My first encounter with a fresh fig was in Aix-en-Provence in the 1970s. As a student, I didn’t have much money to spend on food. I usually bought fresh fruit and vegetables at the outdoor market, along with a host of different French cheeses and that bread, oh that bread! A freshly baked baguette, cheese, and fresh food from the market was my go to meal, and I wish I could go to it right now.
Funny, when I think about it, originally I thought I would eat in the University cafeteria. But the food often consisted of tripe. Don’t make me explain, I can’t bear to think about it. And this entrée was offset by a salad drenched in oil. I am not a fussy eater but it was truly unbearable. The food was so bad that one day after class I noticed a massive student protest going on. This was during the time of the Vietnam war. There were also civil rights demonstrations in the U.S. I wondered if here in France, they were also protesting against the same issues, but no. They were protesting against the food in the cafeteria. Compared to the impetus for protest at home, it made me laugh. Only in France, I thought.
Back to the market, another aspect of it that always filled me with a sense of delight was the flower vendors. This is when I fell in love with anemones. One day as I wandered from one flower vendor to the next, I spotted an odd looking fruit. Qu’est-ce que c’est? Why it was a fig, a fresh fig! A small plump sack oscillating between green and purple and looking ready to burst with some scruptous secret inside. It was just waiting for me. The vendor said, “C’est une figue, vas y, sers-toi.” So I did help myself, and that was the beginning of my fig love.
Prior to that, my only knowledge of figs was that they were small round circles that were hard and dry, and stuck to my teeth. The only fig I ever liked was the fig in Fig Newtons. I never realized that those dried figs that come in rows in cardboard boxes that tasted like food prepared for astronauts to take into space, not tasting very good but supposedly healthy and easy to pack, were merely the dried version of something spectacular. .
Fast forward about 40 years, and a fig tree enters my life. My son and daughter-in-law gave me my very own fig tree for Christmas. I was overjoyed. In 3 years it would begin to sprout preliminary buds and in 5 years I could pick my own figs in my yard. How awesome is that! So I had my first experience with planting a tree. I dug a wide circle out and went down deep enough, cutting up roots from an old tree along the way. As I got close to the end of planting on a moderately warm day for January, it began to rain. But I was determined I was going to finish planting my baby tree. I lovingly surrounded the top with plant fertilizer and shoveled dirt back into place. There, it was done.
But now in March, I am sad to report that my fig tree met the same fate as the carrots in Mr McGreggor’s garden. I didn’t chase Peter into a watering can, but he did chew off enough of the top of my tree that poked through the ground to kill it. So I may have to rely on Trader Joe’s for my fresh figs. Not as sense provoking as the open market in France, or as convenient as from my yard, but the fresh figs will be available and delicious all the same. .
So now the final question is, do I try again, or relinquish that space to another tree I love, that may not be as popular with bunnies, a dogwood?