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by Carl Wayne Hardeman

        "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely,
        every man under his vine and under
        his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba,
        all the days of Solomon." ~ The Holy Bible

Mimi and I were commenting recently on the greatly reduced variety of vegetables available in stores. It was one of those rare occasions I went to the grocery store with her. We were unable to find many of the old timey beans and peas. Stores stock only what the new generation eats.

You also seldom see figs in the fresh fruit section. If it weren't for Fig Newton cookies, they may be forgotten altogether in America.

Used to be, most everyone had a fig tree. We did. Momma had a Smyrna fig tree in her last homeplace. It died back to the ground each winter and grew new stalks and wonderful sweet tasting fruit each summer. She planted the tree next to a southeast facing wall to take advantage of early warmth.

A reader recently asked which varieties do well in the Midsouth. I pointed her to the university extension service online publication. Readers may also want to visit the fruit tree section of the Memphis Botanical Garden.

If you are lucky, Bill Colvard, the local Master Gardener figspert will be there tending the fruit tree and vine area and share with you his vast knowledge of figs and gardening in general. Until recently, Bill grew twelve varieties at his home. Visit the MBG in mid summer to see the various varieties and sample the fruit.

Most common varieties in the Midsouth are Smyrna, Celeste, and Brown Turkey. Bill also has raised Hardy Chicago, which grows that far north, and a giant Italian Verde variety. They're easy to grow, disease free, and hardy.

Fig trees are easy to propagate. Like propagating forsythia and hydrangeas, simply bend a stalk down to lie on a bare spot of earth (which needs to be kept damp). Put a brick on the limb and, with any luck at all, the limb will take root.

Mr. Clovis Russell of Pontotoc County, Mississippi, has some large fig trees. I have not seen them when in fruit, but my daddy-in-law, Ralph Graham, says they are a golden color. I need to get by to see Mr. Clovis, taste a couple of those figs, and go to the grocery store more often with Mimi.

Ain't God good!


Carl Wayne tells us about himself:
"I write gardening articles for the Collierville, Tennessee, Independent, the Southaven, Mississippi, Press, and Desoto Magazine, all from a Southern perspective. I point out the correct pronunciation of ants (aints) and peonies (peOnies) and advise always to plant hydrangeas on the north side of the house. I've been in software development forty years, the last twenty with a large overnight express delivery company. I have taught computer science as adjunct faculty at local universities over twenty-five years. We have a small farm in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, where we raise a large garden with my in-laws. My in-laws were there when the REA strung the first electric wires in that area. They were killing hogs. That night for supper they had liver and lights."

Write Hardeman at this e-mail address: E-MAIL CARL WAYNE

Read more of Carl Wayne's stories at USADS:
Southern Snakes
Me and Mimi in the Garden
Mississippi ~ the Soul of Dixie
Slide down my cellar door!
Green Landscaping ~ Eco-friendly gardening

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