A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Fig Fancies

Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticulture Interpreter Charles Day, fruit expert and fig fancier, led the cooking demonstration October 13. These demonstrations, keyed to the seasons, happen occasionally each year.

Cooking demos at Wave Hill are always enjoyable occasions.

This is not a surprising statement, given that most people like food and that the location (in the garden, whenever the weather permits) is unbeatable, but the plein-air Cooking with Figs demonstration last Saturday was outstanding.  More than five dozen visitors reveled in the glorious autumn weather while they learned about this luscious fruit.  

My role was to set the scene by giving an introduction to the subject with a brief description of the botany and history of the fig and to touch on how figs may be grown in a garden.

I then handed over to Tim Mercado, a chef from Great Performances (Wave Hill’s caterer), who led the culinary part of the program.  He had already offered out some tasty samplers of black Mission figs on a variety of farmers’ cheeses to sustain the audience through my botanical segment, and he continued with a simple but delicious arugula herb salad with Brown Turkey figs and a toasted walnut and sherry dressing, pictured here.  The finale was a main course of an herb roasted chicken with a Calimyrna fig and port sauce.  Not bad fare for a free event—and no extra charge for the perfect weather and stunning autumnal views. My thanks to master photographer Joshua Bright for these wonderful images of the day.

2 thoughts on “Fig Fancies

  1. We have room for 1 fig tree on our south-facing deck in Greenwich Village. We’ll espalier it and put its planter on wheels, so in the winter we can put it against the brick rear wall of the house. What variety of fig would you recommend for best flavor and attractiveness?
    Thanks!

    • Ms. Terrano, ou Horticultural Interpreter offers these thoughts:
      The main issue with any container-grown fruit tree is the size of the container. If it is too small, there is a danger that the roots will suffer in winter from being alternately frozen and thawed. A large container is slower to freeze (and thaw) and so is kinder to the plant. I know that a fig will survive a NYC winter in a half whiskey barrel but I’ve no experience of anything smaller outside. My own fig is planted in a terracotta pot measuring only 18” across the top–but I bring it into a cool basement (~45 F) for the winter. (The cool basement helps to keep the plant dormant and protects both the terracotta and the fig.) A half whiskey barrel (with drainage hole at the bottom) or a frost-proof container that is more than 24” across should be OK.

      The most reliable variety I know is Brown Turkey. It is considered one of the hardiest and it has a good flavor. Another that may be worth considering is Chicago Hardy. Both are brownish red and have lovely foliage.

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