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A Figgy Summer

by Janet Carson August 5, 2019 at 6:50 a.m.

When I started work back in 1980, we called figs fig bushes, not fig trees. They invariably died back to the ground every other year or so, so they never grew very tall. Times have changed and we have fig trees all over Arkansas, with our northern counties still getting some die back with cold winters.

At least here in central Arkansas, this is a banner year for fig trees. They are absolutely loaded with figs.

I have so many that I can easily share some of the higher ones I can't easily reach with the birds. The other night I saw my fig on the deck swaying. Upon closer inspection I found a large possum trying to eat his fill.

We hosed him off.

I am harvesting 15-20 figs a day from my three small trees, and there are more to come.

A massive tree like this one can produce thousands of figs--enough to go into fig jam business!

I really like figs, but I need something to cut the sweet. One of my favorite ways to eat them is sliced in half with a little blue cheese and a half a walnut added in. I have also been experimenting with other dishes, from a fig balsamic glaze to figs thrown in with my peach tart,

and an interesting combination of carmelized figs with brown butter

and crispy prosciutto

over gnocchi.

It was really good, and even Clay liked it!

Figs like at least 6 hours of sun a day but can do better with even more. We used to recommend placing them in a somewhat sheltered spot here in central Arkansas for winter protection, but that isn't necessary anymore--in the northern tier, that would still be a good idea. Even if they get frozen back they can produce figs, since they bear fruit on the new growth. If they get killed to the ground, fig production will be limited as they have to spend a lot of energy growing back.

Figs also like ample moisture. If they get dry, instead of shedding leaves to protect fruit, they drop fruit. There are numerous varieties of figs on the market, but the two most common you see are Brown Turkey and Celeste. I got two of mine from MG plant sales and one from a nursery and all are supposedly Brown Turkey, but the fruit size varies just a bit. Figs are self-fruitful, so you just need one. The fruit is perishable, so you don't see them sold at grocery stores very often unless they are dried figs, but I have seen some at farmers markets.


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