Le Verger – The Orchard
The orchard, where fruit trees are planted, is the companion to the potager. In Provence’s Mediterranean climate, homes, whenever possible, will have an apricot, a cherry tree or two, a peach, a plum and a nectarine tree, and above all, a fig tree and enough olive trees to supply oil for the year, plus some olives to home cure. Moving northward in France to colder climates there will be apple and pear trees. Along the Mediterranean coast, near Italy, you’ll find home-grown citrus – lemons and oranges, both sweet and bitter. Wherever there is room, people will fit it a grapevine or two for table grapes, and if there is enough room, about 100 wine grape vines which, with proper care, will yield about 365 bottles of wine.
Of course, I realize that not everyone has room for an old-style, sustainable orchard with 7 or 8 different fruit trees, but even one or two of a favorite fruit will deliver untold pleasure. Nothing tastes as good as a truly ripe piece of fruit picked right from the tree. Of course, after that, you’re spoiled.
La Vie Rustic is starting its orchard collection with my absolute favorite fig, Sultan de Marabout. Everyone who has ever tasted it says it is the by far the best fig they have ever eaten. My mother tree, with spreading branches and huge leaves, now about 11 years old, has provided the stock for the two-year old trees that are for sale now.
Sultan de Marabout Fig Tree
The original cutting of this tree was a gift to the United States from the Agricultural Commissioner of Algeria during the first decades of the 20th century. The United States Department of Agriculture’s accession records, which account for every plant material legally entered into the United States, mention Sultan in 1930. Somewhere, though, in the back of my mind I am sure I read, in some archive or other, that it came in around 1913, just before the outbreak of World War I. It is a Smyrna-type, which means it needs pollen from a caprifig (caprification, or fertilization). Caprifigs, also known as wild or goat figs, are naturalized in much of California and some other parts of the west and northwest. The blastaphoga wasp which brings the pollen from the male caprifig to the female fruit is responsible for the pollination. Common figs, such as the Mission and Brown Turkey, do not require fertilization, but may be sweeter if pollinated. It is the result of fertilization that produces the large size and the nutty-tasting, crunchy seeds. Sultan de Marabout is an incredibly sweet fig, with complex tones of honey and perfume. The tree bears only one crop, in late summer. The fruit doesn’t ripen all at once, but over time, from about mid-August through mid-October.
Sultan de Marabout Fig Tree, $25.00
Available spring 2019