Since ancient times Figs have been cultivated by man. They were one of the first plants that was cultivated by humans and are well known throughout the world. Fossilised Figs dating to about 9400BC were found in an early Neolithic village in the Jordan Valley, 13 km north of Jericho.
The unusual fruit grows on a deciduous subtropical tree. Although we think of them as a Mediterranean tree, they are actually native to Western Asia. There are several types of fig available in NZ but worldwide, there are thousands of cultivars that have been developed as human migration brought the fig to many places outside its natural range. Figs have grown successfully in home orchards & backyards since early European settlers first brought them to New Zealand. Figs are deciduous and grow to become very large trees - making them fairly difficult for most suburban gardens where regular pruning & maintenance will be needed.
With an age-old reputation as a sustaining and nourishing food, figs are friendly to the digestive system in either fresh or dried form. This is because they contain an enzyme called ficin that helps the digestive process by soothing your gut. They are also mildly laxative. Dried figs are a rich source of fibre, iron, potassium and calcium, making them a useful food for people with high blood pressure. Weight for weight, a fig contains more fibre than most other fruits or vegetables, so they're great for your bowels and your cholesterol levels. They're also high in polyphenol antioxidants, which can make them a valuable food for cancer prevention. Figs are odd trees - they don't produce flowers - the blossom is inside the fruit, and it's these blossoms with their little seeds that produce the crunchy texture.
There are two fruiting types of varieties with Figs. One has two crops of figs produced each year the other just one. The first or breba crop develops in the spring on last year's shoot growth (Jan-Feb). The main fig crop (April-May) develops on the current year's shoot growth and ripens in the late summer or autumn. The main crop is generally superior in quantity and quality, but some cultivars can produce good breba crops. Fruit will need picking daily to ensure top quality and to minimise spoilage and bird attacks. The fruit don't age well once picked and will need to be eaten within a few days of picking.
To produce high quality fruit, fig trees will need maintenance and care after planting. By nature the root systems are very inquisitive so be conscious of the proximity of plumbing and services if planting them in the ground. Once planted, trees should produce fruit in 2 years. Then once settled in, they are a seemingly unstoppable tree. They will reach good harvest volumes in 5-7 years. Trees should go on producing for years to come. Some plantings in California are 100 years old and still producing excellent volumes of fruit.
They need a sheltered, north facing position which catches the sun all day. Put them in shade and will they use all their energy finding sun and none producing fruit. They should be planted on flat or gently sloping ground so they are easy to pick and tend.
They prefer soil to be free draining and will not cope with being waterlogged.
Whilst the trees are relatively drought resistant, fruit will not ripen to its prime if the trees aren't watered. If your area dries out, it is advisable to invest in an irrigation system which will supply water during the growing season. This will ensure your fruit is juicy and grows to optimum size.
The main pest you will find with your Fig will be Birds. You will need some protection from birds who will damage the fruit on the trees. Unless if like me you like to share with them & enjoy watching all the Waxeyes & Tui's & other birds enjoying them also. For us, our tree is so old & large there is enough for everyone:) Figs aren't as prone to disease as some other fruit crops making them a good candidate for organic growers.
The fig tree is fast growing and requires pruning to keep it at a manageable height. Pruning also helps to limit shading the fruit, which will delay ripening. I have heard of people trimming off the leaves to help ripen the fruit quicker. Although the tree does start dropping leaves about mid March to help this process. I have seen an orchard which espaliered the trees, set up like a vineyard with wires strung between posts. This would be costlier to set up but would help ensure the fruit was always at an accessible height, making picking less labour intensive in the long run.
Figs, skins removed & pureed.
Equal amount of Jam Sugar.
or 2 cups Caster Sugar & 4¼ TBS Powdered Pectin.
1. Combine the Fig puree & Sugar in a large saucepan & place over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
2. Turn up heat & bring to boil. Stirring regularly boil for 4 mins.
3. At this point you can pour into jars as Jam or dry out into Fig Paste.
2. Grease the base & sides of 6 ramekins & divide the paste evenly among the ramekins.
3. Place in fan-forced oven with only the fan working in a very low oven (90°C) for several hours to dry out.You could use a traditional method for drying the paste in the sunshine or in an airing cupboard
3. Remove from the ramekins & wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate.