Family lore has it that the fig tree behind our barn was planted by my great-grandfather Harry Pardee. I’m not sure where this idea comes from. No living person remembers our ranch without it, or can recall a discussion about why or when it was planted. But Harry was an instigator. He took off for the Alaska Gold Rush after high school, returning home with only a nickel-plated .38 revolver and the hint of grand adventure to show for it. He built the 1917 house that is the home that I grew up in. He put our family in the citrus business, replacing the walnut trees with lemons and oranges. Harry seemed to make things happen, so maybe it just feels right to think he is responsible for the fig tree.
However it came to be there, though, it is a great specimen. Approximately 80 years old, it still produces a great crop every year. We harvested more than 200 lbs this past season, despite having pruned it heavily a couple of years back. Left to its own devices, most of the fruit would be well out of reach. We call it a black mission fig, but its variety is as uncertain as its origin. The shape of the fruit and leaves is slightly different than other black missions that I’ve seen, and the fruit tends to be a bit more teardrop shaped. Is it a hybrid seedling; the only one of its kind?
This one tree has opened up new customer relationships for us, and given us both the idea and the confidence to explore figs as an alternative crop. 400 young cousins are now growing on the property. I wish Harry could see. I think he would like that.
Of course, it might just be a seedling that sprouted in the barnyard after a passing crow pooped it out. I like our story better.