U-pick farms; Picking our way through the Summer
We are huge fans of farms and fresh produce; go figure, pun intended! *wink
When we sold our house and hit the road in our RV one of the things we knew one of the things we were going to miss the most about being homeowners was having a fruit tree in our yard. We had a mature fig tree at the house that would produce over 120 pounds of figs each summer! So when fig season came around, we did what we had to do to find our fig fix. We asked around and eventually looked up u-pick fruit farms. We were pleasantly surprised that not only could we pick figs, but there were blueberry, blackberry and even more u-pick farms in the area where we were parking our RV. We had no idea it would be so simple or inexpensive; most u-pick places charge a fraction of what you would pay in the store.
The fig picking farm that we found in South Louisiana is called Bois du Figue, which translates to Fig Wood. We found them online: https://iwantfigs.com/bois-de-figue-farm. When fig season comes around they open up their farm during certain hours and go by the honor system for picking and paying. One of their posts on social media read:
Figs are full! Come on out for pick your own at $10/ gallon. We have almost 80 trees and Picking will be real easy for next 5-7 days. Call or text to reserve a spot. 337-831-6541. We are located on HWY 357 between Lewisburg and Opelousas.
Like most worthwhile things in life, figs require you to spend a little time looking for them.
They are usually hiding under really broad leaves; it helps to approach figs from different angles in order to find them. We've been picking figs for years and over time we've learned some tips and tricks to make our picking experience as enjoyable as possible.
Our recommendations when going fig picking:
1) Cover up and wear long sleeves!
Even though fig picking happens in summer when it is hot, cover up! Fig trees have a defense mechanism; the leaf and root sap of the fig tree can cause skin irritation. This is because fig trees have Furocoumarins, which is an organic chemical compound. This compound is found mostly in plants that flower and fruit. This irritant can be deterred by covering up for skin and taking a good rinse off of with soap and water when you are done picking.
2) Watch where you grab!
The main pollinator of figs is the wasp; be careful not to grab a fig without seeing if it occupied by something you do not want to touch! Also be mindful of poison ivy and figs that are starting to turn and get mold on them.
3) Carefully pick the overly ripened figs and toss them!
There are a few benefits to removing the ripe figs and tossing them toward the trunk of the tree. First of all this will prevent of other figs around them from ripening too quickly. Second, it will deter insects from living on the tree and eating the decaying fruit. Third, tossing the squishy figs near the trunk of the tree will prevent you from stepping in fig mush and return the nutrients to the trunk of the tree to strengthen the tree for yielding better fruit crops in the future.
Bonus Tip: Bring a small ladder!
Everyone goes for the low hanging fruit that they can reach easily by hand. There may be lots of fruit that are out of reach. Bring a small ladder and you can easily reach that fruit.
How do you pick the best figs?
It's pretty simple; do not pick them when they are too firm or too squishy. However, before we go any further, let's review some fig anatomy.
The ideal fig will have some flex to its flesh and may even show some cracks on its skin around the base. If the fig is oozing liquid from its base or ostiole, pass on that fig. It means that the flesh inside is overly ripe and is starting to decay. Another way to check the fig for ripeness it to assess its stem. If the stem is still firmly attached to the branch and will not fall into your hand with a gentle wiggle then it is not ripe enough to be picked and you should pass on that fig. More Figs ripen everyday, so check the tree daily. In our experience, it is best to pick figs in the morning, right after the dew has evaporated.
Once you've picked your fruit, most honor systems at u-pick farms will have a pay area where you weigh your fruit and pay. If no one is there to pay in person, there will be a box with directions. The payment lockbox at Bois du Figue had directions with how to leave payment in the box; they accepted cash, checks, and some other electric forms of payment. It is a really good idea to research which way each farm prefers payment. We highly recommend bringing cash since is it usually the most acceptable option. Usually u-pick farms have materials to transport your fruit like cardboard boxes or plastic bags. However, they may run out of these materials and its always a good idea to have a backup bag to transport your fruit.
What happens after you pick your delicious fruit?
The processing of the fruit is REALLY important! You want to process the fruit ASAP to prevent any loss due to decay.
To process your fruit simply: 1)wash 2)dry 3)sort 4)store
When sorting the figs we separated them into two piles: firm and not firm. We chopped off the stems of both groups to begin the storing process. The not firm figs are great for using in cooking and putting in the refrigerator for the next few days. It is really important when storing your fruit to make extra sure that it is dry! Try to dry the figs as much as possible before placing them in the refrigerator so you get the most time to use them before they begin to ferment. We started to dry the firm figs by laying them flat on a paper towel overnight. Then when all the moisture was gone, we placed them in a single layer on a fresh paper towel in the freezer. Once frozen, we placed them in a container before being stored long term in the freezer.
When freezing your fruit, it is a good idea to place a label on your container. The label should include the type of fruit , date picked, and if you have room, the location in which you picked it. When you start piling up fruit in your freezer these labels will be very helpful!
One of our favorite things to make using figs is a delicious flatbread pizza. We came up with this recipe over the last few years and it is something we look forward to every fig season! If you'd like to try this recipe for yourself, click on the image below and it will bring you to our recipes page; look for Fig & Tasso Flatbread Pizza.
We also enjoy making a fresh fig jam that goes equally well with your choice of breakfast, dinner or dessert options! We like making the fresh fig jam because it uses less sugar than if you were canning the figs for long-term, but note this means that the jam should be stored in the refrigerator and used as soon as possible. The jam will last longer than just the raw figs, but not as long as some fig jellies or fig preserves.
Watch our other video on fruit picking:
Blueberry Picking at Bien-Aime' Farm, Church Point, Louisiana
Fig Picking at Bois de Figue Farm, Opelousas, Louisiana
Fig trees are extremely resilient; our fig tree at the house was a Celeste variety, which survived being split in two by a lightning strike! The figs at Bois de Figue Farm are also a Celeste variety. We had such an amazing time finding and picking figs this year! The day trip made for a great adventure. We will definitely be looking into more u-pick farms as we travel. It's such a great way to really get to know the areas you visit. We cannot wait to find some u-pick cherry and peach orchards, so if you know of some good ones please comment and share them with us!
We hope you enjoyed this info on fig picking in South Louisiana!
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