“ … Now, bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it out here!

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

I was thinking of figgy pudding ... until I found out it is not made of figs.

Figgy pudding is a cake that is either baked or steamed. It is actually a form of a plum pudding, neither of which has figs nor plums but is primarily made from raisins. So much for vaulted tradition.

But, let’s talk about those figs.

Figs grow on a huge, spreading, shrubby trees that produce hundreds of pounds of fruit twice a year, if you live on the other side of the Cascade Mountains or in warmer areas of the world — or if you are the fig diva, which I am.

1n 2013, Pam Camp, a longtime friend of mine, gave me a houseplant fig tree that someone had unloaded on her. The plant had outgrown her “houseplant” status, and I just moved it outside to my garden with a spade and a prayer.

Late fall, I took pity and put mulch on its roots. I had done some reading, and found out that figs survive as far north as Ohio (We are north of that), and that one of the ways to ensure survival is a procedure called “careening.”

Careening is the same process Capt. Cook used in 1770 to tip his wooden ships over in dry dock to scrape off the barnacles. Essentially, you dig up half the roots, tip the tree over to the ground, cover the tree trunk and the exposed roots with soil, mulch well, pray for snow and hope for the best.

OMG. That is too much work for a woman who will not grow dahlias because I refuse to tie them up and de-bud them.

That first winter, the lowest temperature in my yard was 10 degrees. The plant froze to the ground, re-sprouted in the spring, and, low and behold, I harvested a handful of Kadota figs in early fall.

Vastly encouraged, the next winter, I wrapped the tree in Christmas lights and encircled it with landscape fabric. Does this sound easier than careening the tree? Anyway, about half of the stems survived the winter, and I harvested a few figs in July.

There are two fig crops each year when the tree is thriving. The breba crop grows on old wood and ripens by early summer; the fall crop grows on new wood and ripens in October. In 2014, we had a killing frost at the beginning of October so none of the fall crop ripened.

Now, here is the truth: No matter what you do, Mother Nature trumps all. If it is a cold winter, all the wood dies down and this plant is essentially a large shrub; you have no spring crop since the fruit is produced on new wood. If it gets too cool, too soon in the fall, the fall crop will not ripen. The fruit must ripen on the tree.

I was not to be deterred and each year have protected the tree with either lights or mulch. And the tree has thrived —although only the breba or the fall crop has ripened. Many years, more than half of the old wood has frozen.

With the mild winter and warm summer in 2021, for the first time I harvested vast numbers of both breba and fall figs, more than 300 for each crop. With the mild autumn, I harvested until the second week of November.

I have made jam, compotes, pickles, pies, gave away baskets of the fruit. Luckily, the robins and starlings discovered the fruit and snacked away the summer months.

My plant is 10-feet tall. I no longer give it winter protection because I don’t want one zillion figs.

Give it a go. It is a lovely plant with huge leaves. We all may be now feasting on “figgy pudding.”

A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Bonnie Orr is one of four columnists featured. To learn more, visit wwrld.us/cdmg or call (509) 667-6540.

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