It’s 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, but as far as grower Kevin Herman is concerned, this is the year of the tiger — tiger fig, that is.

The 2011 fig season will mark the first time The Specialty Crop Co., Madera, Calif., ships the medium-sized tiger fig commercially. With lime green and banana yellow-striped skin on the outside and raspberry-red flesh inside, the new variety has been several years in the making.

Specialty Crop owner and president Herman is active in the industry as chairman of the Fresh Fig Commission and vice chairman of the Dried Fig Commission. He also works closely with researchers at the University of California-Davis to stay up to date with all things figgy.

“They have a couple of fig trees in the repository at the farm at U.C.-Davis that no one seems to know where they came from,” Herman said. “The paperwork on them must have been lost or something.”

Regardless of their lack of pedigree, the figs from those two trees were popular with the public at taste-testing events in recent years, so Herman asked for some cuttings. It took him two or three years to get a small orchard started and a couple more years for the trees to start bearing commercial-quality fruit.

“They have a unique flavor,” said Herman, who plans to harvest about 60 of 140 acres of tiger fig trees for commercial sales this season.

“I’ve got a couple of buyers already. There are terminal markets in New York City that are interested and a chain store that is also interested, possibly in an exclusive.”

Herman said the tiger figs, which are also known as panache  figs, are a midseason fruit and will be shipped in clamshells.