Fig tree in early spring
The leaves bursting forth from the branches of my fig tree are such a welcome sign of spring! I think the leaves look a little like butterflies.

My fig tree is full of life force, bursting forth vigorously at the first opportunity in early spring. 

 

My tree is an LSU purple fig. The birds think it is just for them, which is getting to be a problem for me, now that the tree is large enough to provide a reliable crop ... if only I can get to the fruit first. Problem is, the fruit is ever so much sweeter when fully ripe and starting to soften. The birds, however, seem satisfied to nip a hole in the side of the fruit when it's just starting to get ripe.

 

I may try hanging some aluminum pie pans in the tree this year, to see if the occasional metallic clinks and flashes of reflected light deter the birds. Old CDs and rubber snakes have also been recommended, along with strips of tin foil and colored paper. I understand that I might have less trouble with the birds if I had a light-skinned fig variety, because then the figs could ripen without appearing dark and ripe to the birds. 

 

"LSU Purple" was introduced by the Lousiana Agricultural Experiment Station in 1991, It was the product of a fig breeding program led by horticulture professor Ed O'Rourke. 


July 3, 2015


Right on target for the Fourth of July, my figs are ripening. And, this year, for the first time, the birds seem to be leaving plenty for me! I fitted some aluminum pie pans with noisy beads, and my son Ted strung them up along with some waste CDs to scare the birds off, and it seems to be working!


I noticed a milky sap oozing from the fruit, and related it to the stickiness of my lips after eating my first few treasures. I did some research and learned that figs contain "latex" with an enzyme called ficin that is proteolytic, or protein-breaking, meaning that it splits long-chain protein molecules into smaller units. Proteolytic enzymes help tenderize meat, and can irritate the "meat" of people's mouths! Other proteolytic enzymes are papain, found in papayas, and bromelin, found in fresh pineapple. 


The ficin in figs is concentrated in the skin and stems, and becomes less of a factor as the figs ripen. Its evolutionary purpose is to discourage pests as the figs mature; apparently, worms that try to snack on unripe figs can be digested by the enzymes they were trying to digest! Some people say that putting fig latex on a callus will help soften the rough flesh for removal.


To read more:

 

"Louisiana Figs"

 

Dan's Cajun Figs

 

Just Fruits and Exotics Figs

 

"Fig Man on campus: LSU releasing new fig varieties developed by horticulturist Ed O'Rourke"

 

"How to score with figs: Keep it simple and outsmart the birds"