 years later.
Most of the activity in the orchards begins in May as the fruit appears on the tree and culminates in October when the final “picking” of the dried fruit is completed. For Valley Fig Growers however, fig production is a year-round business. We are continually preparing the soil, monitoring irrigation and pruning the trees for maximum yields from their orchards.
Unlike other tree fruits or nuts, fig trees have no blossoms on their branches; the flowers are inverted and actually develop inside the fruit. These many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little seeds which give figs their unique texture.
The Mission fig crop has two crops. The first crop, minor in production, matures in late June and is used for fresh figs. This fig has a longer stem and is used almost exclusively for fig paste. The second Mission crop ripens later in the summer with the other fig varieties and is used for our consumer retail business.
Calimyrna figs require a most unusual type of pollination, referred to as caprification, in order to have the fruit mature. California fig growers learned that the answer to the pollination caprification question was a tiny wasp known as a Blastophaga. This stingerless insect, no bigger than a gnat, enters the open “eye” at the bottom of the Calimyrna fig and unwittingly pollinates caprifies it by brushing pollen onto the female flowers. The tiny wasp then exits the fig to pollinate caprify other fig flowers.
The California Fig Industry requires that all incoming deliveries be 100% sampled, i.e. a sample is drawn from each bin to determine if the fruit meets all incoming standards established by the State of California Marketing Order for dried figs.
Only when a grower’s delivery meets the incoming standard will the fruit be allowed to be processed. Valley Fig Growers’ extensive cold storage facilities help maintain the product’s quality from time of receipt to when it’s actually packed.
Upon delivery to Valley Fig Growers, all fruit meeting the high quality standards required for whole fig usage is segregated and size graded.
The dried figs are washed and processed bringing their moisture content up from the 14-20% as delivered, to a moisture content as high as 31% which make our figs plump, moist and delicious.
The fruit then travels through at least 2 more “sorts” to remove blemished fruit.
Dried figs destined for our domestic consumer packages and most bulk fig customers are treated with potassium sorbate to inhibit yeast (fermentation) and mold growth. In order to preserve the beautiful amber color of our Golden figs, sulfur dioxide is added, although at much lower levels than is customary for other dried fruits such as apricots, peaches, pears or apples. Valley Fig Growers also offers non-treated figs.
Blue Ribbon Orchard Choice and Sun-Maid brand figs are either shipped direct from our Valley Fig Growers facility or are shipped to Sun-Maid Growers of California for consolidation with Sun-Maid products. Packaged figs are also stored at remote warehouses to enhance customer service.
Valley Fig Growers Quality Control staff ensures that the highest possible quality standards are met.
Valley Fig also boasts the only micro-biological lab in the California fig industry, giving us instant access to more in-depth analysis of our products to ensure the finest in quality.
Valley Fig is a member of the Dried Fruit Association of California (DFA), which acts as the independent inspection service governing plant sanitation and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s) to ensure quality fig products.
As a result of our rigorous quality assurance program, our outgoing standards for all of our fig products meet or exceed U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Food and Drug Administration standards.