One of the greatest rewards for your gardening efforts is the experience of plucking tree-ripened fruit from a branch and eating it on the spot. The taste sensation is unexcelled. But one draw-back is that fruit trees often need pruning and spraying at critical times of the year, which, if missed, may result in a ruined crop, meaning a whole year lost. However, there are fruit trees that require very little maintenance, and no chemical spraying. And at the top of this care-free list would be the Fig tree, or Ficus carica. The fruits of this tree are an ancient food enjoyed in the Middle East and Mediterranean since pre-historic times and they figure prominently in the literature of Greece and Rome and, most notably, the Bible.

Figs are delicious and full of energy and are high in natural and simple sugars, minerals and fiber. They contain good levels of potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese. Dried figs contain an impressive 250mg of calcium per 100g, compared to whole milk with only 118mg. They are tasty and can be eaten fresh or preserved. But they are especially delicious in baking, cakes, cookies and tortes. Figs are some of the most delicious and naturally healthy treats you can find.

Figs can be grown successfully in most parts of the world, with cold, mountainous regions being the exception. In general they prefer warm areas but can take some cold. If grown in the upper US or the UK, they should be provided with a southern aspect. This deciduous tree with its bright green, deeply lobed leaves can reach 15 to 30 feet tall with a similar spread but can be pruned back. They also do well in tubs and can be espaliered. They are not fussy about soil and require little fertilizing. Few trees can deliver as much practical and aesthetic value as a Fig tree. And if not picked promptly, the fruits are a boon to wildlife.

There are many excellent varieties of fig tree but one that is equally successful in America, Europe and Australia is 'Brown turkey'.

Fig tree


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