The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Fig obsession

Weigh figsOnce a week, all through September, I've dreamed about figs.  Black ones, brown ones, plump and enticing, and always just out of reach.

The source of my obsession: our Chicago Hardy fig has been ripening up about a fig a day.  I wait until we have three to five, then cut them in half and roast them the easiest way possible --- in the toaster oven under the highest heat until the juices puddle on the tray and hit hard ball candy stage.

I've read that a mature fig tree will bear thirty pounds of fruit per year, but I find that hard to believe.  At twenty figs to a pound, we'd have to multiply our yields by 15 to become average.  Even though older trees bear more, here at the cold hardiness limit of the fig range, I can't expect my tree to grow to true fig size.

While I yearn for figs in my sleep, Mark gets practical.  Having cleared the gully of brambles this summer, he envisions that prime planting ground turning into a fig paradise.  One day, he brings Celeste home to begin Figlandia.

Fig trees

Meanwhile, I've started a kill mulch at the shady end of the front garden to create a perennial propagation bed.  Brian has offered to trade scionwood with me, so I'll be trying to root hardwood cuttings this winter and soon we'll be trying some more varieties.

This post is your warning --- you'll probably be hearing far more than you'd want about figs for the next little while (especially this week at lunchtime).  I can't help it.  Figs appear to be the fruits of my dreams.

Our chicken waterer makes care of the flock so easy, we have time to play with figs.

This post is part of our Fig lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Now I'm going to be walking around singing "figlandia" to myself all day.

curses ;)

Comment by c. Mon Oct 1 12:46:36 2012

Anna, you probably know this, but the one thing to remember about planting figs in-ground is that they don't like wet feet.

This was my first year getting home-grown figs -- I never knew how great fresh figs could be! Some even have a strawberry-like flavor.

It's easy to see how people become fig-nuts -- check out the figs for fun and garden web forums, there's folks out there who collect dozens, even hundreds of varieties.

Comment by BeninMA Mon Oct 1 14:56:32 2012

C, I'm so outside popular culture, I don't really even know where the "landia" ending came from. (Although now that you say it's a song, I feel like I know the tune? Disturbing. :-) ) Want to clue me in?

BeninMA --- I was reading that about wet feet while researching hardiness. It sounds like raised beds are definitely the way to go in our swampy soil.

What kind(s) of homegrown figs did you grow this year? I totally agree --- it makes much more sense now why people are so obsessed.

Comment by anna Mon Oct 1 16:39:04 2012

Ha! You and me both are way outside of mainstream culture. There was no reference to anything but the word itself...

Me singing it to myself is a mythical named place that now exists in my head, thanks to you, and besides, the word has just so much rhyme to it...

I'm thinking it would make an excellent children's book series about homesteading... ;)

Comment by c. Mon Oct 1 19:22:20 2012
My Grandmother had a fig "tree" in her backyard in the 50's and 60's. It grew up against the house and I don't think she ever did anything to it but pick the figs. It would die back in the winter to a few branches and then grow back out in the spring. It wasn't more than 8 feet tall and it spread out about that far- more of a shrub than a real tree. But she always picked enough figs to make at least a dozen pints of preserves. That was in Fort Worth, Texas, which is Zone 7 now. I don't recall if I've read what Growth Zone you're in, but I'm sure once your tree is established it'll reward you. It's been almost 50 years since I picked figs (or rather watched Gramma do it - the leaves were too rough for me-wimpy kid)but I'm thinking they looked a lot like "Celeste." I love reading about your adventures and experiments in agriculture. Thank you for sharing.
Comment by Patti Smith Mon Oct 1 20:47:12 2012
Slit the tops, stuff in a pinch of goat cheese, wrap prosciutto around it (or not), spear it on a rosemary stalk and pop it on the grill. heavenly!
Comment by Anonymous Mon Oct 1 21:58:43 2012

C, I agree about the children's book. I love young adult books and wish there were some about homesteading, but not quite enough to write one.... :-)

Patti --- We're in zone 6, so a bit colder, but maybe we'll get lucky! That sounds like a great childhood memory.

Anonymous --- That sounds delicious! We almost had enough yesterday to do something other than roast them, but not quite. I'm thinking I'd want to make a fig tart first, though.

Comment by anna Tue Oct 2 12:11:51 2012

I am late with this comment because I went to a farm where they have a fig tree in front of their stand. Dale picks figs as they ripen and they eat them fresh and they dry a bunch for winter. His tree is around 5 years old and it stands about 9' to 10' tall. I looked at how many figs he had on his tree. There were lots of them! Lots!

I did what you said and checked for figs that hang down. Those were yellow and looked softer then the green figs. So I suppose the yellow ones are the ripe one. You can't get to the figs because he has a netting over the tree to keep the birds from eatting his figs.

I have 2 fig trees that I got in the past 15 months and I take care to protect them from the elements and pray to get healthy and fruitfull figs of these trees in the next 3 or 4 years.

Comment by Mona Tue Oct 2 20:58:08 2012
I have two fig trees: Brown Turkey and Celeste. I live outside of Atlanta, GA which is now Zone 8. Every year both trees winter kill down to a few branches and loose probably 80% of the previous summer's growth. Because of this, there is no summer fruiting and by the time they start to set fall fruit, frost gets them before they're even close to ripe. Both are planted on a slope and have been planted now for 4 years. Each year they do get a little larger. Any idea what is going on here?
Comment by Brian Fri Oct 5 21:27:05 2012
Brian --- From what I've read, you would think that Brown Turkey and Celeste could handle zone 8 winters. But it might be worth giving them some winter protection anyway. Good luck!
Comment by anna Sat Oct 6 08:01:30 2012

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