Growing Figs in Containers by Sonia R. Martinez for the Hamakua Times of Honoka’a, HI – August 25th, 2013
• Mon, Aug 26, 2013
Figs are the nectar of the gods… I’ve always loved them whether fresh or dried, cooked or raw, in preserves and even (gasp!) Fig Newtons!
Quite a few years ago, we bought a small fig tree that never did much for us. We planted it in the ground, where it would produce a few leaves and then die back. It did this for three years! Then we found out that figs are easy to root from cuttings, so after that, we got a couple of pieces from a friend’s plant, rooted them and planted them, along with our original little do-nothing fig in a large clay pot…and had much better luck…but it would still not grow or give us fruit.
This year, as part of our ‘garden remodeling’, we finally moved the pot from one location in the yard to another, and lo and behold, the little tree started prospering.
Figs lend themselves well to container planting and need less watering than other fruit trees. Figs are sub-tropical plants and living in Hawai’i, we don’t need to worry about temperatures dipping too low for a fig tree to be damaged, but in colder climes potted figs need to be taken inside during the colder winter; a garage or barn will work as long as the temperatures don’t go below freezing inside the building.
To propagate them, take cuttings that are at least about six inches long and no bigger than finger thick and plant them in a mixture of planting dirt and sandy soil to about an inch deep in smaller pots. Water thoroughly and then let them sit. They will do better if you don’t overwater but when the soil is too dry, place the potted plants in a container with water and let them soak from the bottom. Remember to let the soil dry out in between soakings.
Potted fig after a month in the new location
Figs in Andy’s tree
Don’t transplant them to a larger pot until there is vigorous growth showing. Sometimes a piece might sprout a few leaves but not have enough of a root system to survive a transplanting. When transplanting try to not disturb the new root system by planting it with the root ball intact.
Plant them in a light potting mix to which you’ve added a bit of sand, perlite or vermiculite for good drainage and make sure the bottom of the pot is filled with about an inch of medium sized rocks or gravel, for good drainage. Figs cannot stand to have their roots too wet for long periods of time.
You can transplant them every year or so to a larger pot as they grow, but in colder climates, remember to not plant in too large a pot that you can’t move it indoors when temperatures drop.
Figs are not heavy feeders and will prefer slow release organic fertilizers that are high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen. Bone meal is ideal.
With very little care you will be enjoying figs for years to come!
Since I haven’t been able to get large amounts of figs at any one time, I make small batches of preserves with them and just refrigerate. The preserves don’t last a long time in our house and can keep in the fridge a couple of weeks with no need to go through a water bath canning process.
Figs in Sage Syrup
I have found that figs and sage pair quite well and the combination is quite pleasing to our tastes.
To make Sage Syrup, just take a few little bunches or sprigs of fresh sage and boil them while making simple syrup – equal portions sugar and water – and cook to desired consistency.
If you want the figs to be infused in the sage syrup, just poach them as you’re making the syrup.
Figs poached in syrup
Figs poached in sage syrup
To turn the figs and sage syrup into jam, just continue cooking until they completely dissolve into a mush and the syrup concentrates to the desired spreadable consistency.
Fig, Apple and Blue Cheese Salad
Here is a deliciously simple salad for two we love. The dressing is one of Jamie Oliver’s I reworked a little bit.
6 ripe figs
1 medium, crisp Gala apple
1 small bunch mixed salad greens
1 small bunch watercress
Crumbled blue cheese of your choice
Handful of caramelized walnuts or pecans
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
Hawaiian sea salt
Fresh ground peppercorns
Wash the greens, wrap loosely in a tea towel and refrigerate until ready to plate.
With a very sharp knife, cut down into the figs from the top, making an X pattern but do not cut all the way to the bottom; just enough to open up the fig but still holding it together. Cut the unpeeled apple in thin slices.
To assemble, divide the mixed greens and watercress into two portions and place on plate. Arrange apple slices on top. Take each fig with your fingertips and squeeze a tiny bit from the bottom, just enough to ‘plump them up’ and open the inside a bit; place them on the pates. Add some crumbled blue cheese and a scattering of caramelized walnuts or pecans (we prefer pecans) and add the amount of dressing desired.
To caramelize the nuts:
Place a bit of butter in a heavy bottomed skillet and add the nuts. Sauté the nuts just a bit to coat them with the melted butter. Add a sprinkling or two of brown sugar and continue to stir them until the sugar has dissolved and coats the nut pieces. Spoon them unto a piece of parchment paper, separating them so they can all air-dry.
I like to keep caramelized pecans for quick addition to salads and desserts, so try to always have some on hand. Store the caramelized nuts in sealed jars in a cool, dry place.
Kadota or Trojano figs
I love hearing from you and welcome your comments or suggestions for future articles – you can keep up with food and gardening adventures by visiting my blog at www.soniatasteshawaii.com
The holidays will be here before you know it and you can still get copies of my ‘Tropical Taste Cookbook’ for gifts. If interested, drop me a line.
A hui hou!