The fig tree is quite a fascinating and very beautiful tree. With leaves that are well-shaped and large to provide enough shade, it is undoubtedly one of the best trees you can have around your yard.
However, as beautiful as the fig tree, the regular use of the term “fig leaf” in describing the tree is very derogatory and demeaning.
The Ficus carica known as the leaves of the fig tree as stated earlier are a beauty to behold, providing shelter, and delicious fruits. Such a tree is not one that should be belittled, but respected.
Let me tell you more about the fascinating fig tree!
ORIGIN OF FIG TREES
The fig tree was first grown in the Middle East and northwestern Asia, before it was brought down to North America by the Spanish missionaries far back in the early sixteenth century.
Figs are one of the earliest fruits to be grown by man with mentions even in the Bible (the instance where Jesus caused the fig tree). It comes from the Moraceae family, which includes the mulberry.
They are easy-to-grow trees and can be eaten in many delicious ways.
The fig tree grows fast and can reach heights of over 20 to 30ft tall, even in width. Its leaves can be four to eight inches wide and as long as 20 inches.
One thing that stands out among fig trees is the size of their leaves which provides enough shade for relaxation and in extreme weather conditions. It was even stated that the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, found enlightenment while meditating under the fig tree.
In some cases, certain species can produce two crops in a year. The first called “breba” crop, can be harvested in late May/early June, while the other other ripens in late September to early November.
According to the author of “Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves,” Linda Ziedrich, “Breba” or “breva” (Spanish), is derived from the Latin word “bifera” meaning twice-producing.
WHAT TO BUY FOR YOUR FIG TRE PROJECT
There are four main types of figs, three of which (Caprifigs, Symyrna, and San Pedro) are not usually grown in home gardens as they require complex pollination requirements.
The last which is the fourth in the types of figs is the Parthenocarpic. It is the commonest type of fig due to the fact that pollination in this case does not require fertilization.
In North America, one of the commonly planted fig trees is the “Celeste.” With large and well-shaped leaves, the Celeste has a fast growth rate, produces medium-sized delicious and juicy fruits, and comes in brownish-purple color. It is harvested in July.
The Celeste does not produce a breba crop. The fruit can be eaten fresh and stored as well. It is also known as the sugar fig, hardy and peculiar to zone 6.
This is another common fig to northern gardeners. Its fruits are usually small and not as deliciously flavored as Celeste. Unlike the Celeste, the brown turkey produces a breba crop meaning just anybody can eat it. It is more cold-hardy, and mostly cultivated in zones 7-9.
Also known as “Ischia,” the black mission produces two types of crops, large and rich in taste. It comes in purple-black fruits which can be eaten fresh or dried.
The Ischia thrives well in coastal California, while the other “Green Ischia” is more grown in the South.
A SUN LOVING TREE
Most plants need sun for healthy growth. The fig is no exception, as it thrives well under adequate sunlight of seven to eight hours during the growing season.
One requirement you must bear in mind when growing a tree is space. Trees needs space to grow large, strong and healthy roots and branches. Planting a tree close to a wall or fence may stagnate such growth.
Figs are not soil-selective. However, a well-drained loam with lots of organic matter should do the job.
PROPAGATION OF FIG TREES
This species of figs are very easy to propagate. To do this, cut out an eight to ten-inch of wood in early spring, stick it several inches into a pot of good soil.
Leave cutting inside the pot for a season before transplanting.
PLANTING TIPS FOR FIG TREES
Figs are best planted when they are inactive mostly in spring. Set pot plants three inch deeper than the depth of the pot in which they are planted in.
For bare root plants, it is advisable to cut back the tops leaving about one-half left of their initial length.
They can thrive well under fair drought conditions, however, in extreme drought conditions, you should treat them to some watering.
It also does not require fertilizers as they can do fine on their own. In the event you feel your fig isn’t growing as expected, you can feed it to a half pound of balanced fertilizer such as 10 nitrogen, 10 phosphate, and 10 potash.
They do not also require pruning. You can remove any branch growing in the wrong direction if need be. Take off dead wood to allow healthy growth.
PEST AND DISEASES OF FIG TREES
Squirrels and some other wildlife find the fruits delicious so they keep coming back for more. Watchout!
Also be on the look-out for pests such as the root-knot nematodes, which are one serious threat to fig trees grown in some parts of the South.
This pest deposits their larvae close to the roots of plants, thus preventing them from taking in nutrients necessary for proper growth.
G.W. Krewer, an Extension Horticulturist, and Floyd Hendrix, Plant Pathologist, in the University of Georgia Extension Service, explaining the disastrous effect of these pests stated that trees once infected cannot be cured with chemical treatment.
They suggest pruning the root tops to balance the weakened root system, thereby prolonging its lifespan. However, trees infected by these pests eventually die.
Another enemy to figs is rust. If you find reddish brown spots underneath your tree leaves, then it is a result of rust fungus. However, it isn’t all that serious as spraying with a fungicide will do the magic.
AVOIDING FIG-FATTENED WILDLIFE
Just like some other fruits, figs can be harvested when the neck weakens and the fruit drops to the ground.
When rippen, the fruit is soft, their skin may split a little, while most varieties darken to a brownish-purple before harvesting.
It is important to collect at the right time as if picked too soon wouldn’t be delicious, and will not ripen at once.
You should however endeavour to harvest the fruits when they are just ripe, so as to beat other wildlife and birds to it.
Some gardeners hang nets over smaller trees to protect the fruits against wildlife, but same cannot be said for large trees. In the case of large trees, you just have to be on the watch out for ripen fruits and collect them before the others (wildlife) do.
Once harvested, figs have a fairly short shelf life. Store them in the refrigerator for two to three days to preserve them.
You can dry the fruits by washing them and cleaning with a towel. Put them whole or halved on a wire rack in a baking sheet, and straight to the oven with a temperature of 140°F for 8 to 24 hours.
They can also be dried using a dehydrator, following the same procedures.
When fully fried, they become leathery on the outside with no juice on the inside.
The dried fruits can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer in airtight containers for 18 to 24 months.
FIG TREE RECIPE IDEAS
Apart from eating them like candies, the fruits can be added to a number of recipes such as:
TAHINI, HONEY-ROASTED FIG, AND BANANA POPSICLES
Prepared with figs, banana, and tahini, they are not too sweet but worth the taste. It can be served as both breakfast and dessert.
FIG AND GOAT CHEESE TARTS
Made with just five ingredients, easy to prepare and delicious, the fig and goat cheese tarts recipe is mouth-watering and a showstopper!
You can’t seem to get over this delicacy.
PROSCIUTTO AND GORGONZOLA WRAPPED FIGS
Prepared with just four ingredients, this delicacy is best served as a last-minute appetizer for unexpected guests or eaten as a quick snack.