Nick Moless has been a team member for our global produce procurement office since 2001. He has purchased several commodities for Whole Foods Market including berries, hard fruit and row crop vegetables. Nick's favorite fruit is the Adriatic fig. One of the fruits I look forward to all summer long is the fig. The fig season is broken up into two parts. The first small peak, known as the breba crop, occurs in May. This fruit really just serves to whet our appetites until the second peak, which occurs in early August. The "fig" crop, as it is known, brings with it the largest volumes, greatest varietal selection and the best tasting fruit of the year. Maywood Farms, which is owned and operated by the Steinacher family, is a grower we love at Whole Foods Market. A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to visit this farm in Corning, California, and I learned all about their story. Fig harvesting at Maywood Farms The hot dry summers and mild winters of the Northern Sacramento Valley are the ideal climate for fig production. Bob and Karen Steinacher manage the farm; Bob handling the growing, sales and shipping while Karen takes care of the picking and packing. Karen and Bob Steinacher Bob's journey into farming was definitely not via the traditional route. Originally from the Silicon Valley in a non-farming family, Bob initially studied entomology at UC-Davis. Then he enrolled in courses in production agriculture and became hooked on farming. After college, Bob ran a small scale operation before purchasing a 265-acre parcel of land that is now Maywood Farms. At first, Bob planned on growing figs to be dried. His first crop was too small to mechanically harvest for the processors, so Bob handpicked and packed the product fresh. He sold them on the San Francisco terminal market, and the reception was so good that Bob made the decision to focus on the fresh market instead. In 1990, Bob had 25 of his acres certified organic by CCOF and Maywood grew their first organic crop. Now, 172.5 acres are certified organic and are the focus of this family farm. The Steinachers also utilize solar and wind power to fuel the operation. Organic Black Mission Figs To me, the really fascinating part of the later fig season is all of the unique variety. In addition to the well-known Black Mission Figs, Maywood also grows several other fantastic varieties. Some of my favorites include:
- Brown Turkey - large in size with a rich copper color. Not quite as sweet as the Black Mission, but still a great eating fig.
- Kadota - thick creamy amber colored skin. Very few seeds and a sweet honey flavor.
- Adriatic - my personal favorite - green skin and bright magenta interior. They are affectionately referred to as "jellybags" because the flesh tastes like raspberry jam. They are extremely delicate, so unfortunately these cannot be shipped too far from the source.