Proof of summer: Calimyrna figs
I live in San Francisco, where year round gray skies and mild maritime weather keep me mostly ignorant of drought, frost, hail and all the other elements common to the inland farm country. Information about weather conditions in the state’s growing areas only comes to me via fresh produce—and years ago I decided that no unit of natural data is as precise as the fig.
The arrival of figs in the market tells me, without question, that the weather has been warm lately in the nearest area of production. This year, when the first crop of figs did not show throughout June and only appeared in mid-July, I knew with certainty that the spring had been a cool one. Farmers verified this for me. But most other fruits are comparatively worthless as informants of weather conditions for coastal urbanites like me. Consider the apple: The omnipresence of this ubiquitous fruit tells us zilch about space or time, weather or region, because apples are everywhere, always. So are avocados, bananas, tomatoes.
But figs are supremely special. No farmers produce fresh figs for California other than our own, and fresh figs simply do not exist locally outside of the harvest season. That is a rare and singular thing.
The first crop has mostly come and gone—though where I live a few super-ripe first-crop figs are still dangling off the old wood as the second crop swells off the new growth that tumbles outward toward the sun. Now, the second-crop fruits of the San Joaquin Valley’s figs are in stores, and the Sacramento Valley’s trees are about to burst. The huge, saucer-shaped green figs now appearing in local supermarkets is the Calimyrna—the darling of the dried-fig industry, the staple of the San Joaquin Valley and one of the very best for fresh consumption. It’s amber, molten interior glistens with the sugar of the sun, and for we who live blindly in fog and cloud, its arrival confirms beyond doubt: It’s summer now.