Photo: Ralph Lee Anderson
Whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil; 1 tbsp. fig preserves; 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar; 1 garlic clove, minced; and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week. Serve over arugula, prosciutto slices, fresh fig halves, and shaved Manchego cheese. Sprinkle with toasted chopped pistachios. Makes about 1⁄2 cup
Every garden should have a fig tree. These iconic plants produce delicious fruit with flavors best experienced ripe from the tree. “Taste and beauty are fleeting things,” says fruit expert Dr. Arlie Powell, professor emeritus at Auburn University. “You have to enjoy them while you can.”
How To Choose Fig Trees
Figs are self-fruitful, so you need only one plant to produce fruit. Mature fig trees can be 15 to 30 feet tall. If you have more room, plant several. Choose early-, mid-, and late- ruiting selections to extend your harvest from summer into early fall. Some figs will produce bonus fruit early in the season, called a “breba” crop, as well as the main crop. Figs can vary in size, shape, flavor, texture, and time of harvest and can be black, green, brown, violet, yellow, or purple.
Where To Plant Fig Trees
Fig trees thrive in the heat of the Lower, Coastal, and Tropical South. Plant near a wall with southern exposure in the Middle South so they can benefit from reflected heat. In the Upper South, go with cold-hardy selections, such as ‘Brown Turkey’ and ‘Celeste.’ You can grow figs in big pots and protect them during the winter by storing them in a cool garage or basement. During the first year, as plants become established, water regularly and mulch. Once established, figs can be very drought tolerant. Fertilize with a food such as Espoma Citrus-tone (5-2-6) in late winter and early spring.
How To Harvest Figs
Arlie says full sun is key for an abundant harvest and the sweetest fruit. When fruit is developing, it’s important to water regularly. Check daily, and pick just as they ripen. To deter birds from eating your fruit, hang reflective tape or plant figs that stay green when ripe such as ‘Marseilles’ or ‘Green Ischia.’ Clean up fallen leaves and fruit in autumn to discourage pests and disease.