Recently I have been seeing a lot of nuts/dried fruits imported from Turkey sold in Trader Joe’s; started with the dried apricots, later we were also buying the hazelnuts and pistachios grown in Turkey. Call me a nationalist, but whenever I see something made/grown in Turkey, I tend to favor those over the others, even the local grown ones. This time, it was the dried organic Smyrna figs. Sure enough a box went into my basket even though I had a box of dried Calimyrna figs at home. Similarities in the names of these figs have been in my mind, something to research on but I kept forgetting. I know Smyrna is the name of an ancient city where today’s Izmir (3rd largest city in Turkey) is located but where did Calimyrna come from?
Thanks to internet, this is what I found out: Figs are brought to America by the Spanish missionaries in 1575 and later, when they started growing those trees in San Diego, the name “mission figs” stuck with them. Later, they wanted to grow the best fig variety known in California. Those are the figs known as “sari lop” or “sari incir” (yellow fig) native to western Anatolia (Asia Minor.) They had a hard time pollinating them until a botanist realized the trick; they started to produce them in California naming this one as California + Smyrna = Calimyrna. Not sure what the complication that kept them from producing earlier, but the fig trees have gender. So, you need to have a male and a female fig tree for production. Kiwis are like that as well, but they are vines, not trees.
- 2kg (about 4 lbs) dried Smryna figs
- 750 gr sugar
- 750 ml water
Cut the figs into small pieces (at least 6 – 8 pieces each.) In a heavy bottom stainless steel pot, heat mix water and sugar. When the simple syrup starts to boil, run the figs through cold water and immediately add them to the pot. Turn the heat down, cook the figs constantly stirring and also mashing them using wooden spoon. When all the water evaporated, transfer into a plastic container (not sure why, but my aunt always used plastic for this dessert. Might be because it is easier to spoon out of it.) Keep in the fridge.
This can be used as a filling in cookies (especially in the mamool cookies), spread on a toast or just as is.