Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010


Yet again fruit outshines our vegetables this year . . . after the Strawberries; Gooseberries; White, Red and Black Currants it's now the turn of the Figs.

To be absolutely precise a Fig is not a fruit, it is a flower – the flower is inside-out, it flowers within the fleshy pouch and there's a teeny little hole in the end just big enough for a Fig Wasp to crawl to pollinate it. Isn't nature amazing?!

A few years ago, and we've forgotten to make a note of the year, we picked so many Figs from our tree that we had to eat Figs for breakfast and lunch and have Fig Tarte Tatin for supper. I have a vague recollection it was a hot summer after a particularly cold winter, so when the recent winter of 2009/2010 was one of the coldest on record and temperatures began to soar in May, June and July we crossed our fingers and eagerly waited . . .

Sure enough this year we have figs, not in huge quantities but we have picked between 2 and 4 figs each day this week. You can just see our fig tree in the photo above, it's the spreading green tree in the distance in the corner of the walled garden. We didn't plant it – it's in the coolest and least sunny corner, which isn't the best position for a Mediterranean tree. But it's roots may be restricted as it is planted on a pile of rubble from demolished cold frames – and that's what the gardening books say is a good thing.

The most common Fig variety grown in Britain is the Brown Turkey, but from the size and colour of the fruit and the shape of the leaves I think our is a Brunswick. It's a waiting game, picked too early and flesh is dry and bitter, left too long it collapses into a mess covered with wasps!

Picking them isn't easy, it involves walking sticks and much stretching through the forest of giant leaves to bend down the springy branches and pluck the prize! Best eaten straight away, no need for cream, the fleash melts in the mouth and tastes like an exotic conserve . . . mmmmm!

We have a second tree in a sunnier spot between our house and the garden wall and next to a little outhouse. I grew this from a cutting – I was pruning the big Fig tree and noticed one of the low branches had 'layered' itself and was growing roots. I just stuck the branch in the ground and it grew – it's now as tall as the wall (3.5 m) and this year bears Figs for the first time.

In years when the Fig crop is small (some years we get only one or two) we can enjoy using the leaves . . . not as Adam and Eve a fancy dress costumes! but in the kitchen, use the leaves to wrap chicken or fish and bake in the oven. The leaves give off an exotic coconut flavour – just right for a summer supper in the garden.


  1. Oh I am so envious and enlightened (I knew nothing of the Fig Wasp) I love figs and long for my poor potted specimen to reward me. It was just too cold in Wales and here in Suffolk it seems to have put on a great deal of growth this year but still no figs.

    I love them eaten with ham, goats cheese and honey, my idea of heaven.

  2. I love figs stuffed with ricotta salata cheese and then wrapped in prosciutto. But a good old fashioned Fig Newton is really yummy too. Your figs look amazing.

  3. When we moved into our house we found a fig tree/bush in the green house, every year it's little green 'fruits' come every year they get eaten by the wasps! we don't eat figs!! but I love the leaves so much I wouldn't get rid of it.

  4. ooh yours are early, the wasps and I are still circling my tree. This year I will beat them...
    If you need to restrict the roots of figs to get a good crop you can dig a trench around the tree and chop through the roots. Sounds brutal but it works!
    I like them done in the oven with a dollop of dolcelatte shoved in them.

  5. What a fascinating post! We inherited a fig tree when we moved in nine years ago. That first summer the wasps and butterflies enjoyed the nectar but the tree has never produced many figs ever since. This year it has gone berserk and is festooned with them but they have yet to ripen. We are in wet west Wales so I'm not hopeful but after reading this I shall be keeping a keen eye on them. Lesley

  6. figs are great - but the dog keeps easting my poor brown turkey to the ground despite fences - we got three figs from a four year old tree last year :(

  7. wowsers! So jealous! so many things to do with figs... but the smell alone takes me off to some island in the sun... sigh...

  8. Our fig is only a one-year old cutting from a friend's. You always need something to look forward to, don't you? Enjoy your Bonus Year.

  9. Gosh, that fig looks good. My fig tree never has any figs! At least I now know I can use the leaves!

  10. Yum! I love figs and our little tree is about 30cm high so we'll be waiting a good long while before we're using walking sticks to loop a branch down. It'll be worth it though! Thanks for the tip about using the leaves too - that's a good one to file away.

  11. I'm dribbling! - there is absolutely nothing as gorgeous as a fresh, ripe fig. Enjoy!

  12. Oh my! You get figs! I would love to have a fig tree, but it's not the weather here. I adore eating figs, and they're beautiful aren't they. Love Vanessa xxx

  13. Oh hooray, I was hoping to see the undergardeners and here they are in the first photo :)
    Gosh, some interesting things that I didn't know about figs. So glad I stopped by today.


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