Brown Turkey Figs

One of my favorite memories is picking figs with my Grandmother Holmes. I was very young. I’m thinking around five or six. She needed to pick some figs from the tree in her backyard. We took a dishpan and walked around to the back of the house. There next to the big long leaf pines growing in her side yard and within sight of the barn, we picked brown turkey figs. I wasn’t sure what they tasted like and wasn’t really even sure if they were edible. Teardrop shaped and purple with a pink seedy center, they didn’t look edible, but she encouraged me to try one. I remember looking at the fig and thinking it needed pickling or preserving like I had seen them in jars or spread on toast. “Go on,” she said. “Try it.” I took a small bite from the plump purple side and bit into the most wonderful taste experience I have ever had. The sweetness transcended the funky, fuzzy texture and transported me into another world.

I think that was my first taste of “grown up” food. I consider figs to be rather sophisticated, and now that I live up here in the great white north, I don’t get to delight in them as I once did. My mother has tried to supply me with fig preserves from the lady in Tennille who sells hers at the farmers market in my hometown. Her fig preserves are delicious with a slice of lemon in each jar for flavor. But sometimes only a fresh fig will do, and that is a treat I can procure only about once a year.

Because of my longing for this delicacy only grown in warmer climes, I decided to experiment. When Bruce and I were at Jung’s Garden Center in Stevens Point this past spring, we saw that there were Brown Turkey fig trees available in the bare root room. That is the area of the nursery where people who are thrifty can buy dormant plants and allow them to come back to life in their yards for about a third of the price of buying a potted plant. You buy them with the roots covered in peat moss and saw dust and put them in the ground when the danger of frost has passed.

Can you imagine my delight and excitement when I saw the fig trees for purchase in my area? I wasn’t leaving the store without one. Bruce and I decided we could pot it and wheel the little thing into the house during the winter. The next day I potted it up and watered it diligently. It looked like a stick set in some dirt. I waited about two weeks. Nothing happened. I thought the fig experiment was failed and over, but a few days later Bruce suggested we put it in the ground.  I decided I wanted to plant it beside the patio near my roses so I could enjoy the big, hand-shaped leaves with their lovely, velvety texture. I also thought it would provide some nice shade once it gets big. See how much faith I have in this little tree?

I am happy to report that my brown turkey fig looks beautiful. It has grown about a foot this summer. It doesn’t yet produce fruit, but I didn’t expect it to this soon. In only a few weeks I will tenderly wrap it up for the winter and pray for a mild one with a good bit of snow to insulate the little tree against the cold. I hope that one day I too can take my grandchild out to my backyard with a dishpan to pick figs. When I do, I’ll remember my grandmother’s gentle urging and introduce my grandchild to the delights of this southern delicacy here in the north.

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