Friday, August 15, 2008

Oh, fig!

At the arboretum where I am a garden-volunteer, the fig tree by the tractor shed is loaded down with ripening fruit. We volunteers have been doing our best to reduce that load by snacking on figs every time we go by, but we haven’t been able to keep up. And yesterday, passing the fig tree was a real adventure, because now it is swarming with yellow jackets and big orange wasps.

As we all stood back from the buzzing tree and talked about figs and fig recipes, it came out that for the past couple of weeks everybody else’s fig trees have been going wild, ripening pounds and pounds of figs. One gardener invited everyone who wanted more figs over to her place because she has five fig trees all weighed down with fruit. Unfortunately, her trees pose the same problem as the one at the arboretum: picking the figs means braving a lot of stinging insects.

I started thinking about the brown turkey fig tree in my back yard near the deck. The tree is in partial shade, so we don’t get tons of figs and they ripen later than everybody else’s . This may be why I’ve never had too much trouble with yellow jackets around the back porch, in spite of the relatively unwise placement of the fig tree. As we all put away buckets and tools and continued talking, I realized how lucky I was in mistakenly placing my tree in the shade. Another gardener mentioned that she knew a family that, a few years ago, had planted a fig tree by their (sunny) back door. Her comment was followed by a moment of somber silence, except, of course, for the buzzing of wasps and yellow jackets.

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