This ancient tree has been around for thousands of years and we can understand why it is so popular. Although originally a Mediterranean fruit it can survive our winter if protected when temperatures go below about 10 degrees F (or minus 12 degrees Celsius).
Figs are Like Weeds
We were given a large fig tree cutting three years ago and today (so far) we have five fig trees and have given two away as gifts. All of them have been grown in containers of varying sizes and two of the original cuttings have produced fruit (not uncommon in the first year). They are so easy to propagate, they grow like a weed and need little care and attention.
There are many reasons to grow figs
- Grows very fast
- Can produce hundreds of figs per year
- Only need one tree to produce fruit (not two to pollinate)
- Survives our winters (thanks to our warming climate)
- If container grown, can be moved into a garage or shed for shelter
- They can produce fruit twice a year
- Packed with vitamins and minerals – see nutritional value below
- The figs are incredibly sweet when ripe and make rich jams and tasty sauces
- Easy to freeze for later use
- They have very few diseases although they can get a disease if planted after a cotton crop (which probably will not be a concern for us in the northwest)
What does a fig tree need to grow
- Full Sun – our fig trees grow well in large containers on a very hot concrete terrace (south-facing)
- Perhaps a reason fig trees grow so well in containers is that they prefer their roots to be restricted. (Note if your fig is not bearing fruit, the simple solution could be to “bind” the roots even if growing in the garden.
- Protect from wind
- Protect container and fig roots in cold temperatures – mulch during winter
- Keep watered – if away from home for long periods of time, a self watering system is a must
- Requires good drainage
- Does not need synthetic herbicides, fertilizer, insecticides
What variety of fig to grow
We have not positively identified our fig species. The fig tree cutting we were originally given produces a very large, “black” fig with rich, flavourful plum coloured seeds inside. It may be a “Black Mission” or a “Black Kadota” fig. The original tree grew in a more moderate seaside climate but our trees have grown outside on a terrace for two of our snowy winters so far. If you know someone who grows a fig tree and you like the fruit, ask if you may have a cutting or a root sucker as it will grow the same, and produce identical fruit, as the original.
How to preserve
- The number one preservation method appears to be drying and we hope to try sun drying next year depending on fruit yields
- Fig jam and cream goat cheese is a special treat
- Freeze figs whole for later use in ice creams, smoothies, etc.
- Try making a fig sauce as a snack on brie with crackers (use frozen figs for this after removing stems and skin)
- It should make a great chutney
Raw figs are a good source of magnesium, potassium, vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. It’s one of those “its really good for you fruits”.
This has been a great learning and chemical free adventure.
It has been so easy – everyone can grow a fig tree!
Definitely no experience needed on this one!
- We enjoy our local fresh fruit in season and are trying to grow some of our other favourites such as grape, kiwi and a lemon tree.
- Figs were first on our list as perceived as the easiest container fruit tree to grow as compared to, such as, the lemon tree
- Often dried figs from overseas, use sulphites to preserve and ship. Remember to always look for “sun dried” fruit
- Although a minimal care fruit tree it may need a little pruning to keep its shape
- The fig is one fruit which only ripens fully on the bow: under ripe fruit has no flavour or aroma and over ripe fruit deteriorates quickly. The solution is to grow your own and pick when “just right”!
Links & References
- A big bonus – the home-grown fig tree requires no chemicals. Most commercial fruit growers use many toxic chemicals, such as carbaryl (Sevin), malathion, and endosulfan which has been banned, as of December, 2012
- The Self Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour (Doubleday, 1980)
- Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (Rodale)
Links added December 2017 :