GROW BEAUTIFUL & EXOTIC FIGS IN YOUR BACKYARD!


 

From Tree to Table

Love figs but don't think they'll flourish in your moist, foggy coastal weather? Think again. Barbara Edwards and Mary Olivella's book, From Tree to Table: Growing Backyard Fruit Trees in the Pacific Maritime Climate, shows fruit fans in coastal climates how to grow this desert fruit successfully in their the yards.

Figs are originally from the arid Middle East. They will grow in a maritime environment, but you will want to find the sunniest possible spot in your garden for them -- a warm, south-facing side of your house will keep your fig tree happiest.

Overall, figs trees are easy-going and happy, not overly bothered by pests. They can grow in a pot, bush-sized, or spread 50 feet. For resilience and better fruit, it's best to keep them small, pruned to bush size. Unlike modern fruit, fig trees grow from cuttings. If you have a fig-tree-growing neighbor, ask if you can snip a few 1-2 foot branches to start your own tree. Either put them in water in a sunny window until roots appear, or stick them in the ground and cover with mulch. If you decide to pot your fig, make sure you're ready for some hardcore branch and root pruning to keep your fig to size, and be prepared to wheel your pot into the garage during the winter (or wrap it in insulation). But mainly figs are hardy plants, somewhat drought-tolerant because of their arid origins, and usually only need to be fertilized annually.

Once your fig tree is established, you don't need to take that trip to Costco for flats of mission figs -- just pick them from your own backyard: juicy and sticky, homegrown and sweet. When ripe, they'll be so soft that they'll fall right into your hands. Expect two crops (unless the summer is unusually chilly): one in spring or early summer, then another in August or September. Along with the best tree varieties for your climate, From Tree to Table provides mouth-watering fig recipes -- like grilled fig and gorgonzola bruschetta with thyme and honey, or marsala-roasted figs with almond custard, vanilla ice cream, and oat tuile.

With your backyard figs trees, which can live up to a hundred years, you'll be stocked with figs for the rest of your life -- and with Barbara and Mary's new book, you'll be savoring them gourmet-style all summer, too!

 

--Adapted from From Tree to Table, Skipstone, 2011

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