Hail to the almighty fig tree! Especially the one that my "Pop" has nurtured at his home in East Quogue, NY, for the past 10 years. The tree, sits on the south side of the house just outside the window where my husband Chris, Trixie our dog and I lay asleep (with dreams of Figs dancing in our heads!)
Every weekend out east at my Pop's house, the first order of business is a discussion about the fig tree. Depending on the season it can go like this: "Not even Hurricane Irene could take that fig tree down! Or, "The tree has grown another foot, and the landscaper is having a hard time mowing the lawn! Or, "This week there is going to be a 'Fig Bonanza', the tree is going to explode!" Or, "I have a suspicion the squirrels are having a feast!" Whichever way you shake it, the first 5 minutes always revolves around the fig tree.
This fanatical sentiment towards the fig tree goes back to my Grandmother, Olimpia Ciacciarelli who was from Minturno, Italy. Grandma Olimpia came over on "the boat" with her family to Ellis Island in 1912 at the age of 14. As a little girl she grew up with fig trees, an integral part of her families nourishment and delight. Here in the United States, Brooklyn to be exact, her sister had a fig tree which sat in the middle of her courtyard and gave birth to the most luscious Mission figs. My grandmother would take the train from the Bronx to Brooklyn to load up shoeboxes full of figs to bring back to her family. Everyone in the family including my father at a very young age became fig fanatics.
Fast forward to the year 2002. My father, an electrician, was working the midnight shift at Saks 5th Avenue in NYC and was on a lunch break. His co-worker, Frank pulled a fig out of his bag, according to my father, the largest fig he'd ever seen. Frank gave my father one of his precious figs, which made my father have dreams of one day having his own fig tree. So he asked Frank if he would give him a branch from his fig tree, and wrap the bottom with wet newspaper so he can try and cultivate it. The next day Frank brought the fig branch in and my Father immediately called my Grandmother to consult on what to do next. She enthusiastically advised him to place the branch in a container with water so it would root. As the months went by the branch was beginning to grow roots and was ready to be transplanted into a small pot. While the fig tree continued to grow, my Grandmother, unfortunately never got to see it. She became ill and passed away a few months later.
Since her passing the fig tree had grown through a few pots and spaces until finally it found its perfect spot on the south side of my fathers house, where it nestled up to the fence and a nearby heating vent. My father claims that the placement near this vent was not intentional but thinks it may be a contributing factor to the health of the tree. What my father truly believes is that my Grandmother, since her passing, has been watching over the health of the tree.
There are two harvests, early spring and in late summer, which my Father calls the "Fig Bonanza Crop". Friends from the neighborhood come to see the tree, sometimes they come by and take his figs thinking he would not notice. Little do they realize my father knows every fig on that tree. Every morning he goes out and takes stock of his precious fruit. Some mornings I can even hear him talking to the tree because our bedroom window is right there. "Who ate your figs last night tree? "The squirrels huh?" I will protect you don't you worry!" That day my father got me involved with putting socks over every fig, even bags to protect his fruit. "Warding off the Foe is a constant battle he says, If you see any animals running around with the biggest purple lips you have ever seen they have been eating the figs off my tree".
I have been fortunate enough to eat these figs right off of the tree. They are the sweetest figs I have ever tasted. Even Trixie thinks so! They are so perfect that making something from them seems crazy, but of course I did.
If you haven't figured it out, my father is a fanatic about his fig tree. He nurtures the tree everyday as if it was his own child. If my grandmother were alive today she would be so proud of the tree and would be out there everyday right by his side taking stock. Truth be told, If you nurture something everyday what it gives back to you might be twice fold, maybe even a "Fig Bonanza".
The offspring of my father's fig tree
My father has been nurturing a fig tree for our home at "Sheridan Green". Here is Trixie protecting our tree from the Foe.
The neighbor across the street Ben and Esther have taken one of my father's fig branches and also has begun to cultivate their own tree.
Next Up! Fig Cognac Honey Jam and Fig Pistachio Frangipane Tart