The fig is an amazing fruit and tree/shrub/vine. You find mention of it in many religions, including the Bible in which Adam and Eve used he leaves to cover themselves. Jesus cursed a fig tree for not bearing fruit, and it was listed as one of the good things in the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. Figs will grow in almost any tropical to temperate region, but is strictly an indoor plant in very cold climates.
Outside of their native regions, figs will not bear fertile seed as they have to be pollinated by special wasps, but that also means they will bear fruit without a second tree for pollination. They should not be planted over drain fields or close to wells as the roots extend well beyond the tree in search of nutrients and water. This is a great advantage in that the tree can do well without much fertilization. Chickens are great under fig trees as they produce natural fertilizer that is exactly what fig trees need, plus they eat the ants and other insects that hang around figs. Chickens also love the figs that drop to the ground, too ripe for you and I to eat! The common fig has been typically grown as food for goats, but watch out if a goat eats too many ripe figs! They will get the runs 🙂 Figs are also good to grow if you have honey bees. They will enjoy the rich fig sugars right before winter, and when picking you have to watch for them on any over-ripe fruit.
Fig trees are prolific producers, with enough figs on one mature tree to provide fresh eating for a number of families! The fruit can be eaten fresh, turned into preserves, wine, pickled, or dried. The fruit is rich in calcium, potassium, and iron, and are great for building bone and tooth. They have lot’s of fiber, but are also high in natural sugars. Dried they retain their fiber and bone building properties and are excellent for winter use. I grow three varieties, though only one is mature at this point. I have brown turkey, celeste, and black mission figs. This year I am trying to dry more figs rather than preserving with sugar. You can freeze them, but I don’t like chancing loss if a hurricane comes through and we lose power for a week.
To dry figs you will need a drying rack (which can be made of wood and screen), a dehydrator, or simply an oven on a low heat left open for moisture to escape. When drying figs, it is important to pick them firm but completely ripe, which means frequent harvesting. Immediately prepare your figs for drying! Trim off the stem and cut the fig in half. Lay it down on the screen, dehydrator trays, or pan skin-side down. Make sure the edges of the fruit do not touch. Dry according to device used.
You can also make preserves and pickles from figs. For preserves, simply remove the stems, place in a large pan, add sugar to taste, mash and heat to boiling. You can add pectin and lemon juice, then pack into hot jars and can using the water-bath method. For fig pickles, this link has a yummy recipe! I don’t wash my figs unless they look like they need it, and always choose the best fruit for preserving. The less-than-perfect get eaten fresh or fed to the chickens. So, if you want to experience God’s bounty, plant a fig tree!