Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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5-MINUTE EXPERT:

It’s fig season: How to grow them, what to do with the harvest

Image

Leila Navidi

Owner Brian Brown picks some figs that he grows at the China Ranch Date Farm located near the southern end of Death Valley National Park Thursday, June 4, 2009.

Did you know?

Figs are considered the first cultivated crop, dating back to prehistoric times.

Can a fruit tree rich in vitamins and fiber thrive in the heat of the Vegas summer? You better believe it. In your very own backyard, you can harvest figs and add them to your favorite meals—all with a little basic gardening knowledge. Here’s what you need to know before you grow.

Figs 101

Fig trees have been around for so long that remnants of the fruit have been found in Neolithic sites dating back to 5000 B.C. They originated in northern Asia and spread to the Mediterranean. Spanish missions brought figs to Southern California in 1520, and almost 700 years later, they remain a popular crop throughout the U.S.

Tips for Planting

Self-pollinating

Fig trees and their flowers are female, meaning they are self-pollinating and do not need to cross-pollinate with another tree to create fruit.

Fig trees (Ficus carica) thrive in the desert, making them the perfect addition to any yard. But patience is key. Fig trees can take 3-4 years to produce a viable crop. When they do, fig trees produce crops twice a year. The second crop is typically the most fruitful—producing edible figs. Harvest time is typically between June and September.

1. Plant in the cooler seasons. Figs do best when starting out in the cooler months. Fig trees need “chill hours”—winter hours when temperatures go below 45 degrees. They require 8-10 hours of full sunlight a day.

2. Plant in a sunny spot away from winter winds.

Pro tip

Use a soil probe to make sure you are watering to a depth of three feet below the soil.

3. Dig a hole that is a few inches deeper and wider than the roots, and plant two to four inches deeper that the pot. Trees should be placed 20 feet away from any other building or other trees.

4. Watering every 3-5 days is crucial, especially during summer months. During the winter, fig trees can go two weeks without water.

Best Figs to Grow

• Brown Turkey: If you don’t plan on drying and canning, these are the best for eating raw.

• Black Mission: These figs freeze and preserve better.

Ripe for the Picking

Did you know?

Figs last about 2-3 days after being picked, and can be frozen for long-term storage.

Unlike many other fruits, figs do not ripen after they are picked. Here’s what to look for when picking:

1. Change in color: Unripe figs are small and green in color. When common figs like Brown Turkey and Black Mission are ripe, they turn brown or purple.

2. Change in appearance: Ripe figs hang droopy on the tree and soften.

3. Change in size: As figs ripen, they will grow in size. Not noticing a size difference? Your tree may be lacking water.

What does it taste like?

Did you know?

Mature fig trees will grow to be 15 to 30 feet tall.

When you bite into a ripe fig, you’ll notice a honey-like sweetness and dried berries. They are best eaten raw—you can eat the entire fig (aside from the stem) or you can peel them. The sweet fruit is part of the mulberry family and technically a flower. Figs are called inverted flowers because the bloom is on the inside—that’s all the tiny internal seeds you see.

What to do with them

Nutritional benefits

A small handful of figs has about 20 percent of your daily value of dietary fiber. They also are a good source of potassium, iron, copper and B6 vitamins.

• Roasted with honey: Roast figs in the oven and drizzle honey over them. Serve with cheese (brie or goat cheese) or over ice cream for an extra sweet desert.

• Wrap in bacon: Wrap figs in bacon or prosciutto and bake.

Did you know?

Fig Newtons made their debut in 1892.

• In a salad: Adding fig halves to your salad is a nutritional and delicious benefit.

• Dry it out or make jam: If you want to stretch your crop for year-round eating, consider dehydrating or preserving figs for longer shelf life.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.