Brown Turkey Figs, Tomatoes, Herbs, and Preserving it All
Brown Turkey Fig
My two Brown Turkey Fig bushes in a photo taken this spring. I can tell it’s a Spring photo because of the number of dandelions. I’m going to go with the excuse that I left them for the bees, but my neighbors would quickly point out that the dandelions far preceeded the apiary.
Now that August is here, the figs are in full swing the honeybees have no interest in dandelions anyway, they are feasting on the figs that I miss and get over ripe on the bushes. Pollen and nectar are spotty to scarce so the bees delight in pulling sugar straight from the figs which will be converted into honey once back in the hive. As fall approaches they become more aggressive about packing their hives with resources, i.e. honey and pollen, to sustain them through the winter.
Anyway these bushes are powerhouses that are several years old but really just started coming into their own last Summer (2020) when they produced 22 pounds of figs between the two of them. As of this writing (August 23, 2021) they have produced 20 pounds so far and are on track to beat last year’s number.
So what do you do with 20+ pounds of figs? I’m glad you asked, let’s check it out.
Canned my first tomatoes of the season, almost two gallons. Deer tore through my blossoming plants early in the season so I am behind, but it was still a good haul.
Canning tomatoes is a labor intensive process I learned as a child from my grandmother. My grandparents had a “garden” that took up about two acres; and grew a multitude of vegetables. I was far older than I should have been when I found out vegetables can be packed in metal cans. I had only ever seen them in Mason jars.
Here (top picture) you see my San Marzano and Roma tomatoes which are small dense fruits that are very meaty and designed to be used for cooking with a rich, heavy tomato taste.
If you are interested in canning or processing fruits there are plenty of how-to books on the subject as well as internet sites with instructions and videos. My goal here is not to instruct how these things were accomplished, but rather share my activities in the blog. Canning should always be performed under the most sanitary conditions possible, with defect free jars, unused lids, and the best possible disease free fruit. Canning times, procedures, and guidelines can be found in many sites such as this one from the University of Minnesota Extension Office.
To can tomatoes they are first dunked in hot (but not boiling) water for several minutes which causes the fruit to swell in the skin. Then transfer them directly into an ice-bath, which causes the fruit to shrink rapidly and loosens the skin. From there I usually cut off the stem end of the fruit and squeeze the pulpy tomato flesh out of the skin, which is discarded.
From there the skinned tomatoes are cooked down, then ladled hot into canning jars along with an additional acid source and salt added to each jar. Lemon juice is often recommended, but I prefer lime. It has a higher acid content, and we always seem to have it on hand becuase of, you know, margaritas.
It is a time consuming process and I find it elicits an almost trance or meditative state from the repetitive nature of the operation. Music and good conversation can help break the monotony.
It can be oddly peaceful as well. I use it to think and reflect on all manner of things as the fruits pile up in the pot and the skins in the bin marked for compost. I find that because the skins can take some time to break down, and they add an acidity that my soil doesn’t need, I reserve them for around my azalea and rose bushes or my garlic bed.
For a thorough list of plants that love acidic soil check out this site.