It is noticeable, without paying much attention, that one of the icons of the Menorcan agricultural landscape has been losing its strength and vigor over the last few years. We are referring to the fig tree, this tree of dry land that with very little care was producing golden gifts in the middle of August.
The Land Stewardship Scheme has started a series of initiatives to encourage its restoration. The object is to contribute to the maintenance of the unique landscape that these trees create and, at the same time, diversify produce from those interested farms.
During the last year, through the agricultural days of volunteering, 21 fig tree enclosures have been restored. Volunteer help on the farms has enabled the clearing out of wild olive bushes and brambles that invaded the enclosures, maintaining the dry stone wall structures, pruning fig trees that still had living branches and eliminating those that were completely dead and planting new ones.
Fig trees, amongst other dry wood trees, are planted in the middle of the countryside and dry stonewalls are built round them to protect them from the cattle. However, it is a characteristic to see the animals looking for some fallen figs around the enclosures.
As well as the restoration of some of the enclosures, 120 fig plants have been bought to distribute between the farms. The purchase has been diverse: from the “paratjales” with their distinctive broken red fruit, to the sweetness of the white lady’s neck, through to the bold, first batch of the summer, of the “fig flower” and finishing with the bardissot variety.
The last few years have seen a decline in the figs of Menorca. certainly the effect of climate change and lack of water, combined with no maintenance, are some of the factors that come into play in lowering the crop defences against disease.
Harvest figs again at the end of August to accompany an oliaigua or enjoy the smell of ripe figs. Look for the fresh green leaves in summer or enjoy the simple tastes from a bunch of figs picked in the early morning and eating them fresh from the night. We can retain some of those pleasures if we continue with the restoration of the emblematic fig trees in Menorca.
The agreement between GOB and the farms signed up to the Land Stewardship Scheme gives the farms the option to diversify their products and maintain distinctive landscape features such as the fig tree enclosures. That is only one of the many options that is gained from the mutual benefit between the farms and volunteers each year. Many thanks to all those who took part in the volunteering activities.
The activity has the economic support of the Menorca Island Council, the Menorca Preservation Fund and the MAVA Foundation.