Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet and succulent, a fully ripe specimen is an exquisite fruit that almost literally melts in the mouth[K]. The fruit is often dried for later use and this dried fruit is a major item of commerce. Figs are usually pear-shaped and up to 5cm in diameter. A nutritional analysis is available. The latex from the sap can be used to coagulate plant milks.
A decoction of the leaves is stomachic. The leaves are also added to boiling water and used as a steam bath for painful or swollen piles. The latex from the stems is used to treat corns, warts and piles. It also has an analgesic effect against insect stings and bites. The fruit is mildly laxative, demulcent, digestive and pectoral. The unripe green fruits are cooked with other foods as a galactogogue and tonic. The roasted fruit is emollient and used as a poultice in the treatment of gumboils, dental abscesses etc. Syrup of figs, made from the fruit, is a well-known and effective gentle laxative that is also suitable for the young and very old[254, K]. A decoction of the young branches is an excellent pectoral. The plant has anticancer properties.
Seed - sow spring in a warm greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and overwinter the young plants in a greenhouse for at least their first year. Plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts and give some protection for their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of mature wood 10 - 12cm with a heel, winter in a frame. Fairly easy, but the cuttings must be kept frost free. It is probably best if the cuttings are put in individual pots. Layering.
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Requires a well-drained medium to light loam and some lime rubble incorporated into the soil. Succeeds in dry soils. A heavy wet soil tends to encourage excessive plant growth at the expense of fruit production. Prefers a very sunny position but tolerates part-day shade when grown on a warm wall. Plants are hardy to about -15°c. The top growth is susceptible to frost damage and can be killed back to the base in severe winters, though plants usually recover well. Trees require the protection of a south or west facing wall in most parts of Britain if they are to produce a worthwhile crop, though free standing trees can succeed in Cornwall. There is a small orchard of free-standing trees in Anthony garden near Plymouth. These were seen in July 1995 with a very heavy crop of ripening fruits that would have been ready by August[K]. Figs are very widely cultivated in warmer climes than Britain for their edible fruit, there are many named varieties. 'Brown Turkey' is the cultivar most commonly grown in Britain and is probably the most suitable for this climate. 'White Ischia' is a dwarf cultivar (though it can still be 5 metres tall and wide) and is ideal for pot culture. It produces an abundance of green-white thin-skinned fruits. Up to three crops of fruit a year can be obtained in some countries. When grown outdoors in Britain only one crop is usually obtained, though in exceptionally hot years two crops are sometimes produced. The fruit usually takes about 12 months to mature in Britain, baby fruits no larger than about 15mm long in the autumn usually overwinter to form the following years crop of fruit. If plants are grown in pots in a conservatory or cold greenhouse, two crops of fruit can be obtained, one in early summer and one in late summer to autumn. Pinch back the new shoots to about six leaves in order to encourage the second crop. It is a good idea to restrict the roots of fig trees on most soil types in order to discourage excessive vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production. This can be done by root pruning, but it is easier to place some kind of permanent restriction around the roots - planting into a large tub that is then buried into the ground is one method. It is important to make sure that the tree still gets ample moisture, especially when the fruits are ripening.
Problems, pests & diseases
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