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Oiling results

September 23, 2006

Since I have never gotten an editable fig off my tree before and since winter is coming up fast I decided to take a chance and started oiling a few of my figs.

What I did was to take a little extra virgin olive oil and put it in a ramikin. I then took a round toothpick and dipped it in the oil. I then touched the oil stained side of the toothpick to the eye of the fig. That was it.

I have to admit that I thought people who suggest this method for figs were crazy. What would less than a tenth of a drop of oil do?

Well, it does a lot. Tomorrow will make one week and the figs have at least doubled in size (perhaps tripled). I itnentionally did not oil most of the figs (including some on the same branch) for the control of the experament. As of today (day 6) all of the oiled figs are starting to show a distinct color shift from green to purple. The un-oiled figs... well... just one word for it... NOTHING.

I oiled a few more figs today (making sure that I still had some left alone just in case they decide to do anything)

I would post pictures but I don't have a digital camera yet. We are looking at getting one at the end of the month, if we do and I figure out how to use it, I will post some of my control and oiled figs.


Comments (7)

  • marylandmojo

    J: I posted a message last year similar to yours, and suggested the same be done, a few weeks ago, for control of ants. I have an old-time fig-growing neighbor who turned me on to this years ago, but, I too, thought it was an old wives tale. When I did it last year, for late figs that would probably not have beaten the frost, anyway, I was duly impressed. My figs seemed to change color almost overnight, but, I admit, I only oiled figs that had already swollen. I certainly agree that it speeds interior development as well as exterior color, and almost immediately softens hard fig skins. Wonder if it controls ants, as my neighbor says it does? Says they don't like to walk through sticky olive oil.

  • jonathan

    I heard oiled figs don't taste as sweet.
    I had tried oiling initially, and most of the figs were bland tasting. Then I just stopped, and the later figs started tasting a whole lot better.

  • papilloj

    My figs had not swollen, at least not before the oil. I wish that I had a camera and could show you the drastic change. I was actually worried that my tree was not getting enough water because the figs were showing "ribbing"

    I don't understand the idea of using oil for ant control. I just used less than a tenth of a drop and just moistenend the eye. The rest of the fig was untouched, I can't imagine that such a minute quantity would stop a determined colony.

    I have never had figs get ripe enough to attract ants so I don't have any sage wisdom to impart for ant control. The only thing that I have done was to fertilize the lawn around the fig tree (not the mulch bed housing the tree) with Scotts summerguard. This particular formula has anti-insect properties. I started using it to kill ticks and fleas (we have a new dog) but I suppose that it will also offer some protection from fig loving ants.

  • marylandmojo

    Of course the reasoning for putting a drop of oil on the eye (not a tenth of a drop) for ant control, is that ants are less likely to enter the fig through its eye, if sticky with oil. I'll make it a point to give it a try, as I have a few figs with eye openings large enough for ants to enter, particularly during rainy weather, when the eye opening is somewhat enlarged. Of course, the riper the fig, the easier for ants to enter, as they chew their way through the soft flesh about the opening. Then, as most fig growers are aware, they totally destroy figs left beyond the very ripe stage. I returned home from a week away yesterday, and found ants consuming overripe figs hanging on the tree--many ants on each fig. I'm sure I'm not the first to discover such a thing, when a fig has gone unnoticed (or not picked, when dead ripe). I'll also have to try olive oil on green figs, before they swell--I've only oiled after they swelled. As far as oilings' affect on the taste, I think I'd rather have a less tasty ripe fig than one that didn't ripen at all.

  • jonathan

    Yes, true. Ripening figs with lesser quality is still better than having nothing at all.

    I pretty much decided to lay off the oiling unless I really am stressed for time (like winter coming very soon) which is a good enough reason to do it.

  • marylandmojo

    jonathan: 10-4, on that. Cool (or cold) Fall weather slows down the ripening process so drastically, that it's generally obvious when some figs just won't make it before frost. I usually save any oiling for that period, also; but I will try to oil some green figs that haven't swelled, just to note the effects; also, I'll put a drop of oil in the eyes of some swelled ones and note any ant control.
    For ripe figs in containers, I'm told that a heavy layer of lime--up to an inch deep--keeps ants out; and since figs prefer alkaline soils, I doubt the lime could cause any problems. I know the guys in New York where Sal's fig orginated advocate keeping a few inches of lime on the soil surface of containerized figs, of all things.

  • papilloj

    Well, today was the day. Almost 3 weeks after oiling a groups of half a dozen hard green figs on a few year old Negronne I was eating my first fig.

    I chose to stop the experament today because we had one hell of a storm pass through last night and the figs came through it but with some cracks in the skin. When I cut them there was no white fluid. It might be an illusion but I believe that the figs shrank slightly too, they didn't appear to be swelling out of their skins anymore.

    I only wish that I had the digital camera (to be ordered today) to show them to you.

    While I have nothing to compare to, (remember this is the first year I have gotten fruit off my own tree) I thought that the product was rather good. I was surprised to see that both my wife and son were eating them too. My wife and son have tried brown turkey figs from the market in the past and did not care for them.

    I oiled another half dozen or so figs half a week or so ago and they are starting to swell but are swelling more slowly than the first group. It is getting cold here fast so I think that I am going to go ahead and oil what I have left (my control group if you like) to try to beat winter.

    Thanks for all the advice that I have gotten both here and in private communications.

    For the one or two people who contacted me and mentioned that they were going to try to oil a few of their own, please post your progress. I would love to compare notes.

    Take care,


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