By Appalachian Places staff
If you live in Appalachia and are lucky enough to have fruit trees or berry bushes, making jellies, jams, and butters in the summer and early fall is a great way to carry the sweetness into winter. This story is about making fig butter. Common fig trees and bushes (Ficus carica) are in the Mulberry family, and a few cold-hardy varieties may thrive up to USDA map zones 6-7 with some protection from the cold. According to “Foxfire” volume 3, fig bushes in the Southern mountains often freeze and die back after the first winter’s frost, only to regrow in spring and fruit that summer. Some fig enthusiasts wrap the bushes in winter to protect them against freezing temperatures. The reward is a sweet, textured fruit — beloved by people, squirrels, and mockingbirds — that turns from green to purple-brown when ripe.
Join Jeff Banks as he demonstrates making fig butter from the fruit of fig bushes on his property in East Tennessee. Born and raised in the vicinity of Galax, Virginia, Banks enlisted in the USAF after high school. After retiring from a 30-year career, he settled in the vicinity of Jonesborough, Tennessee, and graduated from ETSU majoring in Anthropology with minors in Archaeology, Geographic Information Systems, and Appalachian Studies. He is pursuing a master’s degree in Appalachian Studies, with a focus toward improving the relationships between Appalachia's people and its places while fostering a greater appreciation for the mountains he loves to call home.
Although Jeff’s fig butter is chunkier than most butters and is more akin to a sticky chutney, it works well as pie filling in pecan pies. Treat yourself to a view of Making Fig Butter and enjoy!