I used to think that figs, latin name ficus carica, were a tropical fruit tree, which would never grow somewhere like the Pacific Northwest, with our climate’s milder temperatures and often cloudy days. I was wrong. I now have two fig trees planted in my yard and I have seen a larger one growing in my area.
My experience with the fruit of figs had largely been limited to fig newtons (cookie bars with a sweet fruity filling in the middle), which I’ve always really liked. I’ve never seen figs offered in grocery stores here. The first time I actually ate a fig was about 5 years ago, when my former in-laws gave me a bag of figs from their neighbor’s tree. I got the sense that they didn’t know how to eat them. To be honest, I didn’t know either, but the adventurer in me was willing to try.
I tried biting one and found the skin to be kind of unpalatable, so I peeled it and tried eating just the interior fruit. I was kind of weirded out by how the interior of the fig looked, since it was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I initially chose a fruit that was kind of firm, and found the inner fruit to be not that sweet, I wasn’t sure, but I figured it might be under ripe, so I put the bag in the fridge and left it there for a few days.
After maybe a week or so I remembered the figs in the fridge and checked on them. They seemed much squisher. So I tried again. By this time they were so squishy that it was difficult to peel them, and the inner fruit kind of oozed between my fingers, but when I tasted it I was amazed. The flavor I was familiar with in fig newtons was definitely there, but it seemed to be even more sweet. Squishy or not, I finished the bag of figs.
The next year, my former in-laws again bestowed their unwanted bag of figs that their neighbor had gifted them with. I tried to not show how excited I was to get them, since I feared they would stop handing them off to me. By this time I had gotten past the shock of the strange interior of how a fig fruit looked and was looking forward to the delicious sweetness. I didn’t wait for the fruit to get quite so squishy, and found the experience of eating them much better this time. My kids weren’t interested in even trying the figs, though I wasn’t going to push them to try them, since it meant more for me.
The following year, no figs were forthcoming. I resolved to get my own tree so I could get my own fruit, without relying on my former in-laws naivety on how wonderful figs are. I was living in a rental at the time with plans on buying my own home in the next year, so I got a huge pot and planted my new “Brown Turkey fig” in it, where it stayed for the next two years. Unfortunately it didn’t produce any figs over those two years.
When I bought my new home, I was really pleased to find that the former owners had left a potted fig tree of their own, and it even had figs on it. They were past their time, but I still tried to eat them. I had missed eating them.
I later planted both fig trees in my yard and have gotten my own figs, which have wetted my cravings for more. I was surprised how far roots had grown out through the bottom of the pot I had my fig tree in. The roots seem to really spread. Perhaps the containment of the roots is what caused my fig to not produce any fruit while potted. So, from my experience I wouldn't recommend keeping figs in a pot. Once I had them planted, I saw a lot of new growth and sudden fig production.
Last year, one of my sons actually dared to try a fig, and discovered that he liked them also. Fortunately, my other kids haven’t been so daring, so I will still be able to hoard most of the fruit for myself.
I find the fig trees to have a kind of nice tropical look to them, with their large leaves. I think they are pretty neat looking.
The fruit grows directly off of the trunk and main branches. The below close-up picture is of an unripe fruit, which will sag on its stem when it is ripe. In my experience, once the fruit sags, you need to pick them soon or it will drop to the ground.
My fig trees produce fruit in both the spring and fall. So far I have seen a lot more fruit produced in the fall versus the spring. I have no other fruit trees that produce fruit twice in a year, which I got to admit makes figs pretty neat.
Some general information on growing figs is that they are there are varieties that are hardy to about 10° F. Figs can be grown in colder climates if they are pruned as a bush and covered in the winter or grown in a pot and brought inside in winter. Lower temperatures can cause the trees to freeze to the ground, but new growth resprouts from the roots. USDA 7-11. Fig trees can withstand shade, but for best fruit production, full sun is best. Both my fig trees are growing in partial shade and still producing fruit, even in the Pacific Northwest.
Jun 18, 2007 | 10:13 AM PST
I love figs. When I get fresh figs I peel them put sugar over them and freeze them for eating later. When my children were growing up they loved them fixed this way. Also fig preserves are a wonderful addition to the pantry. One of my favorite things to have on hand.
Some of the fig trees here are huge. about 10 ft high and probably that in diameter. I have tried growing figs but for some reason they don't like me. No luck. I just bought another this past year so maybe just maybe it will love where I put it.
Jun 19, 2007 | 8:49 PM PST
When I bought my little fig tree last fall I got some fruit tree fertilizer stakes and put 2 of them out a ways from the base of the tree when I planted it. The leaves are a much darker green now and it is loaded with figs for just being such a little guy. I think its only about 3 ft.
Jun 20, 2007 | 6:45 PM PST
Mmmmmm...figs. I love them. My dad would always grow figs at his house in Phoenix. I don't think I'm ready to grow them myself yet. I've always thought that cutting one open reminds me of an autopsy or something! They are odd-looking.