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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shameless Fig Foraging

Adriatic figs ready for picking on the shoulder of the road. 

Ever pay $4 for a teeny weeny basket of fresh figs? 

Not the codger. Not anymore, anyway.  

He shamelessly forages figs from roadside volunteers in the land of fruit and nuts, and has no qualms about scrounging grounded fruit.  

You see, volunteer fig trees grow wild in the Sacramento Valley. 

You find them next to highways, country roads, and fence lines, and along seepages, creeks, and rivers. 

An Adriatic fig growing along a frontage road in Butte County. 

The story has it that Junipero Serra's followers planted black figs around the missions of Alta California.

I once read that the descendants of these Mission or Franciscan figs can still be found, but far from adobe walls. 

I live in a time warp so to speak, and browsing wild mission figs always gave me a vague but gratifying sense of connection to the state's past.  

Well, googling California figs disabused me of my romantic notion. 

My volunteer figs look more like the green Adriatic figs brought to California by American settlers after the gold rush. 

They are thick-skinned and pale green on the outside and a deep reddish color inside. 

Adriatic figs were planted as a cash crop in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, and  in 1889 ranchers shipped their first dried figs to markets in the east. 

I imagine they were pretty chewy when they arrived in New York. 

In my experience, drying Adriatic figs pass through the gooey candy stage only briefly.

When fully dry they're as leathery as snake eggs, which doesn't stop me from gnawing them.

You can still boil them into a wonderful jam.

But the dried Adriatic figs didn't win over eastern palates.

So Smyrna figs were introduced as a substitute in the 1880s. 

Last Sunday we picked figs. 

A few years ago the tree was a glorious specimen, fermenting figs carpeted the ground, and a dusky-footed wood rat had stacked sticks and dried figs among the multiple trunks.    

Then PG&E had its annual power pole ritual and chain sawed the biggest trunks.  

This year the old fig set fruit again.

The rat nest was gone, but a rodent had been dining there.

 The leftovers of a rodent's feast -- 
possibly a squirrel, but more likely a rat. 


We carried our booty home and the redhead made fig bars.

The best part of foraging is always on the plate.

I'd love to camera trap the visitors of a fig tree, but I just don't trust the two-legged visitors. 


brdpics said...

Oh, my that sounds and looks good.

Every time I go to California I can't believe how everything grows! Guess coming from a semi-arid steppe climate where -20° F happens every few years culls out things like volunteer figs...

Bpaul said...

Great post, I dig foraging of all sorts up here in Oregon -- both urban and rural.

Owlman said...

Haven't gone the fig route but do look forward to wildberry and
blackberry season. Just made a blackberry cobbler.

Anonymous said...

My name is Yvonne Joan Devadas from Singapore and i'm doing a project on conserving the Greater Mouse Deer in Pulau Ubin (an island near Singapore) with the use of camera traps. This project does not have to be executed in reality, but the feasibility of it has to be analysed by consulting with experts such as yourself.

I've read your Cammera Trap Codger Blog post and have some questions regarding the use of pressure pads in triggering off a camera trap.

My group and i were thinking of using camera traps that will be triggered off by the weight of GMDs using pressure pads. We're just wondering, will we be able to configure the pressure pad so much so that the camera gets triggered off by a certain range of weight? Like for example, the camera be triggered ONLY upon detection of the average weight of the GMD.

Thank you very much for your help!

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks guys.

Yvonne, send me your email address, and I will try to answer your questions.

Anonymous said...

ok sure =)


Thanks so much!

Wow Gold said...

nice blog.

Wow Gold said...

nice blog.