The Incredible Edible Fig

Read & Eleanor's Fig PreservesTalk about Time Travel.  Yesterday I bit into my first fig of the season.  One taste and and I was whisked back to my childhood, lying on the warm grass beneath the boughs of a neighbor’s fig tree eating an endless supply of sweet succulent figs. The amazing taste and texture of a fig with all those tiny seeds is an experience like no other.  It’s positively addictive.  With the moist spring we’ve had, 2009 should be a bountiful harvest year.

The cultivation of the fig dates back 4-5 thousand years and before Biblical times, believed first in Egypt, then Crete, and on to ancient Greece, where they are still a traditional part of the daily diet.  Thought to have been brought by Spaniards to the Western Hemisphere in the 16th century and to Jamestown during the founding years, Virginians like to credit Thomas Jefferson for helping to popularize the fig.

Members of the ficus family, fig trees are easy to grow in zone 7 and higher.  They are bug and disease resistant but you must share the harvest with an occasional flock of birds or your dog (they love figs!).  Fig trees reach heights of 30 – 50 feet and can bear two or three crops a season.  In our area, we see two different kinds of figs: Brown Turkey, copper-colored with no neck, and Celeste, purplish and more fleshy.  Locate the plant against or near a south-facing wall so it can benefit from reflected heat during the winter.  If temperatures fall below 15 degrees F, insulate the roots with mulch.

Figs fall into the false-fruit category like strawberries as each fig harbors thousands of tiny fruits. When you pick, make sure the figs are ripe as they do not ripen off the tree.  The taste is fabulous on its own but marries well with a variety of foods and recipes abound.  Preserves is one of my favorite ways to enjoy figs all year and I’m lucky that friends share gifts from their trees.


Read and Eleanor McGehee of Ware Neck often make preserves from their harvest for Christmas gifts but they’re not divulging their recipe and I’m not pressing them.  (Shhhhh….  I know lemon is one of their secret ingredients.)  Some recipes call for ginger, lemon or the rind of a lemon, while others list cinnamon, cloves, or allspice as ingredients.   Eleanor is a member of The Garden Club of Gloucester.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester


6 thoughts on “The Incredible Edible Fig

  1. Fig Heaven begins in my yard in about 2 weeks with Brown Turkeys. My favorite fig jam includes thinly sliced lemons and chopped preserved ginger. Yum!


  2. I love figs from the time a little girl growing up. I am a senior now. I had two figs trees . One i do not have anymore. It was a Kadota. It was given to me by my husband’s aunt. I brought it all the way from about three thousand miles when it was only about 5 twigs set in soil and covered. My husband cut it down when it was about five yrs. old. good tree bearing well. At the same time, i had one in another corner of the yard. It was a black mission. very very good and healthy tree .when we cut the kadota down it hurted so bad bcause it was given to me, but causing plumbing damage. now the black mission i had, had to be cut down because of remodeling ,but i kept a piece in a pot. it had grown almost as tall as my 2 story home. figs taste so delicious and like candy. 3 years ago i took the 1 out of the pot & put it n the same place i cut the blk mission down. It is so beautiful. the false figs has fallen off and now loaded with the good one. will harvest in sept. I just went out and said aprayer for them. I also have perserved figs . my cousin sends me a case of 12 almost every year. i give some for gifts. Thank you for allowing me to comment……bjc


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