Figs

We’ve had no luck trying to grow figs here. We’ve planted trees several times, but none have survived.

Meanwhile, just a half mile up the road, my mother has a fig tree that is in her way. So every year or so she cuts it down. But it always springs back to life, heavy with fruit, mocking me.

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I recently came across a fascinating article about figs (HERE). Here’s an interesting excerpt from it:

Although many people dismiss figs as a geriatric delicacy or the sticky stuff inside bad cookies, they are, in fact, something awesome: enclosed flowers that bloom modestly inward, unlike the flamboyant showoffs on other plants. Bite a fig in half and you’ll discover a core of tiny blossoms.

All kinds of critters, not only humans, frequent fig trees, but the plants owe their existence to what may be evolution’s most intimate partnership between two species. Because a fig is actually a ball of flowers, it requires pollination to reproduce, but, because the flowers are sealed, not just any bug can crawl inside. That task belongs to a minuscule insect known as the fig wasp, whose life cycle is intertwined with the fig’s. Mother wasps lay their eggs in an unripe fig. After their offspring hatch and mature, the males mate and then chew a tunnel to the surface, dying when their task is complete. The females follow and take flight, riding the winds until they smell another fig tree. (One species of wasp, in Africa, travels ten times farther than any other known pollinator.) When the insects discover the right specimen, they go inside and deposit the pollen from their birthplace. Then the females lay new eggs, and the cycle begins again. For the wasp mother, however, devotion to the fig plant soon turns tragic. A fig’s entranceway is booby-trapped to destroy her wings, so that she can never visit another plant. When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.

Wasp mummies don’t sound appetizing to me, but there’s no denying the deliciousness of a freshly picked fig. I highly recommend the linked article for more interesting cultural, scientific and historical fig facts.

I’m more determined than ever to grow figs here, so we’ll plant again in a few weeks.

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29 comments on “Figs

  1. I didn’t know that about the wasps. Hmm…. What problem do you have growing figs? Do they die over winter or what?

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    • Bill says:

      I’m pretty sure the problem has been the soil. I’ve planted them in poor soil. If I put them where we have our orchard trees I’m sure they’ll do fine.

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  2. hmmm well I think you may have ruined figs for me…. 😉 ❤
    Diana xo

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  3. Laurie Graves says:

    Yup, I was enthused until I came to the bit about the wasp mummies. I wonder what else we eat that we are unaware of. Maybe it’s best not to know 😉

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    • Bill says:

      We do eat plenty of things we’d probably rather not know about. And those unintentional additives usually make the food healthier. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        No doubt, Bill! Maine blueberries are reputed to have some protein by way of maggots too small to see. As I love blueberries, I try not to think about this when I eat them 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, wasp mummies, Ooooo, yum. Is there any chance you could propagate a fig tree from your mother’s tree? It seems that her tree has acclimated to your area. I’m not sure how figs reproduce but it seems that somehow a tree should come from your mother’s tree to survive the climate where you live. Can you plant a fig and grow a tree. I know it would probably take much longer to grow but if it survives, it would be worth it.

    Have a great fig tree growing day.

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    • Scott says:

      Right, Dave! Bill, if your mom cuts it back to the ground each year, dig up some root cuttings and see what they do! Shooting from the hip here, not knowing the darndest thing about figs… I’d try her plant knowing it does well there.

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    • Bill says:

      That’s what I’m going to do. This time I’ll plant in better soil. I’ve been hoping to get figs to grow in areas that needed ground cover and the soil just wasn’t good enough (in my opinion) even though I thought I’d prepped it well.

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  5. dennisrenner says:

    Bill, get some of the cuttings from your mother’s figs. It evidently is a variety that does well in your area. Cuttings root very easily. Then look at the location her fig is thriving in and try to pick a spot in your own yard that would come close to supplying the same growing conditions. Figs are wondeful, dead wasp and all. I doubt few people have ever eaten a fresh picked blackberry, that didn’t consume a few little bitty insects. Dennis

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    • Bill says:

      Yes exactly! I thought of wild blackberries when I read the article. I just make sure I don’t wear my glasses when I pick them. If I could see them more clearly I probably would hesitate before putting them in my mouth!

      You should see the location of my mother’s fig tree. I should have taken a picture of it. It’s hard for me to believe anything can grow there. It’s up against the side of her shop/garage and close to to her back porch. I can’t see that it would get much if any sun there at all. She says it does so well because it’s protected from the cold. No one would pick that location to plant yet it thrives there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Perhaps that’s the key, planting it against a wall. Here in Ohio figs are much more likely to survive if planted against a south-facing wall, preferably one that holds heat like stone, brick, or concrete. Our fig trees are only a few years old and not what I’d call prolific fruiters, but they’re thriving.

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  6. avwalters says:

    During my West Coast years I became enamored of figs. Ah, figs with goat cheese, figs in salad with a lavender vinaigrette, fresh figs with black pepper, sigh. But now I am a Northerner again. I can only wish you luck with your new fig tree, and remember.

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  7. Dearest Bill,
    We do treasure our Italian Honey Fig, very juicy and golden yellow in color.
    What you show here above looks like the Turkey Fig, the more common fig that can be found in many gardens.
    Birds do hack into them and it can be a struggle for harvesting your own. We have wacked down some big fig trees as it was getting to a point of not harvesting any for ourselves.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    • Bill says:

      According to the article there are over 750 different species of figs (each with its own unique wasp). I don’t know much about figs and I haven’t give any thought to the varieties. If I succeed in getting some going this year maybe we’ll branch out into other varieties in the future!

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  8. I had never heard about the fig and wasp connection until this morning – I read about it on fb and then five minutes later in your post!
    I have three varieties of figs growing in pots on my deck (Negronne, Desert King and Stella). I purchased the original plants in small pots from the local nursery a few years ago – they are huge now and I have since taken several cuttings from each. I now have about a dozen fig trees growing. Most of these are slated to go into our chicken food forest at the farm.
    They are super easy to propagate – I just take a cutting and stick it in a pot of soil. In about two weeks it is rooted.
    I agree with the previous commenters – get a bunch of cuttings from your mother’s tree and mimic her conditions.
    Good luck!

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  9. I’ve never been a particular fan of figs, Bill. Now I know about wast mummies, even less so. 🙂 –Curt

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  10. shoreacres says:

    Our crop was terrific this year, and I made a trip to the orchard to pick some about every three days. I didn’t mess with any recipes — just ate them out of hand. I can’t quite get my mind around those inward-blooming flowers, though. All of that makes no sense to me. More research is required!

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  11. Haven’t read any of the comments, so shooting from the hip here… But, as your mother’s tree has so many cuttings taken off, have you ever tried starting your plantings from those? Not sure what equivalent you’ve got down there, but Willow cuttings contain a natural rooting hormone and put the two together in some water and you’ll have roots in no time: )
    Oh, and now that I have read them, it’s hilarious about the similar advice running through the comments; )
    And speaking of the comments… About the things we put in our mouths… Come on you guys, you DO realise where fertiliser on a farm comes from, don’tcha? LOL, it’s the ultimate recycling!

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