An Italian Kid and His Fig Tree

a white fig tree near my mother in law's house in New Jersey; this tree goes uncovered in the winter

Growing Figs

We recently put up a quick  survey on our Facebook fan page and asked readers if they own a fig tree and we had well over 30 readers respond positively!  The survey not only put a smile on my face but also re-assured me I wasn’t the only child who grew up with live Mediterranean fruit in their New Jersey backyard.

Fig trees dominate the landscape back in Italy, especially in the southern regions of Campania, Sicilia, Calabria, Puglia, etc.  In our Calabrian village of Pellegrina (part of Bagnara Calabra) fig trees littered the countryside and were served in large baskets as post lunch dessert.  The few trees my father kept in his New Jersey backyard produced limited fruit but were still light years ahead of any store bought figs and/or fig spread or dried figs.  An added bonus for me as a child was the trees doubled as tackling dummies during the winter month, as my father wrapped the trees in burlap, plastic, and insulation to guard against freezing temperatures, snow, and wind (Lawrence Taylor had nothing on little Vincenzo Scordo).  I’m currently in the process of scouting a location in our backyard for our potted fig tree plant and I’m hoping our son Tommaso doesn’t use the tree as practice for an NFL career.

Common fig varieties include: Brown Turkey, Hardy Celeste, Italian Golden Honey Fig, Violette Black, Green Ischia, Black Mission, Desert King, Kadota White, and Osborn’s Prolific. has an excellent page on fig trees.  We hope you enjoy the following pictures of some local figs produced in various New Jersey backyards:

perfectly ripe black fig from my father's New Jersey backyard
figs can be grown in containers, photo courtest of


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  4. I enjoyed figs on our last trip to Italia in September- couldnt get enough! Then much to my delight when we arrived at my cousins in Campania they have 2 fig trees in their backyard. MY OH MY! I had figs everyday for a week and we made fig marmelade which I smuggled back in my suitcase. I planted a fig tree in my yard a few years ago but it doesn’t care for our Seattle climate. Hoping to spend a month in an apartment in Orvieto this September, Consuming figs of course!

    • I suppose Washington state doesn’t have enough sun for growing fig trees?

      In Calabria, there are so many fig trees that many residents take them for granted. We love figs, either here in the US or in Calabria!


  5. I have five fig trees in my yard and am in the process of unwrapping them from their winter hide out now. I am glad I am not the only one that has carried on this tradition.

    • Hi Gary

      Growing up we were surrounded by immigrant Italian families in our NJ town and most of the small backyards had a fig tree or two. During the winter months I was amazed that the tree could survive the “wrapping” job my father did on the tree! Send some pics in of your tree when you have a moment!


  6. Tonya Russo Hamilton

    Hi Vincent…been reading your posts and enjoying your recipes at since I discovered you around the end of August.  I just had to comment on your fig post!  Our Italian American family loves figs and I grew up with fig trees dominating my yard.  I even took a fig for show and tell as a kindergartner and still remember taking it out of my backpack squished and the teacher’s horrified look!  She had no clue what a fig was and I ended up being really embarrassed.  I have a little website celebrating my family and it is titled, Figs & Famiglia….there is something about the fig that signifies the abundance my family has enjoyed as a result of the hard work and sacrifices made by my parents and grandparents.  Thank you for your site!
    Tonya Russo Hamilton

    • Hi Tonya

      That’s a great story! Figs are truly amazing and I think they’re a nice representation of southern Italy (as you point out).

      What’s the URL for your web site, I’d love to visit. I’m so happy you enjoy and please let all your friends know about us!


      • Tonya Russo Hamilton

        Hi Vince,
        It seems funny how something as simple as a piece of fruit can hold so much meaning for me.  I definitely let everyone know about!  The work you put in is really amazing and inspiring to me. Maybe I can find an appropriate spot on my site for a link to Scordo….you can check out my site first though. 🙂

  7. We have 3 fig trees , also 3 olive trees and a beautiful vegetable and herb garden. We love it and it reminds us of our 3 trips to Italy!!

  8. Carmela Lacquaniti Gagliardi

    My husband and I have a fig tree in our sun room, we love it and it reminds me of my dad. Before he passed away in 2008, as soon as the figs were ready he was always here to eat one nice and fresh from the tree!!

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