Sunday, July 22, 2012

Growing “exotic” figs

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Potted fig with fruits

Figs seemed like an exotic species that was not something that I could grow in the Midwest.  There are some fabulous ways to prepare and use figs in food.  How does fig preserves on a warm buttered croissant or chewy fig and almond cookies or blue cheese stuffed baked figs, or picked fresh, sliced and used in fresh salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar sound?  My figs usually don’t survive long enough to cook with them; as soon as they are picked I am eating them like candy.  Yum!
I was paging through Logee’s magazine that specializes in fruiting, rare and tropical plants and saw fig trees.  What surprised me was that there are hardy varieties of figs that survive down to Zone 5 if planted in the ground.  The tree will need to be mulched in the fall and in colder climes will die back to the ground.  For pot cultivation, you need to go up a Zone or place the potted plant in the basement or garage.
I bought the Chicago Hardy Fig 3 years ago.  I have kept it in a pot that I bring indoors in late fall.  It drops its leaves for about a month in winter.  It is now taller than I am.  If I put it in a larger pot or planted it in the ground, it would produce much more fruit.  
Fresh figs in salad
Figs do not require any special care.  They will produce even if you only have one (like mine).  I have not had any pests problem at all with them even when the plant next to it in winter suffers from aphids or scale.  The fig seems impervious to them.
I enjoy the fruits I get from it.  When I get more ambitious, I will put it in the ground so I have lots of figs to eat fresh and preserve.  For preserving, they can be canned, dried or frozen for up to 3 months.
Figs are also nutritious and low cal.  For every 8 oz serving, they have the following: 30% of your daily fiber, 15% of your daily potassium and manganese, 79mg of calcium, all for only 167 calories.  A medium fig contains about 10g of carbs with a glycemic index of around 3.
Figs hail from the Mediterranean region and southwest Asia.  They have a long and rich history.  Fig leaves were used by Adam and Even in Genesis to hide their nakedness.  Figs have been cultivated since ancient times for fruit and may have been the very first plant that was raised for food, starting more than 11,000 years ago in Jordan Valley.  This is thousands of years before grain.   

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