Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fig preserves and memories


the fruit of my childhood memories

I have always loved figs. When I was young we lived in south Louisiana and were blessed to have a large fig tree in our backyard. The tree grew right beside an outdoor patio. I was the unofficial fig picker in our family. After climbing up the tree and gathering from underneath, I would climb on a ladder to the top of the patio and pick the figs from the top of the tree. The leaves of a fig tree will irritate your skin and my exposed arms and legs would itch for some time after I climbed down. But in my mind, it was well worth the discomfort. Usually the fig gathering would happen when my granny was visiting. She would take the figs and make fig preserves from them. I couldn't wait to open the first jar of preserves and spread that sweet, gooey goodness onto a biscuit or a plain piece of toasted light bread. I know I was strange child, remember fried chicken liver was also one of my favorite meals...

Many years went by and I had pretty much forgotten about the figs of my childhood. I moved on to other delicacies. However, it is strange what happens to trigger those long repressed memories. It is also strange what craving pregnancy will produce.

When we lived in Arkansas and I was pregnant to with Noah, I developed a craving for figs. I searched high and low and couldn't find the first jar of fig preserves in any of the local grocery stores. It wasn't until a spring trip to the Bluegrass festival in Mountain View, Arkansas that I was able to satisfy that desire.

Tucked away in a little shop, along with the jars of local honey and pickled okra, were beautiful golden jars of fig preserves. I couldn't believe my fortune. I ate fig preserves on toast for weeks. When the jar was empty the search was on again to find more. After Noah was born I begin to visit the Farmer's Market in Little Rock and to my great fortune a vendor there carried a wonderful fig preserve. Since moving to North Carolina I buy a small jar of preserves from Harris Teeter, a local grocery store. I eat them spread on an Arnold's whole wheat Sandwich Thin with natural peanut butter. I often make a meal out of just that. When I do, I close my eyes and am once again transported back to my carefree childhood days when this wonderful brown, sweet treat grew in my backyard.

In the last few years since reacquainting myself with the delicious fig, I have thought of having a fig tree, to grow my own and put up preserves the way my granny did. Because of our "gypsy" lifestyle I didn't think that was possible. Then I began to read about people growing small fig trees in pots on their decks and I knew this was something I had to try.

Last weekend while Andrew, Noah and I perused the lawn and garden area of our local Lowe's store, I found it! Tucked away with some blueberry bushes, there were fig trees. These trees were about a foot and a half tall and and looked very healthy. I debated; should I, shouldn't I? I really wanted to but being a skeptic, I wondered if you could actually grow figs this way. I saw that they were marked down to ten dollars, so I figured, why not find out?

We purchased two large pots to bring home to re pot what we refer to as "our twins." They are two ficus trees that someone gave to our family seventeen years ago when my brother, Daren, was killed. We have had them ever since. They have been moved many times in those years and they have been re potted several times into bigger and bigger pots. They have had times of plenty and times when they dropped so many leaves I didn't know if they would make it. However, last spring when we moved here and they found their place on either end of our front porch, they have thrived like never before. I suppose the climate and conditions are just right for them to really grow.

Bringing our new little fig tree home we re potted it into one of the large terra cotta pots that we took the ficus trees from. It now sits proudly on our little deck. The leaves look great and it seems to like its new home. I go out regularly and speak encouraging words and imagine the day that I can walk out and pick fruit off of its branches and taste the incredible flavor and sweetness of my very own figs.

Last night Andrew and I sat on the deck in the light of a full moon rising behind us, with the flames of the tiki torches wafting citronella scent across our little backyard paradise, and we agreed that we wanted to go back and buy another fig tree to fill the empty terra cotta pot from the other ficus tree. It only seems fitting that we would have two figs growing together just as our ficus trees have done all these years. We will now have two sets of "twins" to carry with us through the coming years.

Here are some great reference sites to check out if your interested in figs...

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