Fig trees are an Italian tradition and need winter care
As a child, Mary Menniti spent a lot of time with her Italian grandfather, who visited their rural home to tend his figs.
“He came from a lifestyle of surviving on what he could grow and brought that knowledge to New Castle,” she says.
Even then, she could tell there was a special connection between her grandfather and those figs. They grew easily in Italy but are one of the plants that need a lot of work to thrive in Pennsylvania.
“It represented self-sufficiency to them,” she says, “because the fig was something they could depend on.”
In Italy, the tree is almost a weed, producing thousands of fruits that could be used either fresh or dried. “Sometimes during hard times, a dried fig with a nut inside might be the only thing a family could eat for dinner,” Menniti says.
She’s crossing the nation chronicling Italian-American gardens (theitaliangardenproject.com), and one of the first things those gardeners want to show off is their fig trees.
“It’s not just a phenomenon; it’s almost a fanaticism,” she says about fig growing. There’s a deep nostalgic feeling wrapped up in those figs. Many trees come from cuttings brought here by relatives.
Getting them through the winter can be problematic, but Menniti has learned from the experts who have been growing figs for decades. Read more at Trib Live…
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