2009 is the year my fig tree died. It was given to me as a gift many years earlier, because I love the fruit and also love those big floppy elephant ear leaves. I think fondly of the short and stout fig tree that grew in my backyard "on base" (Davis Monthan Air Force Base, that is) when I was kid. It was a grand climbing tree, for me, since I'm scared of heights and was terrible at climbing trees. It thrived there, with no t.l.c.
I still don't know what I did wrong with my coddled fig: it survived last winter (pouting) indoors, by a cold, drafty window with a lot of southern light. She'd shed all her leaves in a tantrum in about March, and then come back strong. Soon after she made the transition to the porch in May, she up and died.
I work in an Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, and I've spotted several figs there that fruit year after year. I made friends with some of the neighbors, and helped them pick the fruit this year and planned to use some figs for the C.S.A. We decided that their cool cellar was a good place for storing them. I'd checked in a couple times, and they were holding up just fine. When I stopped by this week, I was told they all had recently spoiled. I'd waited one distribution too long, thinking because of the association of figgy pudding with Christmas, that these delicate fruits would last until the end of the month/year/decade. This lack of judgment goes in the annals of failures and mistakes.
Because of losing my fig tree, losing the figs harvested in Brooklyn, and having missed Southern Arizona's fig season, I'm taking this opportunity to pout about fruits I don't have.
Oh yeah, 'tis the season for want-want-want, so let's start with hardy kiwis. I'm reading the kiwi (a.k.a. Actinidia) chapter in Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden. Reading about them and their edible skins and their pop-in-your-mouth deliciousness is making my mouth water. Oh, I have plans to plant them, on a side of my house that needs its ugliness covered by pretty plants, where there's enough room for them to grow like crazy, as it seems they do, and in a place with lots of sunshine. But I have to build mega support for the vines, and house projects tend to back up around here. People get distracted by starting up C.S.A.s, by pickling for farm markets, by train commuting to paying jobs. Thus, walls that are halfway torn down stay only halfway torn down. So, though I feel very determined to get these kiwis going (soon, soon), I wish planting them were going to be as easy as walking down a shady road where the mowers never come and shoving pawpaw seeds one inch under the soil, all along that road.
So, even though I was just complaining about the California Rare Fruit Growers teasing me, part of me suspects I should turn my mid-winter fruit blues toward fruits I can't grow. Just look at them, pet the pages, drool, dream, and move on. (This month's mag features kumquats, which I will be eating in four days. But last month's cover showed Ecuadorian mystery fruits.) What fruits will 2010 bring?