Kadota and The lightness of Bee-ing September 11, 2006

At one company meeting, Jeff, our distribution manager, told us a great story about how on the second day of a rafting trip on the Snake River in Idaho when he was 10, he and his dad woke up early on the grassy plateau above the river where they were camping and walked into a nearby field. The field was thick with low grasses and flowers. Gigantic, velvety black and yellow bumble bees, caught in the cold darkness of night were clinging to the fuzzy ends of wild sand-brown grasses. Jeff and his dad reached out to a few and stroked their soft backs between the wings as they shuddered with annoyance in their groggy and immobile state. As the sun cut across the field and warmed them, they started popping up from the grasses and flying into the air with the sound of an army of 2-year olds humming lazily into plastic kazoos.

Bees and other pollinating insects are truly amazing creatures and if you don’t believe me, just ask the fig. Harold Magee in On Food and Cooking, the science and lore of the kitchen writes about the important relationship between one type of little flying pollinator and the fig:

He says that the fig is unusual in being more flower than fruit. “The main body is a fleshy flower base folded in on itself, with an open pore opposite the stem, and inner female florets that develop into small individual dry fruits that crunch like seeds. You can think of it as an inverted version of a strawberry – it surrounds rather than underlies the true tiny fruits it contains. These florets (found inside the fig) are pollinated by tiny wasps that enter through the pore.” It is said by some fig experts that although many figs will set without pollination, fertilization of the fig from the wasp is recognizably different in taste from non-pollinated development. (Chalk one up for the collaborative process).

Kadota (and Calimyrna) figs are popular California “white” figs that are really a light shade of green. You can tell when they are ready to eat by how soft they are (don’t worry, they are supposed to be green). A tender fig is best. My favorite Kadota will have a wonderful honey-like syrup that seeps from the bottom of the fig and a nectar taste that is unparalleled. My wife likes to take these ripe figs and wrap them with prosciutto – an Italian delicacy that produces a wonderful salty and sweet taste. I recommend waiting until the fig is soft and then cutting into quarters and eating in a wedge or peeling and eating the fruit inside. Some also enjoy eating the skin as well.

Enjoy and be fruitful! – Chris Mittelstaedt chiefbanana@fruitguys.com

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