Looking at figs, it’s no surprise that many see them as rather unusual fruits.
Interestingly enough, they aren’t technically fruits but inverted flowers.
The flowers bloom inside the pods, which then mature into the fruit called an achene.
When to harvest figs? Unlike most fruits, figs will not ripen off the tree after you pick them. Because of this, you should wait until they are ripe before harvesting them. You will be able to identify that the figs are ready to harvest when the fruits hang down and their necks wilt.
How Do You Know When Your Figs Are Ready to Harvest?
For figs, fruit formation to ripening takes approximately two months.
However, it is important to keep in mind that not all figs will ripen at the same time.
To know when figs are ready to harvest, there are cues or indications that you can rely on.
Young and immature figs stick out from the tree, almost as if they want to be isolated from it.
Ripe figs, on the other hand, dangle while hanging on the tree.
You will also notice its larger size compared to the immature green figs.
Also, the colors will change from brown or purple, but it depends on the variety. Immature, young, and unripe figs are smaller and green in color.
Ripe figs tend to be soft and squishy. Even with a gentle squeeze, you will be able to tell if a fig is already ripe.
In comparison, unripe figs are hard and firm. This is because the process of ripening the fruit has not yet taken place.
The sugars and juices that are manufactured when the fruit ripens are not fully available yet.
Most people eat one unripe fig to know for sure if they must wait and allow the figs to ripen fully or if they are ready to harvest.
As you can imagine, this is considered the most effective way to identify if your figs are already ripe or not.
Immature and unripe figs are dry, rubbery, and generally unsweet.
On the other hand, ripe figs are sweet with a smooth and soft texture when freshly picked from the tree.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Figs?
Ripe figs are rich in taste, sweet, and highly nutritious.
Their trees are beautiful and usually grow to about 10 to 20 feet, making it easy to harvest the fruits.
It is important that you pick the figs as they ripen and relish your harvest.
After harvest, you can either eat, use, freeze, or dry the fruits as soon as possible.
In an unfortunate circumstance where you cannot harvest them all at once, what can you expect to happen?
When you leave ripe figs unharvested, they will become overripe and burst open.
If still left untouched after that, birds, wasps, and even squirrels and cats will surely have a feast.
However, in cases where no animals are present to take advantage of the sweet fig fruits, they will just fall to the ground and rot.
How To Care for Fig Trees
Fig trees thrive in warm climates, but you can also grow them in temperate regions.
Although tagged as small trees, they sometimes grow to a height of 12 meters or 39 feet.
To ensure they bear sweet-tasting fruits come early summer or late autumn, you have to provide the trees with the right growing conditions.
Here are some things to consider when you’ve finally decided to grow fig trees:
- Most fig trees should be planted outdoors, either in the early spring or early fall, in a spot where they receive full sun.
- A full-grown fig can grow up to 20 feet, so you have to plant figs at least 25 feet apart.
- The trees can thrive in almost all soil types as long as it is well-drained and has plenty of organic material.
- In countries with dry climates, you have to water the fig trees weekly.
- In cold winter regions, it is best to grow container figs so that you can move them indoors once winter has come.
You also have to consider protecting your trees from strong winds. In fact, a fig tree cover for winter is a necessity.
Remember that fig trees are native to the Middle East, which consists of tropical countries.
While they can tolerate mild freezing temperatures, when the days become extremely cold, it will damage the tree or even kill it.
How To Harvest Figs?
Once you meet these growing requirements, you can expect your trees to produce fruits in about three to five years.
Some will produce fruits one year after planting, but they won’t be as many, nor will they ripe fully.
In some cases, especially in warm summer regions, they will bear and ripen fruits twice a year.
As mentioned earlier, harvesting figs are pretty easy.
Still, there are things to keep in mind so that you don’t end up damaging the tree or, worse, hurting yourself in the process.
Step 1: Make sure they are ready for picking.
Unlike bananas and mangoes, for example, figs will not continue to ripen after picking.
As such, the first and most crucial step to harvesting figs is knowing the right time to harvest.
Follow the tips we shared earlier to check their ripeness.
Step 2: Wear protective clothing.
Figs produce plenty of sap. In fact, they are filled with it.
And this sap can be harmful to the skin, so you must consider your wardrobe and plan, maybe a day or two before harvesting your figs.
Make sure that you wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt or a jacket to protect your hands and arms from making contact with the fig’s sap.
Step 3: Pick the fruits the right way.
Figs are very fragile. You can easily bruise and damage them during harvest, so pull them away from the tree slowly.
As you do, leave a few inches of the stem attached to the fruit as it will help keep the fig fresh.
It is also advised to use a pruner; doing it with bare hands will be difficult, and you may end up damaging the tree.
Step 4: Store them properly.
Figs should be kept in the coolest part of your fridge.
It would also help to store them away from other fresh fruits or vegetables because they will cause those fruits and vegetables to rot.
You can dry them, can them, or freeze them for longer storage.
Should You Wash Figs After Harvesting?
Figs are sensitive fruits. They go bad so quickly, which is a cause of discouragement for a lot of gardeners.
However, knowing how to store these delicate fruits is really easy.
Figs have a very short shelf life since they are only harvested once they are ripe.
Once picked, fresh figs only last about a week in the fridge. If kept at room temperature, they will only last two to three days.
Things are different for dried figs, though. If stored properly, dried figs can last for three years, similar to any other dried fruit.
If you have decided to freeze your fresh figs to extend their shelf life somehow, there are steps that you must take.
First, wash the figs thoroughly and then remove the stems.
Make sure to leave out the overripe ones. Not only will they not store well, but they will also cause other figs to spoil quickly.
Once you’ve sorted them out, put the figs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to air dry them.
When doing this, leave some space in between the figs to allow for ventilation.
Can You Eat Figs Immediately After Harvesting?
Due to the delicate nature of figs, it is best to eat them right after harvesting.
Again, they will rot three days after picking them when left at room temperature.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to prepare figs. Below are the two most common practices.
Eat them raw.
Figs are best enjoyed raw. In fact, they taste the best when picked straight off the tree.
You can eat them with the skin and seeds intact, but some hate the texture of the skin.
As such, what they do instead is peel the skin off and scoop out the seeds.
Cooking figs are also a good option because it brings out their sweetness and makes them even juicier than they already are.
To do this, cut the figs in half and put them on a hot grill.
Alternatively, you can also broil figs, which will caramelize the natural sugar inside them.
Many gardeners look at figs as trophy plants, but it’s actually possible to grow them in your own backyard.
Even better, these fruits are not only sweet and juicy but also rich in antioxidants.
Figs also promote digestive health because of their high fiber content.
As such, they help reduce unhealthy food cravings, leading to better blood sugar control and weight management.
If those aren’t reasons enough to try your hand at growing this tree, we don’t know what else will convince you.