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Fig trees are commonplace, valuable to this area
Liberty lore
0805 Lib Lore fig tree
Fig trees have a long history in Liberty County. - photo by Photo provided.

The first time I heard of figs was in church. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together for garments after they ate fruit from the forbidden tree. The word fig appears in the Bible 50 times.

In Isaiah 38:21, King Hezekiah was sick and prepared to die. The prophet Isaiah ordered a lump of figs used as a plaster upon the king’s boil. The fig treatment was effective; Hezekiah lived 15 more years.

Most of us in South Georgia are familiar with a fig tree. All the old farms and plantations had several fig trees growing on them. Along the coastal areas of Liberty County, the fig trees grow well. Explorer William Bartam wrote about finding fig trees when he made his journey through this area, according to Seldom will you find a fig tree planted around a new home in Liberty County now, however.

In the late fall, all the leaves fall off a fig tree and the limbs are bare in winter. Usually in February around here, the trees begin putting on green buds again.

My children’s great-grandparents had a large fig tree. Most old people planted a fig tree near the front porch; maybe it was to keep the animals from eating the figs or to keep the birds scared off. Anyway, Grandma Mary loved her fig tree, but Grandpa Joseph hated it. One day, Joseph told Mary he thought it would do the fig tree good if its roots were sunned. She agreed with him, having no idea what he meant, but he did the farming! Later that morning, she looked out the kitchen window and, lo and behold, Grandpa had the mule hitched to a chain and was pulling the fig tree across the yard. I’ll bet he probably got burned biscuits and a good chewing out for dinner.

When I married in 1965, Roy Gordon of Ludowici gave us two fig plants that we planted in the back yard. We lived in the little house in Glennville that is next to the Bradley-Anderson Funeral Home on Highway 196. Those trees grew by leaps and bounds. After we moved to Walthourville, I would go each summer to my mother-in-law’s and pick a large pan of figs. The tree was so large that I climbed up in the trees to reach the figs.

We have 20 fig trees planted on our farm; some are larger than others, and we have three different kinds. We enjoy rooting new plants from cuttings and planting them and watching them grow. This is the second year they have been producing. I looked at one a couple of weeks ago and asked Gene if there had been a big wind. He said no. I told him that the fig trees were all bent out of shape. After looking at several more, I realized the raccoons and possums had climbed on the limbs and eaten all the ripe figs, and their weight badly bent the limbs. We have large plastic owls sitting in each tree, but they do not deter the birds or scare the varmints.

There were a good many ripe figs on the largest tree, and I went out early one morning to pick them. A partially eaten fig fell in front of me. I looked up and saw three squirrels scurrying up the pine tree; they had been enjoying a good breakfast.

The day before, I went to the same large tree to pick figs for the first time this year. I could reach just a few of them; most seemed to be on the high limbs. I looked at the tree and remembered how I used to climb the other tree years ago. Rather than go to the shop and drag the ladder out, I decided to climb on the branches to pick figs. Gene was at men’s Bible study, or he would have brought the ladder to me. With a pan in one hand, I began to climb. I got up a little ways before my foot got wedged between two branches. I tried and tried to get it out, almost falling. I thought about me, a 65-year-old woman, falling out of a fig tree and breaking a limb, but not a fig-tree limb! How embarrassing this would be to have to go to the Reidsville hospital and explain what had happened to me. I may have passed out and Gene would never find me lying under the fig tree. All these thoughts passed through my mind as I kept working trying to get my foot unwedged. Finally, it came loose and I climbed down to the ground safely.
I got a pole with a bent end to pull the limbs down so I could reach the figs. The limbs were limber and easily managed if you could get your hands on them. I went to the shop and spotted a long aluminum pole with a bent end — exactly what I needed. In fact, it was bent on each end. It worked perfectly. I ended up with a pan of nice figs. I showed Gene my “fig-limb puller.” He said it was a bar that he had taken off a wagon.

About 40 years ago, I went to Darrel Weitman’s house. People there had just finished making a batch of preserves. I asked one lady where she had picked so many strawberries. She laughed and said the preserves were made from figs. I was amazed. She gave me the recipe, and I have made them every year since.

I also make plain fig preserves, but they take so long to cook.

Here is the recipe for strawberry fig preserves

3 cups sugar

3 cups ripe mashed figs

1 6-ounce box of dry strawberry Jello

Mix all together in thick pot and bring to a rolling boil.

Boil 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized jelly jars and seal. I put mine in a canner and process 10 minutes in boiling water to make sure they are sealed well.

Put one jar in refrigerator when cool and let it stay overnight for eating on your toast in the morning.

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