Flowering sage

Brown Turkey Figs, Tomatoes, Herbs, and Preserving it All

Brown Turkey Fig
Brown Turkey Fig Bushes
Ladybug on a fig
Ladybug on a fig. Not just the honeybees enjoy the sweet treat.
Honey bee feasting on an over ripe fig
Honey bee feasting on an over ripe fig

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.

Raw & Dried

Figs are great right off the bush. In fact many of mine never make it to the scale so the harvest numbers I gave above are probably skewed low. Figs are relatively low in calories, packed with fiber, and a good source of daily potassium. Their high sugar content means they have a natural sweetness that needs little augmentation from refined white sugar. As such they can be eaten plain, doused in cream or honey, blended or served atop a bit of ice cream just to name a few possibilities. A favorite midday meal, for me, during the heat of the summer is sliced tomatoes from the garden topped wth a wedge of mozarella, fresh basil, and then drizzled with either straight olive oil or my honey – olive oil vinaigreitte. A side of a few halved figs provides a sweet complement to the dish.

Dried, figs are a sweet treat that resembles a dried date. A great snacking food or participant in homemade trail mix they provide a nice pick me up in the form of fructose carbohydrates.

Brown Turkey Figs
Brown Turkey Figs
Brown Turkey Figs in the crockpot
Brown Turkey figs in the crockpot awaiting their transformation to butter
Fig Butter, finished and canned
Fig butter, finished and canned

Fig Butter

Fig butter, like other fruit butters, is a mixture of spices, fruit, and added sugar cooked down into a preserves. It can traditionally have butter added to it to make it smoother, I however choose not to. I also limit the added sugar since the figs are already sweet and I am diabetic. I know, I know – if I’m diabetic I shouldn’t be eating them at all. That being said I do enjoy them, but only in moderation.

This method of cooking down and preserving fruit is easy to do and lends itself well to other choices such as apple, strawberry, and peach. All make delicious preserves.

Fig Leaves

Did you know that fig leaves can be dried and made into a tea? Fig leaves are high in calcium and phosporous and at least one small double-blind study showed a potential benefit in controlling glucose levels and reducing the need for insulin when drank regularly. To see the abstract for that study click HERE

San Marzano and Roma tomatoes
San Marzano and Roma tomatoes ready to be canned
tomatoes mashed before canning
A potato masher helps break up the tomatoes a bit before canning. I prefer to partially break them up, but they can be canned whole, or pureed and canned as well depending on preference
Hot tomato ladled into a canning jar
Hot tomato being ladled into a canning jar before being processed in a hot water bath


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.

Herb Update

Just took my last cutting of herbs this week. Rosemary and sage are all that are left. I will probably save a bit for seasoning, however I have several friends who smudge and they have requested  herb bundles, so I am trying my hand at making them this year. My chives stay with me year round so I just cut those fresh when I need them. In addition I cut some fig leaves to try the fig leaf tea I discussed above. 

I have a dehydrator, but I only use it for jerky or for drying fruits and vegetables. I like my dehydrator and it does very well for me, but for delicate herbs I prefer the old fashioned method of hanging them. This (top picture) is my east facing kitchen window with rosemary, sage, and the fig ‘tea’ leaves hanging in it. It doesn’t get much sun because the Rose of Sharon bush outside, despite being pruned back heavily this spring, has grown up and blocked much of it. I will remember next year to really scalp it. The flowers are lovely, but it grows like a weed, blocking my kitchen window and sometimes encroaching on the AC compressor.

Next post should hopefully be an update on the honeybees and harvesting some honey.

Thanks for reading ‘Brown Turkey Figs, Tomatoes, Herbs, and Preserving it All’, and here’s to your bountiful earth magic.

sage, rosemary, and fig leaves hanging in a kitchen window to dry
sage, rosemary, and fig leaves hanging in my kitchen window to dry
flowring chives
A few remaining chives peeking thru the short wooden fence with their flowers

Gardening 2021 – Herbs, flowers vegetables backyard garden

Red hibiscus just after rain
Red hibiscus blooming in the summer rain. © Wayne Davids

Hibiscus blooming in my vegetable garden. Many people recommend flowers in the garden to attract pollinators, which is a good idea, but mostly I just enjoy the color.

Vegetables 2021

My garden this year has been a struggle for sure. June brought several marauding deer who ate the tender tops of many plants and uprooted others, ripping them from the ground. That was followed closely by a July of no rain and searing +90F temperatures for the majority of the month. To add insult to injury, I have neglected it more than in previous years with my attention to my bees.

The irony is I added bees to help with the garden, but my time crunch in establishing the bees has led to me neglecting the garden. I am comfortable it is a process and once I establish a routine I will be better able to manage my time around both pursuits.

Today’s blog entry is a collection of pictures from today (Aug 01, 2021) after we received the first appreciable amount of rain we have had in several weeks.

Cantaloupe (Melon)

Cantaloupe ripening on the vine
Cantaloupe ripening on the vine
© Wayne Davids
Vines and runners carry nutrients to the melons throughout the summer. Melons require above average amounts of water and are one of the plants heavily dependent on pollinators like bees and moths. This is because the male and female reproductive organs are not on the same flower, but rather seperate flowers on the same plant. Hence a pollinator must travel to a male flower first, then a female flower in order to be successful at producing fruit.
Canta loupe (musk melon)
Another of my unripe cantaloupe. I love melon and eagerly anticipate their ripening in late August
© Wayne Davids
Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon, one of my favorites. I have several on my property.
© Wayne Davids
Rose of Sharon blooms decimated by Japanese Beetles
Rose of Sharon blooms, dead on the ground, decimated by Japanese Beetles © Wayne Davids
Better Boy tomato with Brown Marmorated Stink Bug © Wayne Davids



Gardening 2021 – Herbs, flowers vegetables backyard garden

The deer, the heat, the lack of time all have worked against me this year, but so has another enemy. 


Japanese beetles have been notorious this year. I never use traps, because they draw beetles from surrounding areas to my property. But this year they have been relentless on both flowers and vegetables, so I did put up traps which have been marginally effective but they continue to plague me.

In addition I have an infestation of the common Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. They can devastate a plant in no time and the murderous fiends took out both my zucchini and my yellow squash with no mercy. They will eat fruit, but often they decimate the tender leafy parts of the plant along with the flowers.

Even so, I never use pesticides. I plant enough that the bugs get a portion. I have cultivated a strong habitat for butterflies over the last five years, and now this year I have added honey bees. 

I can’t afford to spread poison on my plants for their sake, or the sake of my family.

Hot Hungarian Wax Peppers
Hot Hungarian Wax Peppers © Wayne Davids
Roma tomatoes sprawling everywhere
Roma tomatoes sprawling everywhere © Wayne Davids
Ripe San Marzano Tomatoes
Ripe San Marzano tomatoes. © Wayne Davids
Leeks gone to flower surrounded by yellow broccoli flowers
Leeks gone to flower surrounded by yellow broccoli flowers © Wayne Davids
Better Boy tomatoes on the vine
Better Boy tomatoes on the vine
© Wayne Davids


Wrapping it up

I keep a spreadsheet every year of how well my garden does. Daily weights of what I pick, when, and how much. Yes, I am a garden geek. But it helps me when I get excited or over enthusiastic to remember I didn’t get my first tomatoes until 4th of July last year either. The spreadsheet keeps me grounded and since I plant at very close to the same time each year it has become a scheduler for me to determine what I need to be doing next. 

It sounds like work, as I type it, but I do enjoy it. 

My garden is lagging last year in production. I had a tough year with deer, rabbits, insects, and time management. The good news is I have already harvested almost 2 gallons of honey from my bees. A more than acceptable tradeoff for having less cucumbers so far. 

I garden because I love working with the dirt and it grounds me in ways that many people don’t understand. I take my good years with my difficult years, but I enjoy them all.

I hope if you’ve gotten this far, you feel the same way.

Thank you and may your harvest be blessed.

Red Cascade rose hips
Red Cascades are open pollinated, non-hybrid flowers. As such I do occasionally get seeds that germinate. © Wayne Davids
Red Cascade Climbing Roses
Red Cascade climbing roses; masses of small yellow flowers that provide a lovely backdrop.
© Wayne Davids

Maybe Just One More Thing from the Herb Garden…

flowring chives
Chives flower readily and will gladly overwhelm a small space if allowed.
© Wayne Davids
Sage flowers
My favorite flowering herb for scent and attractiveness of the flower. Honey bees love flowering sage!
© Wayne Davids
Dill, gone to seed
Dill flower heads, gone to seed. Most dills will gladly re-seed if conditions are right. Leave a few tops uncut and let them do their thing. You will be rewarded by vigorous growth next spring.
© Wayne Davids
Cilantro gone to seed (coriander)
My cilantro long gone to seed, which when ground are coriander. This year I let most of my herbs go to seed to boost my herb garden next year.
© Wayne Davids