By Claudia Lopez
5th Grade, Los Angeles County
Fred Ekstrand Elementary School - Catherine Rojas, Teacher
Jose, his wife Margarita and their son Julio own a farm in Madera, in the Central Valley of California. They moved there from a big city because they wanted to grow crops that would feed their family and other people.
On the farm they grow a lot of vegetables and fruit trees. Of all the things they grow and produce on the farm, Julio was interested in the figs the most. His grandmother used to talk about the farm she grew up on and all the fig trees they had.
He started to research figs and he found that the Spaniards brought figs to America in the 1500s and the missionary Fathers introduced them to California in 1759.
At the farm they have two different types of fig trees. One is amber color and called Calimyrna, the other has a dark purplish skin color and is called Missionóbecause that was the type planted by the Spanish Fathers.
Madera has dry, warm weather which is the best to grow and produce figs. The main crop ripens in late summer and produces the best figs.
Julio also learned that unlike other fruit trees, fig trees have no blossoms on their branches. The fig fruit is the flower of the tree, because flowers and seeds grow together in one mass.
Every day Julio helped his father do chores around the farm. During the summer, when school was out, Julio helped pick the ripe figs to sell at a stand on the side of the road, next to the farm.
One year, Julio heard that the county fair was coming to town. There was going to be a contest for the best marmalade. He came home so excited and asked his mom, "Could you help me make fig marmalade?"
His mom said, "Sure, why not?" Julio said, "We only have two more weeks to try the recipes."
The contest became a family project. Julio picked the figs early in the morning with Dad's help. He had two separate baskets, one for each kind; he knew that the different figs would produce different colored marmalades. Then, with Mom's help, they would start the process of making marmalade by washing the figs and cutting off the tips. They were supposed to put the figs in two big bowls, but his mom only had one. So he went into town and started to look in different stores until he found one. He was not sure about the size, but he bought it anyway. His mom thought it was perfect!
Once they cut the figs into fourths it was time to start cooking. Mom suggested making the two kinds of marmalade a little differently. The Mission figs would have water and sugar and the Calimyrna would have water, sugar and lemon juice. Julio and his mom put them in big pots over the stove. It was Julio's job to watch the pots and stir them every once in a while until they started to boil. Once they started to boil he had to reduce the heat and stir more frequently.
After about an hour and a half it was done. They poured the mixtures out of the pots and waited until they had cooled off so he and his mom could taste the marmalades. Julio thought the Mission had a rich dark color and the Calimyrna was a pretty amber color that he could almost see through. The taste? Well, he thought it needed to be a little sweeter. So they made another batch that came out just perfect. They poured the marmalades into a few special jars that were going to be the samples for the judges and the rest was canned in small jars to be sold.
He decorated labels for the jars, designed the booth with one area to display the produce from the farm to be sold and the other side for the marmalade.
Today was the day! The whole family woke up early, loaded the truck and headed to the fair. Julio set up his area of the booth with the jars for the judges on one side of the counter and the other side for the customers, with small containers so everyone could try it.
The judge started tasting; Julio was number seven out of fifteen. Soon after the tasting was finished, winners were announced. Julio won second place! He went up to get his trophy and ribbon.
When Julio came back he was a little disappointed but his mom and dad said, "You entered a contest for the first time and you won second place, we are very proud of you!"