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figgy fun

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Post Mon Aug 13, 2018 11:42 am
stewartwillsher User avatar

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Location: Western Spain
A fig WAFFLE sounds like it could be tasty, but not so if you have heard/read all about figs, either from me being repetitive (it's an age thing!) or elsewhere.
Bored with waffles, or if you have any requests or questions, then say so!

Figs are funny critters.
Once established a fig tree seems indestructible.
Each year, sometime after the fig harvest in the autumn and before spring, our forty odd trees get a serious haircut.
In strong winter winds, a sizable chunk of a few trees might be broken off; does not seem to bother them though.
Each tree has two distinct types and ages of wood - the old stuff, which can be up to a foot in diameter is sort of conventional woody wood.
The young branches are most peculiar, being springy and more rubbery.
Growth is vigorous throughout the spring and summer months.
I have been told, not to burn freshly cut fig wood as it gives off poisonous fumes, so I keep well clear when our chap burns it with the rest anyway!
Fig trees are deciduous, and the fall can be most surprising, as if at some botanical signal, a switch seems to be thrown and most of the leaves just drop off resulting in an instant state of undress.
Within a short space of time new shoots appear, even in mid winter.
Pruning a fig tree, can be ruthless, but the blighters will protest and grow new stuff at an alarming rate in spring.
So much so, that when a strategy is adopted to make passage around the finca easier, the trees will quickly thwart that endeavour.
I sometimes wonder if a hard hat should be worn during the growing months; my bonce has the scars!
The foliage of the fig tree is distinctly large; I guess the mythological/bibliological use to cover one's modesty may stem (pun) from the size being adequate to hide the most well endowed, largest, of the anatomical areas concerned.

Then the fruit has its quirks.
We have three types of trees, therefore three types of fruit.
Slightly more than half are white figs and are small-ish, up to about four cms diameter.
Fewer than half our trees are cuello dama (lady's neck) and are slightly larger and shaped like a small pear or elegant shoulders and neck, hence the name.
But when dried, I have difficulty telling the difference.
Our third type is prized by madam, who scoffs the lot, but we only have one tree; and that is a variety of black fig.
The main crop weighs in at about three quarters of a ton in total.
Most mature trees produce a sort of false premature mini-crop in spring.
These earlies are called brebas and are not usually sufficient to warrant harvesting, but they are almost indistinguishable from the main crop.
Many of the better managed and laid out fig plantations can be hand picked, which means that the fruit is sold for confectionary, or where appearance and presentation matter, and they fetch a higher price.
Our trees are all shapes and sizes and distributed across the eight levels of terraces, and as the fruit goes for industrial processing they are not picked, so to speak.

To harvest the fruit, we either wait until the figs fall, or help them with shaking and whacking the trees.
They are then dried on almost any surface that can be kept off the ground, and quickly covered or moved when it rains.
The trees are reluctant to let go of unripe fruit, so the harvest can take a month or two, of bashing, shaking, then groveling around on the ground filling bucketsfull, which are then spread out to dry.
That is repeated a couple of times a week, depending on the appearance of ripeness.
Once hard and dry they are sacked up, forty kilos or thereabouts per unit.
Our trees, on average, produce about fifteen kilos (five buckets) per tree.
The market price for dry figs is poor, related to the effort, fetching about one euro per kilo.
At a guess, I think I have managed to collect about ten kilos an hour, so that puts the economics into perspective.

Our persistence at preserving a traditional finca is not cost effective, so we surrender and just let our helpers keep what moneys come in; it pays for their holidays, which pleases us, and of course themselves.
The outgoings on fig cultivating on our small scale is minimal, and with the exception of about a kilo of fertilizer Which we buy) a tree, comprises the labour of pruning and burning, scattering the fertilizer, harvesting and arranging or shifting the produce.
Our labour, what little we do now, costs nothing and theirs is covered, just, by the proceeds.
Tradition maintained; win, win, situation.
Oh, and guess what? ... I am not too keen on them!
figsdrying.jpg (60.89 KiB) Viewed 298 times
figscollected.jpg (82.42 KiB) Viewed 298 times
figsontree.jpg (67.47 KiB) Viewed 298 times
figpruning.jpg (129.54 KiB) Viewed 298 times
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