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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Fig Trees Are Not Just for the Mediterranean

I thought I'd show you something else that we grow, here.


These are our two fig trees. They were both supposed to be a variety called Brown Turkey. Our experience with the figs tells us that only one is Brown Turkey and we don't really know what the other one is.

Our trees produce two crops per year. The first crop will ripen in mid July, and this crop will continue for about 2-3 weeks. We typically get about 30 to 40 ripe figs in this first crop.

I had never had a fresh fig before growing these trees. My daughter-in-law tells me that our tree-ripe figs are more firm than figs from the market. My guess is market figs have been sitting around for a few days. My son and daughter-in-law were thrilled when we gave them the leftover fresh figs last summer when they were over for a late lunch one afternoon. 

Some folks cook with the ripe figs. We just eat them fresh because they are simply that good.

The second crop doesn't ripen in my yard, instead it leaves us with an abundance of green figs in late September or early October. They are full-sized, just not ripe. I make the green figs into jam, sweet pickles, and whole preserved figs. In a pinch, we've substituted green fig jam for sweet pickle relish on hot dogs. Otherwise, the jam is delicious on soft cheese, like cream cheese or brie, along with some crackers. The sweet pickles are a nice accompaniment to a meal. And the whole preserved figs are a dessert, very nice alongside rice or tapioca pudding, or with a slice of plain cake.


This is a bowl of sweet fig preserves. Their flavor goes well with lemon, cloves, and cinnamon. I made several jars of these preserves last October and have been enjoying them this winter and spring.

Our two fig trees are planted up against the house on the south side, where they benefit from the sun's warmth. That particular spot is just outside the laundry room. I'm sure the dryer vent helps with the warmth a bit in winter. Our house is situated on the highest part of our lot. In winter, the cold air slides down the slope into the lower parts of the yard. So the spot up against the house is likely the only spot figs would grow on our lot. 

Figs don't like  temperatures below about 10 degrees F. Most years, we don't go below 20 degrees F. In colder areas, folks have had success growing figs in large pots, then bringing them indoors during winter. 

Of course, figs also have value for their leaves. In addition to making impromptu clothing or for pasting onto a statue, the leaves can be used for steaming fish, meats, rice and vegetables in place of sheets of parchment. The leaves can also be used as wraps for baking cheese or fruits (apricots and plums). The leaves are edible and good sources of Vitamins A, B1, and B2, calcium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and iron. The flavor of the cooked leaves has been described as a bit like coconut. And lastly, the leaves are large and flat, making them ideal to place decoratively under meats or cheese on a charcuterie tray.

You know, I never would have guessed that you could grow figs in the Pacific Northwest. There is so much that we can't grow here, so this one was a surprise.


9 comments:

  1. I would love to find and eat a fresh fig. I've tried but no store carries them that I know of. I think I would love them.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Alice,
      Figs are so perishable when fresh that it doesn't surprise me that you've not seen one in your stores nearby. If you ever travel someplace with a warmer winter climate, you might find them in a farmer's market. I wish I could send you some!

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  2. I had a small fig tree given to me that was only a couple of inches tall when I got it. For the first couple of years, I brought it inside during the winter, but left it out last winter because the container it's in is very heavy. It did okay. We do get temperatures below 20 degrees, however, I've been told that it will die back, but come back. So far we've gotten only a handful of figs total, but there are several forming now. Figs are very sweet, so I can only eat one at a time. If we actually get more than a handful, I will have to try some of the things you mentioned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      If you want to leave your fig tree out for winter but are concerned about chill, you could wrap your fig tree in late fall, pot and all. We had our two fig trees in pots for the first several years and never got very many figs. It wasn't until we put them in the ground that they really took off. But I know that isn't a possibility for many locations, due to cold winters. Good luck with yours! I hope you get as many figs as you want.

      Delete
    2. We have the tree located against the house on the south side, the warmest place in the yard, so that was good for last winter. However, that's not a place that we could put it in the ground, so we'll leave in the pot a while longer and see what happens. In the meantime, maybe next winter we'll wrap it.

      Delete
  3. Figs sound very exotic to me. I'm not sure if I've ever had a fresh one. Mostly I've had Fig Newtons. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha, Kris! My only figs (up until growing them) were in the form of cookies, too. I do love Fig Newtons, though.

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  4. I got a chuckle from your post - I have a fig tree here in Utah and the first year it produced a handful of figs. They were quite delicious. Since then, it seems to die in the winter and then in the spring, it produces leaves at the base but no more fruit. I keep hoping that I will get a harvest but until I do, I'll enjoy envisioning the leaves as a skirt!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ruthie,
      Yeah, your area can be every cold in winter. Your particular fig tree might need second year wood to produce fruit. So when it dies back, it can only produce new wood each year. You could try wrapping it for winter. I've seen some ingenious ideas for protecting shrubs. One of the best and cheapest for very cold weather is a cage made of chicken wire surrounding the entire tree and taller than the tree, then filled completely with dried leaves from raking. You could also try a few layers of old blankets, wrapped around and tied in late fall.
      You can still use the leaves to steam fish, veggies, rice or fruit. Martha Stewart did baked apricots in fig leaves. It sounds interesting.
      Good luck!

      Delete

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