Monday, July 2, 2012

A gift of figs

A fresh fig is a soft fruit about the size of a small plum that, depending on variety, is either round or shaped like a teardrop

Simply Living
July 2, 2012

"There are 74 figs in the fridge," read the note my son left on the kitchen table.

It was almost midnight and Ralph and I had just arrived home after a week away. Although drenched in fatigue, we dragged our belongings inside, adjusted the thermostat and went to work. Ralph was in the kitchen putting away our travel food while I headed to the bedroom with the suitcases.

I had just begun unpacking when I heard my husband's voice calling from the kitchen, "Come see all the figs!"

In the time it took me to toss a few dirty clothes in the laundry, Ralph had already begun sorting the unexpected bounty into trays.

"I can't believe how many figs there are," he said, separating eat-now from the not-quite-ripe fruit. "None of the figs were ripe when we left and look how many there are now."

Our son Tim monitored the garden and fruit tree production while we were away. Knowing how much his father loves figs, he collected the ripening bounty during our absence.

"I wonder how many are on the tree," Ralph said as he searched for a flashlight. He found a light but it was too dark outside to see much of anything.

"In the morning," I mumbled while popping another fig into my mouth, "you'll be able to tell better then."

Sure enough, morning offered a dazzling sight. The LSU purple fig tree outside our west door was — and still is — covered with fruit.

"This is the best year yet!" Ralph exclaimed in delight. "Look how many unripe ones are coming along."

Ed O'Rourke, professor of horticulture at Louisiana State University, developed the nematode-resistant LSU purple fig after 16 years of research and testing. He introduced it to the public in 1991 and a few years later we purchased our first plant.

In the years since, Ralph has propagated more figs from cuttings of the original plant. About a dozen trees are now scattered around our property, but the one growing next to our garden on the west side of the house produces the most fruit. That's probably because it is planted in good rich soil, receives regular watering, fertilizing and — most importantly — it is located right outside our door guaranteeing it plenty of personal attention.

My husband grew up eating fresh figs, but I didn't. The only figs I knew as a kid were in Fig Newton bars or as the hard, dried variety that my mother bought for holidays. I was well into adulthood before discovering what a real fig tastes like.

A fresh fig is a soft fruit about the size of a small plum that, depending on variety, is either round or shaped like a teardrop. All parts of the fruit are edible including its extremely thin skin and pudding-like flesh, which contains bunches of tiny seeds. Some figs are brown, black, purple or amber-colored but all varieties grow on compact deciduous trees that like a warm Mediterranean-like climate. Too much rain causes ripening fruit to split open, while too much cold kills the plant entirely.

Nematodes are a major problem affecting fig production but certain varieties (including LSU purple fig) are bred to resist nematode invasions. We don't spray our fig trees with herbicides or use any chemical solutions. Instead, we try to provide our plants with the best growing conditions possible. We use a rich but light loam, mulch heavily to preserve moisture and fertilize occasionally.

The result of those efforts is trees brimming with tasty morsels.

"I love fig season!" Ralph said a few days later while we were outside gathering several dozen more fruit to eat.

 Since fig production continues into the early fall it's a season he'll be enjoying for many months to come.

Yummy!  Fresh picked figs!

No comments:

Post a Comment