Friggin’ Fig

Ode to a Pathetic Harvest

by Karen Bertelsen



I paid cash for this tree that I bought in the spring.

Fig Tree

With hopes of a glorious showing of figs.
Italian Fig


Instead I got one,
Tiny Fig


The size of my thumb,
Little Fit


What could I do …
Italian Fig 2


But split it in two.


Figs With Blue Cheese


I ate half of my fig with a dose of blue cheese,


The other side made me weak in the knees,

With proscuitto and walnuts

and a drizzle of honey …

That one single fig was worth every bit of my money.

ยฉKaren Bertelsen


  1. Marti says:

    That was very nice. Maybe next year, the Garden God will reward you.
    With two.

  2. SusanR says:

    Looks delicious! Maybe more fruit next season. I bought a passion fruit tree because a passion fruit costs $1.50 at the farmer’s market. So, instead of $1.50, I paid $20 for the one stinkin’ passion fruit I got off the tree the first year. But this year the harvest has been better. And as we speak there are still three green passion fruits on the tree. Yum!!!

  3. calliek says:

    At least you got one! Second year with my fig tree and still nothing.

  4. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    But it’s a pretty little fig..yes I am up late..

  5. Lynn says:

    Lovely poem, lovely fig! You have much better luck with fruit trees than I do. I bought an Italian prune tree, planted it, watered it, cared for it, and…. nothing. After 5 years of nothing I went out in the early, early spring, put my arm around it, and had a little talk with the tree, bottom line, produce or else. That spring it blossomed like crazy and has been mass producing ever since.

  6. Martina says:

    The first fruiting year is always the least productive. Doesn’t really matter what type of fruit tree it is, the fact that the tree is “stressed” (living roots in a restrictive pot or burlap bag does not a happy tree make) affects fruit production, big time. If you haven’t transplanted the fig to a permanent location or significantly larger container don’t expect much improvement for the next growing season either. Do a little research on the best pruning techniques and the specific ph levels fig trees prefer (soil ph testing kits can be found at your local plant nursery or garden centre). Fertilize the tree according to its needs and be patient, once the tree has established itself it will have more energy for fruit production, rather than simply trying to survive. Another factor that could affect fruit production is pollenationโ€”if there aren’t enough active pollinators (bees, butterflies etc) or male&female buds to cross-pollinate there won’t be much fruit either.

    • Karen says:

      Hi martina – This is actually the size recommended for the tree at this time. (it can’t be planted in the ground as it won’t survive the winter … it needs to be brought into a garage for the winter season) I’m sure it will do much better next year. ~ karen!

      • Marti says:

        What? You bought a tree that you want to give you a wonderful bounteous crop and it can’t stay outside? You have to bring it in every year? It must look lovely on the back patio, next to the coup. (Are you sure the Girls didn’t perhaps eat one or two of the figs for you?)

        You’re never going to put it in a nice tub with a bit more dirt to root in? I think you should do that and buy one of those little heavy lifting machines that will pick it up and move it around for you in the Spring and Fall. You could park it in the garage… with the fig.

        • cheryl says:

          Good idea, about a dolly but i have a cheaper solution, make a rolling cart with a handle to pull like a wagon out of old pallets…I have made some rolling carts for some of the heavier pots to move them around ..Cost dolly wheels around $5 FOR A SET OF 4..Good luck with the garden angel..

    • I totally agree with Martina. I planted 6 new fig trees near my blueberries and the bees were everywhere pollinating heavily. I had many small figs the first year. (My older fig trees were also full.) I decided to propagate new fig trees from branches on the older trees by placing a plastic bottle filled with dirt around the branch. After a few months I can see the roots growing inside the bottle and when packed full of roots I will cut the branch, replant it and spread the wealth…more figs for FREE! Your friggin’ one fig Fig is going to give you more wonderful bleu cheese moments if you give him some place to spread his little roots! (If you can catch them before the birds…or your next entry will be “Those Brickin Birds”…!)
      Suzanne@Le Farm

  7. Darlene Mele says:

    I got a brown turkey fig tree for mothers day about 5 years ago.. The first year it looked like yours.. After that it grew like a bean stalk… Its huge!! I have more figs then I know what to do with… (after the birds have their fill) Wish I had more recipes to use them in.. You can only make so much jam!! Dont dismay.. You will have more then you can handle soon!! Love your sense of humor.. Keep up the good work…

  8. Stephanie says:

    GORGEOUS photography! Wall worthy! Do you happen to know the name of your particular fig variety?

    • Karen says:

      LOL! That’s a bit of a story. The man I bought the tree from is an older Italian man who had his even older father sneak the fig tree cuttings back from Italy in around 1967. There were two varieties, both only available in this certain region. Which I forget. All he wrote on the stick in the dirt of the fig was black, long neck. ๐Ÿ™‚ So for now, and probably forever … that’s all I know. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      Oh! And thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~ karen

  9. Jane says:

    Your tree looks like a fiddle leaf fig by the large leaves….I just bought one but mine looks like a bush…wondering if I might get a fig (or 2) sometime. Brought it in from the screened porch cause it would freeze…..something to look forward to…am just hoping it will survive inside. Never eaten a real fig though…unless fig Newtons count:) your posts keep me smiling…or laughing!! Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      From what I understand Jane, it shouldn’t be brought inside. Just to a sheltered area like a shed or garage. ~ karen!

  10. Muff says:

    First you need to hear the Vinyl Cafe story about Eugene’s fig tree (

    Then you have to remember that fruit trees take a while to settle into their new homes.

    My father (a retired family doctor) received a little green shoot in a coffee can from a patient. The stick was duly planted in their garden and is now a lush and happy fig tree which produces more figs than they can possibly consume in the season. Initially it was a reluctant guest in the garden, and it has suffered occasional drastic insults visited upon it by the local backyard black bears and assorted people charged with pruning it. At one point, when it had not yet begun to bear fruit, the patient returned for a visit and he and dad looked at the sad little stick in the back yard and the patient went home only to reappear with a much larger and more robust fig tree which was planted near the stick. They both produce luscious figs annually. Yours will get there too and the fruit is so wonderfully sensuous when it is ripe that it is worth the wait.

  11. Therese Bourne says:

    We have a young self seeded fig tree in our garden and last year I watched the first season of fruit develop with a salivating mouth, only to be robbed by birds of the five figs that had formed, well before the fruit had ripened. This year my patience has been rewarded with 62 fruits forming, and they are ripening even as I type (in Australia). I haven’t netted the tree yet, but I’d better get going or I’ll lose the lot again. I will be super excited if any are as beautiful as your solitary jewel.

  12. Laura Bee says:

    I wish I could have a garden like an older Italian man – or you. Hope I can find hubby a fig tree next spring – we only have a carport though. Would that be enough protection with some burlap?
    p.s. I am taking part in an Arts Night soon – they are still looking for poets….

  13. The rule of thumb is:
    First they sleep — year one
    Then they creep — year two
    Then they leap! — year three

  14. dana says:

    I have no idea what a fig tastes like other than the sticky gooey stuff in a fig newton. by the way, they are dropping the word fig from their product.

  15. Susan Dulley says:

    That was Fantastic! Just woke up and already my day is made…Always, always look on the bright side…next year will be great! God always rewards those who are patient…and Fig’s are one of the Bible’s favorite foods. Your took what most people would look at as defeat and you overcame it…I am so very impressed. Thank you.

  16. Rhonda SmartyPants says:

    I need to get out more. Damn it – your poem, your photography, and your incredibly beautiful, lusciously sensuous, gloriously succulent fig made me have lustful thoughts – for a fig. I’ve got a crush on your fig, Karen, and you ate it, which I’m really glad you did because it was the first thing I thought of strongly enough that I almost shouted it out loud and I’m not only the only being in my apartment, but this being in this apartment is clear across the continent from you so you would have to have unbelievably good hearing and I would have to shout extremely loud and we both know by then, the fig would have been an air-dried piece of chewy rind…man, oh, man do I want a ripe fig. I would do exactly what you did with it except I would do obscene things with it in my mouth. No one would know except me and that fig, but he’s not going to want to say a thing about what went on between the both of us. Not when I’m finished with your fig, which of course is a very, very idle threat because of the distance thing and because you ate it a few hours ago what with the time difference and all. I’m going to find me a fig somewhere before this day ends. Yum! I’ll be planning our harvest experience next year when there will be two figs, at least — one for me and … of course, one for you. Love ya and your fig.

  17. Linda J Howes says:

    I am inspired to buy a fig tree. Lovely poem! I bought 2 plum trees 7 years ago and got my first harvest this year. Previous years there was nothing or they just never plumped up and always only one from one tree but this year was delicious!

  18. Tigersmom says:

    Lovely poem. Lovely fig.

    Do you think perhaps because he labeled it black that it could be a black mission fig?

    And there lies the extent of my knowledge of figs, other than that they are delicious, especially the ways you choose to enjoy your lonely one.

  19. Anna Starner says:

    Loved your ode to the fig tree. I also thought your photos were beautiful. Hope you get more fruit as the tree gets established.

  20. Erica says:

    I planted a fig tree 2 years ago. The first year, I had one fig. A mockingbird got it. I don’t care what the book says, they are jerks. This year I had 3. I have high hopes for the first year.

  21. Erica says:

    Next year, I mean.

  22. We don’t have a fig tree but I bought a bay tree (think free Bay Leaves ladies). My husband and I went on a very long vacation to Florida for 3 months to see if we might want to move there. While we were gone we entrusted all of the gardens and that lonely bay tree to my 27 year old daughter to mind. Well you guessed it, she walked by that poor tree every day and never once thought to give it a drink. It was the saddest things you ever saw when we returned home. We couldn’t even use the leaves on it they were so brittle and dry. Thank God the sprinklers reached the gardens and my vegetables were all fine!

  23. Ann says:

    Are you going to bring your tree in for the winter? Cause where you live it will probably die back to the ground each year and will have a hard time becoming a healthy mature tree. Anything below 10 degrees will kill it back.

    We have a 3 year old tree that produced its first big crop this year. And as the roots mature it will continue to have bigger crops. But it is so worth the work and wait to have such sweet succulent little gems to pop into your mouth.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ann – Yes I’m going to bring it in the potting shed, which should be shelter enough. I was advised against bringing it in the actual house. Too warm, too much shock etc. etc. ~ karen!

  24. Mary Werner says:

    I was painting last night and was almost done except for the fig. It was late so I went to bed thinking I will find a picture on the net in the morning after I read my favorite blogs with coffee. Before my first sip – there was your picture – WOW. Thanks as I needed the fig outside and inside too. I love the moral of your story with recipes! Simple like a fig. And delicious like figs. And set to the sound of iambic pentameter. I actu1ally don’t know if it was iambic pentameter but that sounded so intelligent and I need my coffee. Thank You

  25. jainegayer says:

    Karen, your photos are good and your delicious poem made me realize that I’ve never eaten a fresh fig.
    Off to the market to find one.

  26. Ev says:

    When someone asks,”Who gives a fig”?, it won’t be Karen!! Wish you many happy figs in the future!

  27. Kelly says:

    I didn’t know it, that you’re a poet. Try your fig with walnuts, blue cheese and a glass of port next year. My FAVOURITE dessert in the history of the world.

  28. Anita says:

    I love that you wrote this in verse!!! You make my day ๐Ÿ™‚ I was wondering about figs in your climate, glad to see in the comments you didn’t plant it in the ground. I hear figs take a while to produce. Meanwhile, I am very sad because I love figs, but I don’t get the fresh ones very often. I had one of the really dark ones a few weeks ago and my throat got all itchy. Now I’m afraid to eat any more.

    @Muff — nice story!

  29. Carol says:

    Huh. That’s exactly what I got from my fig this year. One fig. Mine, however didn’t even make it to the kitchen. I just ripped that sucker off the bush and ate it before something else got it. Maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

  30. cred says:

    can’t stop chuckling!

  31. Shel says:

    Now I want a fig tree!!! Probably too late to get it in the ground and established for the winter…even in Atlanta (it’s 43 degrees right now and I am absolutely giddy with the approaching fall…beef stew in the crockpot as I type!).

  32. Marion says:

    Beautiful poem. And just give it a few years, my parents have a fig tree my grandmother planted at least 30 years ago, and that thing almost breaks from it’s own weight every year with all the fruit. And my parents don’t even water it! (just good ole rain water and sunlight)

  33. jeanne says:

    I have known 10 yr old fig trees that produce SO many figs, you will be saying “that f’gging fig tree!
    I think the chickens will love the left overs.

  34. Kelly says:

    Where did you buy a fig tree of that size? (I’m in Ottawa… maybe there’s someone around here who has the same supplier!)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kelly – I’m afraid this is from an older Italian man in my area who has been propagating and selling them from his home for decades now. So definitely not available in Ottawa. But if you search Kijiji you might come up with something. ~ karen!

  35. Kelly says:

    Thanks! Will have to wander over to Little Italy this coming Spring ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Connie Brannen says:

    Want tons of figs?? Make sure to put a bucket of washing machine suds on the tree at least 4 times a year.They do love the soap powder,s.And give it lots and lots of water.You will not be able to eat them all,there will be so so so very very many figs.I lived in the country but have 2 fig trees at my apt. —now.As I Adore those figs.

  37. Jeannie B says:

    Nice fig Karen. I’ve never tasted a fresh fig, but remember eating dried figs, as a child. But somewhere, I read that figs have little wasps living inside them so I’ve never given them a second thought. But yours, sure looks delicious. Fig! Funny word isn’t it?

  38. Leslie says:

    One Fabulous Fig! Yum!

  39. Sera says:

    Love the poem, and yum! If it makes you feel better, my established plum tree is on a biannual cycle, this year, no plums. Last year, I had so many, my mom and my neighbor made jam! Next year, I’m sure your fig will be more fruitful. Plus, fig trees are so beautiful, so at least you have something pretty while you wait with your fork and blue cheese.

  40. Darling Karen:
    this year, quality not quantity
    next year, quality AND quantity
    Rinse and repeat xoxo

  41. Natalie says:

    Ha! This is pure awesome!

  42. Donna says:

    Remember what they say about plants—-the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they LEAP–hope our fig follows the rules!!

  43. Kristin says:

    But such a lucky thing you are!
    My Bramley apple (singular)
    So small it makes me wince,
    Still beats my barren quince.

  44. Grammy says:

    You just won’t stop, will you? First I sat and drooled over your impending kitchen makeover. While I’m exceedingly happy that a good kid like you gets one, I feel sorry for myself that I don’t. Okay, I’m shallow and selfish.

    Now you have a fig tree that produced the most beautiful, wonderful fig! I’m not kidding about that — the pictures and the poem are a perfect tribute to that fig. Brilliant.

    I have a fig tree that sprouted up in the yard a few years ago on its own, and I was thrilled. It is now HUGE and produces thousands of figs. Twice a year. What’s not to love? Here’s what — all the figs are inedible. Apparently the birds planted the only kind of fig that needs a pollinator companion tree to produce edible fruit. So I spend days in the Spring and Autumn raking up piles of fruit that won’t ripen and is just dry mealy stuff on the inside, because my husband loves the shade the massive tree produces even if it gives us nothing else. And no, I don’t have room to put in a pollinator.

  45. Shelia says:

    We only got one fig our first year too. Hang in there. We’re on our fourth year and ate figs all summer long. Squirrels are a problem. They like the figs as much as we do.

  46. Sebrah says:

    My aunt was disappointed with her single fig last year. She lurves figs and dreamed of a bountiful harvest.
    This year? She was giving them away because there have been so many!! Hope the fig gods are kind to you next year too ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. Linda Callahan says:

    Here in Oklahoma, it can get down to zero in the winter. I have a brown turkey fig in a large container and do not bring it in but keep it on the south side. It has produced zip, nada, nothing this year. My Mom who can grow peanut butter put hers in the ground and had more figs than she could eat. Oh, and my passion fruit vine has taken over the house.

  48. Bols says:

    Maybe you can find one nice big fig leave and hit the streets as Eve on Halloween. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Although the way the weather is shaping up, you would have not only your fig leaf on, but also goosebumps the size of figs.

  49. Janelle says:

    What a lovely, zen-like attitude you have toward your meagre bounty. Makes me want to do yoga, or meditate, or some sh*t like that.

  50. Indira says:

    …imagine what you could do with too!!! BRAVO maestro! :-))

  51. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    I bought two fig trees one year ago. I overwintered them in my attached garage in pots. Light was minimal and watering sporadic.
    In spring I planted them directly into the garden. One is a Chicago Hardy Fig which is brown and supposed to be hardy in my zone 6. The other is an unnamed white fig, from an elderly Italian gentleman, and is not hardy. I will dig it up shortly, pot it and place it into the garage for winter.

    To safeguard his white fig trees, the Italian gentleman makes a circular wire surround and fills it with leaves and straw to insulate the top growth from temperature extremes. When top growth is killed, roots often survive and new branches will emerge the following year, but they may not have enough time to produce ripe fruit before the cold weather returns. (My trees have at least a dozen small fruits that will succumb to frost any minute now.) On TV I have seen people burying enormous fig trees at the end of each growing season, laying them down horizontally, then later unearthing them and setting them upright again. (Victory Garden, PBS)

    I had about 2 dozen figs total from the 2 trees in their first year. I netted many of the figs after I noticed them approaching ripeness, thwarting chipmunks and birds. I chose a very sunny location, provided gobs of my own compost, mulched the area to preserve moisture and watered in the absence of rain. At the local grocery store, figs were selling Three For Two Dollars !!!!!!! That’s three individual figs, not three packages.

    Figs do not flower, at least I did not see flowers. The fruit comes right out of the bark. I wonder what role pollinators play in this?

  52. Patti says:

    I can’t say what type of fig tree that I have, it was brought from Italy in the early 1900’s by my grandfather. He took a cutting of it every time he moved to a different home. My tree was planted in the early 1950’s. It doesn’t get cut or wrapped and grows more like a bush, many stems. We had tons of figs this year…almost too many to handle. Don’t give up on your figs!

  53. Melissa says:

    love this post! its a gorgeous fig Albeit ONE.
    Two suggestions. Get that fig out of our that bag and INTO the Ground. Figs do NOT need special soils – just some occasional water and ALOT of Sun! A fig will grow btw a Crack in the cement!
    2) Give it all day sun
    that’s it.
    i had a green fig Sprout where a Lemon tree died. it is Huge Now and i have to maintain its Suckers! I live in San Jose which is Warmest in July and August- that’s when they get ripe. they had too much water this year so Dry Farm.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Melissa – It’s in a pot, not a bag, LOL. And it can’t go in the ground. It’s the way we grow figs here in Southern Ontario. They’re left in a pot and brought into a garage or shed and insulated for the winter. Then in the spring, they’re brought out again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Occasionally someone will dig a trench and bury their fig tree, but for the most part, we just drag the pot into a more forgiving area. ~ karen!

  54. Barbie says:

    Is it supposed to produce more as the years go on? Like an avocado tree?

    • Karen says:

      Yes. ๐Ÿ™‚ Like any fruit tree. It gets bigger and better and badder as the years go by. I hope, LOL. That’s the plan anyway. ~ karen!

  55. Izzy says:

    because i spend some time in georgia with fig trees that literally droop with fruit, i was ecstatic when i saw that there was a fig tree for our zone here in canada. i got 2 little figs and now, with it standing leafless in the middle of my back garden, and a dusting of snow overnight, i’m terrified it won’t last the winter. how are you protecting yours. i’m thinking of a nice thick duvet ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well I’ll admit I never thought of a duvet but that would probably be perfect! My figs have to be protected slightly more so I’m going to put it in my shed for the winter. If it gets especially cold I’ll insulate it somehow. I just haven’t figured out/decided how! ~ karen

  56. Danielle says:

    I bought a fig tree and it has been loaded with green figs two years in a row. Unfortunately, they taste like mushy nothing. They’re disgusting. Apparently there are indedible-fig trees and fig trees, and I got the wrong kind.

    • Karen says:

      So I’ve heard from others! That one fig I got was really good. Way better than any I’ve had from a grocery store. Search out a good fig.

  57. Irene says:

    Hi Karen

    My house has always belonged to Greeks, right from when it was built in 1927, and thus the garden is full of fruit trees, including 3 figs. They’re really old!
    My problem is that in the last 10 years or so all the figs fall off when they are still tiny little rocks.
    Not sure, but I suspect that this is because I planted beds around them all, and they now get WAY more watering than before. Also, I live in a summer rainfall area and I would imagine that figs are from winter rainfall areas, so would need to be fairly dry in summer.
    Whatcha think? Have you heard of this all before?
    Good luck with your baby!

  58. Vanessa says:

    I’ve got a fig question for you. How do you eat them? I mean, can you eat the skin or do you kind of scrape the inside off like eating an artichoke leaf? I just moved into my grandparents house and inherited a huge fig tree. I grew up with the tree but the figs have always freaked me out. I might try one…maybe.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vanessa – You eat fits skin and all. The skin is very tender. No need to peel it. You can either just pop it in your mouth or put it on a cracker with goat’s cheese or any other way you like. You can also make fig jam. If you have a whole, huge tree, you’d better start eating them! A lot of people would kill for that tree. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~ karen! (I wouldn’t … I’d only maim)

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