Though Randy Pudwill has spent decades in the fields as owner of Pudwill Berry Farms, as a child, his first taste of figs reminded him of the supermarket.
"I thought, 'Wow, that tastes like a Fig Newtons. And then I realized they were better."
In the first part of Follow That Ingredient, we speak with Pudwill to learn about his Black Mission Figs before traveling with them to The Tasting Kitchen in Venice to learn how chef Casey Lane prepares balsamic roasted fig and goat cheese bruschetta. Check back tomorrow for the second part of the story.
Pudwill's father began Pudwill Berrry Farms by growing raspberries in the early 80's. Decades later, Pudwill's 59 acre farm in Nipomo grows a variety for fruits, from Hautbois strawberries to hairless kiwis. If someone asks "What's the sweetest thing on the table?" though, the inevitable answer is the basket of figs, Pudwill says.
The Black Mission variety has very dark purple skin, pink flesh and two crops a season, the first starting as early as May and the second extending to as late as November. The drop-off between these two fruiting sessions can be extreme, going from twenty flats of figs in one week to only a fraction the next. Sometimes the figs in this interim period are hard, in which case he won't sell them.
This "big push" of fig abundance we're experiencing now is a little later than normal. Though the Black Mission variety requires less heat, this year's strange cold has delayed the crop until only recently.
Pudwill will have these figs for at least another couple of weeks, he says, selling them for $5 for one basket and $14 for three at all three Santa Monica Farmer's Market and the Hollywood, Studio City, Beverly Hills, South Pasadena and Pasadena Farmer's Markets.
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When asked what customers could do with these figs, Pudwill's answer was simple: "Eat 'em."
Follow That Ingredient follows one ingredient from the farmers market to a local restaurant, providing a recipe that answers every market-goer's question: "What should I buy and how should I prepare it?"