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Figs, Glorious Figs

figues [1]

“You might want to go check that fig tree back by the barn,” my dad told me yesterday. “I looked at it this morning, and there weren’t too many, but I did see a few.”

So I did — and brought home about 10 pounds of luscious ripe figs in a sack. You see a few of them in the photo above. The thing is, he was right: his big fig tree didn’t have many on it, relative to how many it’s going to have over the next couple of weeks, when it really starts producing. Last year I picked between seven and fourteen pounds per day off that one tree during their peak of ripeness. The fig tree in our backyard has been giving us figs for the past two weeks at least, earlier than anybody else’s. Julie thinks it’s because she mulched the tree, but someone in the family from who we rent the house said that tree has the reputation for being the best fig tree in town.

It makes me deeply happy to think that just outside my kitchen door is the best fig tree in St. Francisville. Actually, anything related to figs makes me deeply happy. Julie has the canning operation up and going. She makes this fig chutney that’s out of this world. The other day, she had a bag of fresh-picked figs from our backyard, and invented a fig upside-down cake that was terrific. Figs! Figs, figs, figs, figs, figs! I don’t have much good to say about summer in the South, but tomatoes and figs almost make it worth the sweat.

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19 Comments To "Figs, Glorious Figs"

#1 Comment By JonF On July 22, 2013 @ 7:00 am

I planted a fig tree this year. No fruit yet but it is flourishing. I tried growing figs in Michigan (too cold – the tree would die down to the ground and start over every year) and in Florida (too hot– poor fruiting). Maybe Maryland will be just right for them.
Meanwhile Whole Foods had figs in for several weeks, though they are out now.

#2 Comment By Sam M On July 22, 2013 @ 7:19 am

Wait a minute. Fig upside down cake? Gadzooks. That’s an idea!

#3 Comment By pilgrim On July 22, 2013 @ 8:25 am

That is amazing.(So different from the fig newtons we grew up with.)

#4 Comment By Elijah On July 22, 2013 @ 9:18 am

Just planted a fig tree this year – so jealous of even a pound of figs!

#5 Comment By Judith On July 22, 2013 @ 9:25 am

Rod,
“tree has the reputation for being the best fig tree in town”

If that’s true, I suggest making some hardwood cuttings, and producing starts, because you don’t want the genetic source to be destroyed someday.

#6 Comment By Gromaticus On July 22, 2013 @ 9:48 am

The aroma of fresh figs, tomatoes, southern yellow pine lumber and (of course) decaying vegetation always reminds me of the summers I spent growing up in your neck of the woods.

#7 Comment By Mike On July 22, 2013 @ 11:00 am

Though not humid,it’s pretty darn hot in Northern CA;I dislike the heat as well but the summer bounty is amazing. I never knew how many varieties of figs existed or even heard of white figs until I moved here. That and melons. There are so many heirlooms that I struggle to remember which we like best,though Charentais and piel de sapo are pretty stellar. Enjoy your figs,they look incredible!

#8 Comment By Chris 1 On July 22, 2013 @ 11:25 am

Fig Pizza: onions carmelized in balsamic vinegar, gorgonzola, mozzarella, pancetta, figs…

#9 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On July 22, 2013 @ 11:42 am

Roast some in whine or balsamic vinegar. Tasty and pretty!

#10 Comment By Eric K. On July 22, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

I’ve never picked a fig, but we have a tree near us. How you do you know when they’re ripe?

As to JonF’s comment about whether it’ll work in MD…I’m in Virginia and they seem to be all over the place here, so yours should work out.

#11 Comment By Annek On July 22, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

Your Bastille Day dinner dessert of Breton cake with a sauce made from fresh-picked figs sounded delicious!

#12 Comment By Mike On July 22, 2013 @ 3:31 pm

Second Chris1 on the fig pizza….

#13 Comment By Charles Cosimano On July 22, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

A fig pizza! That is not food, that is blasphemy!

#14 Comment By Jasper On July 22, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

I live in USDA zone 6A in NY. I have successfully grown figs for 25 years at my latitude. I obtained 50-gallon plastic drums from an industrial soap vender, drilled drainage holes, filled the drums with a rich soil mix topped off with composted goat manure, and planted a fig tree in each drum. In my location, Brown Turkey and Celeste do well. The trees grow leaves and produce figs throughout the summer; the ripened figs are ready to pick in August. In November, after the trees have dropped their leaves, I prune them, then wheel the drums into my (unheated) garage where the now-dormant trees over-winter. The trees (still in the garage) break dormancy and display new growth in April. At this point they are very sensitive to tailpipe gases and will drop their newly-formed leaves if exposed to auto exhaust. So for several weeks, I manually push my car out of the garage before starting the ignition. I usually wheel the barrels outdoors in early May (our last frost-free date is toward the end of May, so I must be careful in this regard). A lot of trouble, but well worth it to enjoy fresh figs.

For those interested in the biology of fig pollination, the PBS video “The Queen of Trees” is fascinating.

#15 Comment By Gromaticus On July 22, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

“I though this was The American Conservative. I thought it was a magazine for discussing the momentous issues facing our country from some kind of “Conservative” perspective, whatever that is”

The coup in Egypt is temporal…but having the towns most productive fig tree in your back yard; now that is a “permanent thing”.

#16 Comment By Judith On July 22, 2013 @ 11:06 pm

Jasper:
Good to hear from a fellow fig enthusiast. I live in southern Indiana, zone 5-6, and grow just 2 types, Kadota, and Chicago Hardy. I wheel them into my unheated cold frame during the winter.

#17 Comment By peterk On July 23, 2013 @ 1:39 am

get yourself a dehydrator or two and dehydrate a few pounds of these figs. you’ll be able to use them in the winter and in making your own granola bars.

a couple weeks back i was paying between 4.99 and 6.99 a pound for figs so you are sitting on a small gold mine

[NFR: Julie spent last evening making preserves in a citrus syrup. She saved the syrup of fig squeezins, orange juice, sugar, and lemon zest. I’m going to make a bourbon-based cocktail with it. — RD]

#18 Comment By Chris 1 On July 23, 2013 @ 3:24 am

Charles: Try it, you’ll like it. 😉

#19 Comment By Bart W On July 24, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

Fig preserves, I love them. I take my food very seriously to the point that I grow about a 2 acre garden and can, dehydrate, and freeze much of it and live off of it year round. The two trees that take precedence in my garden are my fig trees. One is a Brown Turkey and one is one I grafted off of my grandfathers trees.

I live in zone 8a.