Sharing Community Through Figs

Jun 25th, 2021

If you walked by Megan Westcott’s house, you’d probably notice one of the many gardening projects she’s working on, from an arbor to support her grapes to the potted figs in her driveway that she’s grown from cuttings to maybe even the plum wine she is bottling. Megan, a registered nurse who works with patients after surgery, found gardening as an escape several years ago when she moved out of an apartment and into a house with some land and good sunlight. “There was no landscaping, and it was awesome. I got to work with a blank slate,” says Megan. She quickly found herself joining online forums, like Next Door and Facebook, where she met fellow gardeners and learned from their techniques.

Megan says her mother would probably take credit for instilling a love of gardening in her, since she, too, is a gardener. The family lived on a half acre of an old olive orchard, and her mother planted a fig tree when her sister was born. Megan started gardening and helping take care of the plants when she was 10, but she remembers that the vegetables her mother grew never made it into the house. “They were just so good raw!” This love of fresh food has carried on, with Megan now growing fruits and vegetables she shares with neighbors.

When Megan moved into her new home, she planted flowers and ornamentals, but then she started building vegetable beds and planted what Megan describes as “ridiculous amounts” of lettuce and tomatoes. How much is “ridiculous?” Try 200 tomato plants in one year! Megan ended up sharing extra plants with her neighbors – stopping some neighbors while they were just walking by – until she was down to only 16 plants. 

She became interested in figs when a teacher friend introduced her to fresh figs and how well they grew in our climate. They would pick figs off the tree branches while perching on the garage. Her  favorite summer fruit dish was grilled baguette with olive oil, radicchio, fig, and balsamic vinaigrette. 

Her interest in cultivating figs might have started when some friends asked her, “What’s a fig?” when she talked about the fruit. It turned out that many people could only think of figs in Fig Newtons, which of course tastes nothing like fresh fig. This inspired Megan to find different fig varieties and try to propagate them herself.

She started with 3 locally purchased fig varieties, which eventually led to her researching online and expanding her collection to 40+ varieties that she’s now growing from cuttings and small plants she purchased or traded for with other fig enthusiasts.   She is growing them in pots in her vast driveway, and keeps them warm in the winter in a self-made hoop house with windows on each end. The hoop house creates heat of up to 121 degrees, where the figs wake up early in spring. Over the last two years, Megan has nurtured these into sturdy fig saplings and has shared her experiences online with fellow gardeners who have also shared tips on how to steward the saplings. When she saw on Facebook that City Fruit was learning how to root and propagate figs to plant more trees in public spaces, she reached out right away to offer her trees and expertise.

City Fruit Fruit Tree Specialist Julian Garcia went to pick up the figs, and Megan reviewed all the different varieties of figs she grew and was donating to our public orchard projects. Aside from the figs, her yard is now completely planted with kiwis, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, quince and more, in hopes that she can continue to consume massive amounts of fruit and share the rest of her bounty.

Megan’s enthusiasm for sharing fruit and her generous donation of 20 fig trees to public spaces led us to featuring her work in our newsletter. In line with City Fruit’s belief in community, Megan says that fruit - and the growing of fruit - is a good way to share and connect with others. “There are lots of reward in the beauty of plants and watching things thrive,” Megan says, “but more than that, when we’re all eager to find humanity and connection, growing and sharing fruit has let me create community by just looking outside of my bubble."

 
Labelled Figs
Some of the varieties of figs Megan taught herself to propagate.