Local Food Newsletter – August
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Welcome to N.C. Cooperative Extension, Currituck County Center’s Local Foods Newsletter! This month’s edition will be focused on figs. Enclosed you will find fun facts on figs, including the history of the fig, biology, planting, harvest, nutritional information, storing, cooking, and more! This newsletter also includes an interactive map that is linked to Google Maps. Users can click on their desired local foods operation and be given directions to the business. Following the map is a quick-reference table containing the local businesses in the area that sell local figs. Don’t forget to check out our upcoming local food classes for cooking and gardening with herbs and container greens! For email reminders of future Local Foods Newsletters, fill out this short form.
Fun Fact. This month’s highlighted local food is figs. Fig trees are native to Asia Minor and grow exceptionally well along the Mediterranean Sea. Ancient civilizations believed these were sacred fruit and are one of the oldest fruits known to mankind. Figs were historically used as sweeteners before refined sugars were invented. In the early 1500s, Spanish missionaries brought the fig to America, hence the popular Mission fig.
Although considered to be a fruit, the fig is actually a flower that has inverted into itself. The part inside the fig that looks like seeds are actually drupes or the real fig fruit. The fig flowers have an obligate mutualistic relationship with tiny fig-pollinating wasps. This means that the figs need a specific small wasp in order to be pollinated. The female wasps pollinate the female flowers by laying eggs into the flowers. A number of weeks later, adult wasp offspring emerge, just as the male flowers have matured. The new generation of female wasps leave the fruit through holes made by male wasps and carry pollen to other fig flowers, pollinating them. This symbiosis is required by many varieties of figs and if absent, will result in fruit abortion. For this reason, figs are not eaten by vegetarians.
Planting. Fig trees are low maintenance fruit trees that grow well in Eastern North Carolina. There are three main varieties of figs that do not require wasps to pollinate and grow well here: Celeste, Brown Turkey, and Brunswick. Celeste is a hardy variety with small fruit that are violet or light brown. The pulp is a light strawberry pink. The fruit is good fresh or when used in canning or making preserves. Brown Turkey is also sold as Texas Everbearing and Harrison. Its fruit are medium to large with a light coppery brown skin and amber pulp that is good quality for fresh use and is excellent for preserves. Brunswick or Magnolia has a large, hollow fruit that is light brown with darker ribs and practically no stem. The pulp is amber and is only recommended for preserves.
Dormant, bare-rooted, nursery-grown plants can be set anytime between late fall and early spring. Plant a fig tree 1 to 2 inches deeper than it was in the nursery and 10 to 15 feet apart. After it is set, firm the soil, water lightly, and cut the main stem to 3 feet. If the tree is container-grown, it is not necessary to prune it after planting.
Harvest. Figs grown in North Carolina are highly perishable and ferment under ordinary conditions shortly after being picked. To circumvent this, use fruit as it ripens, especially in damp weather. The fruit cannot be sun-dried because of the high humidity here in North Carolina. Fresh figs are not tasty until soft and ripe; therefore, pick them just as the fruit begins to soften. Ripe figs can be stored for a short time at cool temperatures (about 40° F) to slow spoilage and souring. For preserving, figs may be picked a few days before they are fully ripe. The fruit will hold together better once cooked, a step that reduces the chance for spoilage or souring. If your skin is sensitive to the fig’s milky latex, wear gloves during harvest.
Nutritional information. Figs are a great, low-calorie food source. One serving of fresh figs (100 g) has 74 calories and 0 grams of fat, while one serving (one cup) of dried figs contains 186 calories and 2 grams of protein. Figs are rich in antioxidants and rank with other high antioxidant foods, such as red wine and green tea. Additionally, figs are high in calcium with 35 mg in a serving of fresh figs, and 121 mg when dried. Because of this, they are an excellent calcium alternative for people who are allergic to dairy products. Calcium and potassium present in figs prevent bone thinning and help promote bone density. Figs are full of dietary fiber with 3 grams in a serving of fresh figs and 7 grams in a dried serving, which makes figs useful for a weight-management program. The soluble fiber called pectin, helps in reducing blood cholesterol. The rich potassium content of figs helps to maintain the blood pressure of the body.
Storing. Fresh figs are perishable and should be kept refrigerated after harvest. The skin is fragile, and often scars during the growing period from the leaves rubbing against the fruit. These marks do not hurt the flesh inside. Use fresh figs as soon as possible. Under ideal conditions, fresh figs will store for as long as 5 to 7 days, or frozen in a sealed bag/container for up to 6 months. Dried figs will stay fresh for several months and can either be kept in a cool, dark place or stored in the refrigerator. They should be well wrapped so that they are not overexposed to air that may cause them to become hard or dry.
Fig Goat Cheese Pizza with Arugula
- 2T plus 1t olive oil, divided
- 1T minced shallot
- 1C dried figs stemmed, quartered
- 1/2C Marsala
- 1T minced fresh rosemary
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces fresh goat cheese
- 2 cups arugula
- 1 pear, cored, thinly sliced
- Pre-made Pizza crust/ Flatbread
Heat 1-2 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot; stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add figs, Marsala, and rosemary. Increase heat. Bring to a boil. Add 1 cup water. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring often and adding water by tablespoonfuls if too thick until figs are soft and jam measures 1 1/4 cups, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread 3–4 Tbsp. fig jam over crust/flatbread; scatter 2 oz. goat cheese over each. Bake in batches until crust is crisp, 4–5 minutes.
Toss arugula, pear, and remaining 1 tsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Top pizzas with salad.
Upcoming Local Foods Events
Join us for one of our local foods cooking and gardening classes. Registration is now available on our website so go ahead and reserve these dates on your calendar.
Cooking and Gardening with Herbs
Do you love cooking with Herbs? Would you love to cook with herbs year-round? Well, this is the class for you! Gardening and Cooking with Herbs will be held on Thursday, August 22, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Create a windowsill herb garden, then learn to cook with the herbs you planted. Class fee is $20.00 and includes lunch as well as your own windowsill garden.
Cooking and Gardening with Container Greens
Do you love eating greens picked fresh from the garden? Got a bumper crop of them and don’t know what to do? Well, this is the class for you! The N.C. Cooperative Extension of Currituck County is having a “Gardening and Cooking with Container Greens” class on Wednesday, September 11, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration and a class fee of $20.00 are required.
This interactive map contains many of the businesses in Currituck that sell local produce. To view the map legend, click the small square box at the left of the map name. This should bring up a list of the direct sale markets, pick-your-own operations, roadside markets, vineyards and breweries, and N.C. seafood operations on the left. You can then click on the pins on the map or on the legend to view each local business. Each listing will contain a contact number, operating season and hours, and produce the business sells. If you click the View in Google Maps option below the description you will be given directions to the business from your current location.
The highlighted business section shows the businesses that sell the month’s highlighted local food. This month we have five businesses that will be open and selling figs. Information on those businesses can be found in the table below, or in the interactive map above.
|Seaside Farm Market
|M-Su, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
|787 Sunset Blvd., Corolla
|Tar Heel Produce
|7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
|6954 Caratoke Hwy, Grandy
|Powell’s Roadside Market
|7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
|2138 Caratoke Hwy, Moyock
|Grandy Greenhouse & Farm Market
|7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
|6264 Caratoke Hwy, Grandy
|Morris Farm Market
|9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
|3784 Caratoke Hwy, Maple
For email reminders of upcoming Local Foods Newsletters, fill out this short form. If you have a local food operation you would like advertised in upcoming installments, please fill out our producer form or contact Adam Formella by email or phone at Adam_Formella@ncsu.edu or 252-232-2262.