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Anybody grow figs?


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#1 GLP

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Posted 06 January 2017 - 12:36 PM

Figs are an ancient fruit that stir strong emotions with many immigrant groups that settled to this country, but the love of this delectable fruit goes back in time much further than a few hundred years. One of the earliest records of any fruit eaten by people of the Middle East is the common fig (Ficus carica), the fig tree possibly originated in Northern Asia according to archeological fossil records. Some records state that Spanish missionaries brought it to the United States in 1520, others indicate that Cortez introduced the fig to Mexico, while North America did not receive them until 1790 . Plato documented that Greek athletes at Olympia were fed diets of figs to increase their running speed and overall strength, which could be considered the first documented case of performance enhancements. Figs were not only revered by Christians, Jews and Moslems of the Middle East. There are at least 1,000 species of ficus in the world, mostly in tropical countries, and they are considered sacred in most cultures.

 

gardenwebdotcom-P1020155.jpg   Fig-Tree-Sal-Corleone-from-Sicily-Productive-Delicious-and-Healthy-_-eBay.jpg

 

Cooked figs were used as sweeteners in ancient times and this practice is still used in many third world countries. The figs contain over 50% sugar. Hybrid figs contain many tiny seeds on the interior of the fruit, similar in taste as those found in blueberries and strawberries. A fig fruit has a round tiny opening at the base of the fig called an eye. A tiny wasp flies into the interior of the fig and pollinates the tiny flowers lining the interior walls of the fig. These tiny seeds are not generally digested by the stomach and offer a great laxative effect to the elderly sedentary citizens. In harvesting the figs, it is important to pick the fruit from the tree, when it is completely mature, usually when it sags, droops, and changes color. If the figs are taken from the tree prematurely, the sweetness declines, but more importantly, if the figs are removed in the premature state, a white milky fluid exudes from the stem, which is transferred to a person’s hands, the fluid can very irritating and should be washed away as quickly as possible.

 

There are many cold hardy varieties that can be grown in the Ohio area; some of the more common names you might be familiar with are Brown Turkey, Hardy Chicago, Celeste, LSU Gold, LSU Purple, and Magnolia. A couple of varieties that I am currently growing are Sal, and Sal Corleone, which originated from Sicily. But I must warn you, once you start to grow figs, you will crave additional varieties with different shapes, color, texture, and definitely taste. You will find white and yellow figs, green figs, and purple to black figs, the specific taste will vary with your local soil type, nutrient level, and weather conditions.

 

Fig leaves are eight to ten inches long with three or five rounded lobes. Plants are dioecious, either male or female. The sexual parts of the flower are encased inside the inflated, teardrop shaped fruit that can be as much as three inches long. In nature, a tiny wasp picks up pollen from male flowers and enters the female flowers through a small hole at the end of the fig. After pollination the insect dies inside edible fig, an enzyme called ficin breaks down her carcass into protein. The fig basically digests the dead insect, making it a part of the resulting ripened fruit.

 

Most of the 700 or so fig cultivars are parthenocarpic and will set fruit even without the benefit of pollination. In mild climates, most figs fruit twice a year. The first flush of flowers is born on year old branches and form what are known as “breba” figs. The main fig crop though is produced on new growth and forms later in the summer. So, even if plants freeze to the ground during winter, figs can still produce a crop. In areas with short growing seasons it may be advisable to remove any breba fruit that form because the main crop will not begin forming until the first crop matures.

 

The figs have many uses, such as drying the figs to be ground as a coffee substitute. In India the leaves are picked immediately after harvesting the figs so they can be used as fodder. The seeds can also be collected for extracting oil which is used for cooking or as a lubricant. Figs are also dried and ground to produce a brown sugar substitute. The white milky substance can also be collected and used for cheese making, or as a meat tenderizer. So you can see that the fig is a very versatile fruit, but most importantly a very tasty fruit that has been handed down generation to generation unlike any other fruit.

 

I have talked with European immigrants that speak of their parents and grandparents hand carrying fig cuttings from the old country, with tears in their eyes. Their smiles brimming from ear to ear, while speaking fondly of their loved ones and the struggles they faced to get here. But as their family member’s fade away over time, they relive each memory when they look at the fig tree or taste the soft sweet flesh of the fruit. So I am trying my best to collect as many specialty figs, by specialty I mean that each variety has a special story about the family and the way that the fig came to be at this location, if I can garner enough of the specialty fruits then I plan to write a small ebook depicting care for the plant, recipes, but most importantly to document the stories that the owners have provided to me.


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#2 fungi2bwith

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Posted 06 January 2017 - 03:44 PM

Figs grow everywhere here where I am. My wife and I make it a thing to go pick them off the neighbors trees when they are in season


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#3 PsyBearknot

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Posted 06 January 2017 - 06:46 PM

I was suppose to get a couple of hardy figs to this area but the guy flaked out on me.
I had no idea there was such passion behind the trees.
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#4 happy4nic8r

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Posted 07 January 2017 - 01:18 AM

I have three different well established fig trees that I care for, and can send seed, possibly little transplants if anyone wants them.


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#5 GLP

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Posted 07 January 2017 - 07:41 AM

fungi2bwith - Glad to hear that you have them available, they are a tasty snack and very versatile. I am helping several gardeners in the area get started growing them again.

 

psybearknot - Remind me in the spring, I can send you cutting that you can root and plant. That is the best way to start them. You have to remember, most of the people that become so emotional are first generation immigrants that brought the plants with them during a time that they could enter the United States with such plants that are now not allowed. They were grown in their backyards, their neighborhoods and they passed that specific cultivar from family member to family member for many generations. They feel that the plant is a direct remembrance of home, family, and all the previous generations before them.

 

The closest thing that we have in the united states is probably the apple tree that was planted when the children were first born, as the children grew the tree grew. Many of the family pictures were taken with the tree in the background, eventually the tree was big enough to add a swing, prom pictures were taken out by the tree, homecoming pictures the same way sometimes carving their initials in the tree so display their true love to the person next to them. Now the children will be married with the tree in the background as they have the wedding reception on Mom and Dad's property, that tree is actually a member of the family. As the years pass, it becomes Grandma and Grandpa's property when the grand kids are born, they return to swing on the swing and run around Grandma and Grandpa's back yard. The grandparents and parent remember that tree like it was a brother or a sister because it was such an important piece of their life growing up. When manning the Master Gardener hotline I have received calls from people describing details of ailments that are plaguing that tree, when diagnosing the problem you determine that tree has little chance of survival. The owner will tell you that they will pay anything to help the tree because it is like a member of the family as they break down in tears over the phone. It is very touching and humbling to hear their stories as they tell them. :sad:

 

happy4nic8r - Do you know what varieties you have? Don't send the seeds, very seldom do they grow true to form nor do they have a very high germination rate. Stick to cuttings or cut a small runner free to send to someone as that will give him a true clone and the best chance of survival.  :tinfoil:


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#6 PsyBearknot

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:15 AM

G

I will mosdef take you up on that offer.

This reminds me of the info on tree collards that came over with the slaves from Affrica that are a cut only propagation.
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#7 fungi2bwith

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 12:15 PM

Although apples seem american, they are actually russian, or at least most common cultivars originated in russia.....

 

The only native fruit to america that I know of is the Paw Paw, and no, not a papaya.....the actual paw paw tree that grows in the midwest....I don't think it can be found growing anywhere else in the world, unless being cultivated by people.....

 

just thought I'd throw that info out there....


Edited by fungi2bwith, 09 January 2017 - 12:18 PM.

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#8 PsyBearknot

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 12:44 PM

G
I will mosdef take you up on that offer.
This reminds me of the info on tree collards that came over with the slaves from Affrica that are a cut only propagation.


I will have some cuttings of Elderberry from Norms Farm's website I could offer as trade if you like.

#9 GLP

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 08:31 PM

fungi2bwith - I was told the apples originated in Kazakhstan which is shared between Russia and China so they both claim it originated in their countries.

 

China, which shares the Tien Shan mountains with Kazakhstan, in January applied to UN cultural body UNESCO to have its stretch of the mountain range declared a World Heritage Site, citing its wild apple forests.

 

Native fruits are paw-paw, wolfberry, serviceberry, chokecherries, and saskatoons are all I can think of. There are European varieties for sure but American Indian documents explain how each of those fruits were used in the their diets and how they stored then for winter use so we have native variants also.

 

 

PsyBearknot - No worries as I have most fruits growing in my yard already, share the elderberries with people that need them more. I am really running out of room so I have to go up and over now to add more, so trellis here they come.



#10 PsyBearknot

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:53 PM

Hahah I hear you man. Thanks for creating this thread it'd been a cool read
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#11 whitethumb

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:39 AM

i grow figs, i currently grow black madeira, genovese nero, and jh adriatic. i also have little ms figgy. only fig to fruit for me is the black madeira and it gave me 1 lone fig.

Edited by whitethumb, 10 January 2017 - 09:43 AM.

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#12 GLP

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 07:41 PM

whitethumb - How old are the figs, the only time I have seen then not fruit has been attributed to one of two things? The first reason is that they were young (green stage) and they had not changed to a woody stem yet (cellulose) which can happen up to three years from initial growth. The second reason is that they do not have enough nutrients to put enough growth on to support the fruit, this is easily fixed with a dose of fertilizer in the Spring. Since I do not know what hardiness zone you are in, I cannot guess if they maintain their growth from year to year or die back to the roots with a hard winter and have to put all that growth back each year. We get the hard winters so I lose most of the growth each year and they have to put it back so the fertilizer helped a lot, but they keep getting bigger and stronger each year.

 

You have some interesting varieties, I might have to beg a few cuttings from you in the future to expand the herd so to speak. :biggrin:



#13 GLP

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 07:54 PM

The picture below is from an organic market in Florence several Septembers ago, showing the varieties of local edible figs:

 

fig2.jpg

 

I think we would call this fig porn. :tinfoil:



#14 happy4nic8r

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 08:46 PM

I dont know what brand mine are and after looking at the picture, I really don't know. Two black and one green. They are huge, and produce bags full every year. 


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#15 whitethumb

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 01:28 AM

all mine are young. i would say a year or less so i knew they most like wouldn't fruit. i was pleasantly surprised when my black madeira produced a lone fruit.

genovese nero i paid a pretty penny for and is the biggest of all of them. my black madeira wasn't cheap either. pretty sure you know that lol.

i have wanted to expand my fig collection but it isn't cheap. especially with the newer and more sought after varieties.
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#16 GLP

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 07:29 PM

whitethumb - Yes I understand the cost issue, my Sals Corleone was also expensive. An alternative is to get signed up with a local group that shares scion wood, such as http://figs4fun.com/. I know that there are a couple colleges that offer scion wood exchange programs but I am unable to find the information quickly, let me send a request to Ohio State University and see what they can recommend. 



#17 whitethumb

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 08:18 PM

i know i am a member in one of the fig forums but i'm not active. i'm afraid if i was active i would have more figs trees then i know what to do with.

my plants were all cuttings that have been well established in advance before i purchased them.

#18 GLP

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 12:24 PM

whitethumb - I also have not been that active in other groups because I have many things that I like to learn but I try very hard to focus on just a few. The mushrooms are clearly one of them. I have not worked much with fig cuttings, but I have worked with many other types of cuttings. This spring will have a few fig cuttings added to my list of things to try.  :tinfoil:



#19 Seeker2be

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 01:22 PM

Very well written GLP and the discussion of relationships and generations was not lost on me.  I was recently at the redwood mushroom conference in Santa Cruz.  David Aurora showed up unexpectedly and blew everone away with his simple talk.  "It is not about the mushrooms or things but about relationships."  He went on to tell 5 stories to illustrate his thoughts: One was about a 75 y/0 man who lived in a cabin above Big Sur in California.  His family owned a large swath of the land for generations and finally due to taxes deeded it over to the state.  The man as noted lived in a small cabin and had a small gold mine.  3 times the state park rangers burn his cabin down to get rid of him and 3 times he rebuilt it.  He had a relationship to his family and the land.  He lived off the land. He died at 90 in his cabin....

Then there was a Russian lady who lived in SF and foraged mushrooms with her family since child hood.  Being in her 70's the presidio decided no more mushroom picking on the Presidio.  She was devastated , depressed.  She had a relation to the long gone family, the presidio, the mushrooms in essence the land.  After much ta do and protest she was allowed to pick mushrooms there.

A third story was about a Cambodian man who escaped the killing fields of Cambodia( 6000 people escaping and 60 making it out alive). He loved the land, his country but had to flee the tyranny.  He lived in the tops of trees while escaping . He lived off the land collecting mushrooms and wild plants fearing the murdering Khamer Rouge. When in America the mushrooms brought back his roots to the land, family and the mushrooms.  So thanks for emphasizing the wonderful relationships of figs to people and roots. Despite all this BS polticalization and divisions, relationships in life is all that matters.


Edited by Seeker2be, 16 January 2017 - 03:24 PM.

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#20 GLP

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 07:03 PM

Seeker2be - Thank you for sharing the stories, the relationships with people are exactly the reason why I started to learn about permaculture. How could I tell a person that their life will be better for them without providing working examples that fit his or her life and needs. Everyone has problems, everyone has needs, what kind of person would I be without helping them to achieve food for their family, or a roof over their head.

 

Thank you again for sharing. :thumbs_up2:






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