It seems that fig trees are as thick and plentiful as oxalis, here in Vallejo. Tommy Bilbo has one that produces the largest and most luscious figs in town I believe. I see fig trees, on my walks, in neighbor’s front yards and I hear stories of parking lots in town where one need not even reach over the fence to harvest for the branches are so laden and long. I drop a Google pin to a friend every time I come across one of these beauties in the public way. She’s a forager and is compiling a map of all the fruit, herbs and edibles that are to be found just wandering the streets of Vallejo. She calls me, the Fig Whisperer.
My own fig tree appears prehistoric. In a sense it is for it is older than I am. It is also the most annoying and wonderful thing I possess. Sometime in July I get, what I call, the false fruiting. Maybe 6, 8 or even a dozen figs will push and ripen. If we are lucky, the dogs and I will get two or three to enjoy. Just enough to whet our appetites. Then we wait . . . and wait . . . and wait, until summer’s end, which is now. Just this week they suddenly grew large and dark purple. Still firm to the touch I am forced by memory to wait until they yield, just so, under the slightest of pressure. To be honest, the very best ones are the wrinkled and dry ones, for they are the sweetest and most mature in fruit flavor.
But there is something else about this tree, it’s magical. You see, I moved to Vallejo in 2002 to live in my Great Aunt’s house after she passed. She had owned it since 1946 and with my grandfather planted that fig tree. I can count my years of summer’s end by the jars of fig jamb she would share with us each holiday season. This is how I know this tree is older than I am. But as I said, this tree is magical. When I moved to Vallejo I came with my wife to be, Catherine. We were married in our back yard and too few years later got divorced. It was both painful and amicable. We both cried and relaxed in the realization that being together, in the same house, was not working for either of us. Not my proudest moment but a real one. With lessening frequency we make time to share a meal and catch up.
But, every summer’s end, when the figs pop purple and ripe, I send her a text. I attempt to be either coy or dramatic so as to throw her off the scent. The master of surprise in my own mind you see. For every year, at fig picking time, we always got along . . . and still do. So you see, there is something magical about this tree. This year I will fill a bag for her to share with her friends. We will meet for a bite and share out stories. She will tell me when she will be hooded, she just finished her doctorate in nursing and I will tell her that I was just appointed to the Planning Commission.
I love summer’s end, for when the fig tree pops it truly is a magical time of year.
Until next time,