Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Chicago Hardy Figs

    I plant tomatoes because I like tomatoes, and what better way to eat tomatoes than fresh off the vine? 
    Not that the past few seasons nature has yielded that many tomatoes, at least not to me. But that's another matter. 
    I've been doing better with lettuce. Butter lettuce. It grows and grows, tastes delicious, and has probably saved me hundreds of dollars eating better, cheaper lettuce than I could buy at a store. 
     But figs? I'll be honest: pure chauvinism. Civic pride. I saw the listing of "Chicago Hardy Fig" in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalogue and felt obligated to give them a try. Because they're Chicago figs. And they're hardy—I suppose if they were "Chicago Fragile Figs" I would have passed. But "hardy" seems a word designed to both describe and appeal to Chicagoans. A hardy lot, in our own estimation. At least something to strive for.
     Besides. Who doesn't love figs? Particularly we kids raised on the venerable Fig Newton (named for the town in Massachusetts, not the inventor of the calculus). I think of them as part of the triumvirate of classic cookies—the Oreo, the Lorna Donne, the Fig Newton. Not as successful as the Oreo, which is everywhere, with its odd and compelling flavors. Not as obscure as the Lorna Doone, who never amounted to much and now lurks in her attic room. The middle, semi-successful child. 
    This pair of plantings arrived over the weekend in good shape, and took to their new potted homes with none of the fallen leaves the instructions warned might come with the shock of transplant. Hardy indeed. We were also advised to plant them in a location safe from "harsh winter winds"—they're supposed to be good in Chicago, right? Is there anywhere safe? Even the winds of May have been pretty flippin' harsh. You've got to be hardy.



  1. We were thrilled to find out we could grow figs in the Chicago area with the hardy type tree. But even following directions and 2 tries at it, the tree didn't take. Back to waiting for the fresh ones at certain stores. Hope you have better luck.

  2. Wasn't it Lorna Doone, not Lorne? Perhaps gender dysphoria was a barrier to success.

    1. Yes indeed. Fixed, thanks. The odd thing is, I checked "Doone," but didn't notice "Lorna."

  3. When people comment about my disdain for Florida weather I tell them I'm a hardy midwesterner, not afraid of a little cold air, so I am rooting for your figs. Tomorrow marks the end of my exile to Florida and a return to my print edition of the CST, or so I thought. I called the paper to end delivery suspension and the friendly woman on the phone promised Wednesday delivery. When I tried to open my digital edition this morning I knew that promise, though honestly proffered, was empty. My subscription wasn't unsuspended, it was cancelled. Another nice lady claimed computer error, we'll see on Thursday when both editions should be available. So EGD is all I have today and imagine my shock to learn of a tomato alliance between you and that other gardener columnist who shall remain nameless. And it's not just tomatoes, those Mediterranean types also like figs. Would an unredacted Mueller Report show you two on the same mailing list? Sorry, the absence of the free press leads to wild speculation and conspiracy theories. Gotta go read Alex Jones to fill the void.

  4. I really enjoy the gardening adventures and since the vicarious experience seems adequate, I don't feel the need to risk my skin (literally) by actually going out under the sun to plant and weed and harvest. Thanks, Neil.


  5. I used to plant tomatoes, but the goddam squirrels sampled every one of them!
    And I get Lorna Doones at the hospital after any procedure done.

  6. Being originally from Israel where figs are a dime a dozen it always shocks me to see how expensive are figs here, I am also growing the Chicago Hardy figs but the quantity of figs we get is so frustratingly small and the fig size is small as well.


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