Would Jesus have cursed my fig tree? And can I save it?


Look at that ridiculous, tiny thing near the center of the photo: Call that a fig?

It’s always been one of the passages in the Bible that I find problematic, but at the same time, it’s also one that has an authentic air that says, “This really happened.”

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. 13 Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. 14 And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it.

I like that “And his disciples heard it” touch. The writer of the Gospel is saying, You may not believe he laid a curse on a tree, but we were there, and we HEARD it, man!

This was just before Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple, which is an interesting juxtaposition: The fig tree thing suggests Jesus could get pretty peevish when hungry, the second is the only account we have of him getting violently angry.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that passage lately as I look at my own fig tree, which I planted maybe a decade ago, and which has yet to produce what I would consider to be a normal crop of figs. I think last year was the best we’ve done, and I got to eat maybe five or six figs, total.

I also think about the parable:

He spoke also of this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down….

Even by that more patient standard, this tree is on thin ice.

We pruned it during the cold weather. Then, I did indeed “dung it” with some Black Kow manure. I worried that maybe we’d pruned it too much, because it was slow to produce new greenery. But eventually it broke out with a decent profusion of leaves — but no figs. Finally, a couple of things that look like they might aspire to become figs some day have emerged — but they’re kind of weird and misshapen.

When I walk around my own neighborhood and across the USC campus, I see loads of green figs popping out all over the place.

Maybe it’s the variety. (My tree isn’t the usual Brown Turkey fig. When it produces fruit, it’s bigger and it stays green even when ripe. I want to say it’s some sort of Greek variety. I bought it at the State Farmers Market.)

Maybe it’s because we had no rain for so long, up to the last couple of days.

I don’t know. Any suggestions?

This is on a tree that I regularly pass on walk across the USC campus.

This is on a tree that I regularly pass on walks across the USC campus. I see at least eight figs in this shot.

17 thoughts on “Would Jesus have cursed my fig tree? And can I save it?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I wish I knew where to get some chicken manure. That’s the best thing for figs, I’ve always heard. Used to be you could get it from Mepkin Abbey, until the animal rights people hounded the monks into shutting down their egg operation.

      My whole childhood, my grandparents had this super-prolific fig tree in their backyard in Bennettsville. It was in the same location where the henhouse had once been, before I was born. So I’ve always associated healthy fig trees with chicken manure….

      1. Bill

        My partner spent six months at Mepkin Abbey,back when they had the chickens.He loved it,especially the library(Clare Boothe Luce).A good Catholic boy;)
        With fig trees and many house plants,the less you care for them,usually the better.I wouldn’t bother pruning a fig once its established…

    2. Bob Amundson

      Petition the lord with prayer. Petition the lord with prayer. You cannot petition the lord with prayer!

    1. Bob Amundson

      Meant to put this under the Jim Carroll video Bill posted. Carroll died in 2009 – The Basketball Diaries.

    1. Bob Amundson

      Both Jim Morrison (Soft Parade: “When I was back there in seminary school, here was a person there who put forth the proposition that you can petition the Lord with prayer. Petition the lord with prayer. Petition the lord with prayer. You cannot petition the lord with prayer!”) and Jim Carroll (People Who Died: Teddy sniffing glue he was 12 years old, fell from the roof on East Two-nine. Cathy was 11 when she pulled the plug on 26 reds and a bottle of wine. Bobby got leukemia, 14 years old, he looked like 65 when he died. He was a friend of mine) are dead. I was copying Bill’s “tribute” to Morrison’s lyrics, and his tribute to his late partner and Jim Carroll.

  1. Harry Harris

    But, of course, I can’t think of any reason someone would want to save a fig tree unless they like yucky fruit and invasive roots. Cut it down.

  2. Scout

    I have two fig trees. I’m afraid if I showed them to you it might make you sad though. They have been off the past 2 years – with the crops coming in almost a month later than normal – but this year appears back to normal and they are both pretty full. Maybe it’s the variety? One of mine was supposed to be a brown turkey, but I’m not sure it is. It’s figs are smaller and sweeter than what I think a brown turkey is supposed to be like, but that’s just from reading, so not sure. The other one came from an offshoot of a tree in my Mom’s yard that was there when we moved in in 1973, so I don’t know what kind it is, but it makes bigger greener figs with a thicker more fibrous skin that are less sweet. I like to use those for cooking more than eating fresh. Both of these trees are about 12 years old and started producing well after 3-4 years.

    I will be happy to share figs with you! I usually get way too many. Or I could bury a limb and make you a new little tree!

    1. Scout

      Apologies to Harry.

      Maybe you just haven’t met the right fig yet, Harry. Would you like a jar of preserves to change your mind? :)


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