The Fig Bandit


Todd and I have our routines. In the morning, we prefer to head left out our back gate, walking towards a busy, friendly street, home to The Farms, an authentic corner store that keeps a box of dog biscuits by the door. Todd maintains a pretty fast clip till he reaches that store and puts on the breaks with equal fervor, until he’s had his morning biscuit, or two. I chat. He chews, and we depart with a wave and a trot.

After passing a favorite tree that looks almost cartoon-ish, like a whimsical sketch of Dr. Seuss, we reach an unappreciated fig tree that sits lonely in front of a slightly unkempt block of apartments. For several weeks now, I’ve studied this tree, lifting its large, gorgeous leaves each day to keep an eye on a couple of young, green beauties.

You can’t pick other people’s fruit. I know this. But each day over the next few blocks, I hold a similar discussion with myself. I first note that no one appears to have ownership over this tree, besides the apparently hands-off landlord, which concerns me. These poor little figs sit in the desolate reality that is fruit no-man’s land and just might not ever get picked or even noticed. A thought that physically pains me. I think this, but maybe the woman in 1A is watching and carefully waiting, just like me? Judging by the ever-present din between the bent metal slats of cheap shades, someone lives in these homes. Maybe they like fig smoothies? Doubtful. After a bit more heated back-and-forth, I settle on, If the fig is still there, one day past ripe, I can pick it. Todd sees a squirrel, and we round for home.

A couple weeks later, I decide to give it a squeeze.

Oh my gosh! It’s ripe! I actually jerked back from a softness I wasn’t anticipating. Not having ever had my own fig tree (obviously), I really didn’t know what to visually expect from a ripe tree-hanging fig. Furthermore, unable to tell the difference between a Black Mission Fig Tree and a Calmyrna, I was, I guess, splitting the difference and waiting for a more drastic color change. And though I have purchased fresh figs from the market many times, I somehow still think of figs in the color palette of their dried fruit counterparts.

Guilty from squeezing another’s fruit, I quickly turned and hustled Todd down the block. But, 15 steps and I stopped. That fig was most certainly, one day past ripe. Another quick pause and I knew, Todd and I were going back.

Like all thieves, I glanced right & left. And after a slightly messy pluck, I turned with the guilty strides of a woman who just stole a fig. We did it! Feeling the cool, solid prize in my hand, I bolted around the corner and immediately thought, Am I sure that was a fig tree?

Gently turning the fruit over and over in my hands, feeling the thin, soft, leathery skin, I gambled on a small delicate bite from the bulbous bottom. Lollipop sweet, juicy, seedy and one day past ripe, my squatters fig tasted of a professional fig farmer’s prized summer yield.

Was it Todd’s daily pee around the base? Maybe. Unconcerned, I savored every little morsel of that fig. Feeling the small sugar spike from a ripe fig on an empty belly, I licked my fingers, glanced at Todd sitting ever-so patiently to my right and realized, there really ain’t nothing better.

xo – Organic Spark


  • madness rivera

    Where's this tree at?? Let's go swipe some more :)

    August 13, 2010
  • yogini cowgirl

    I love figs … I especially love ripe figs right from the tree … I used to have a fig tree in my backyard … and I love your story. It makes me want to move back to Southern California (but not really).

    I think you should go back with a small basket … pluck a few figs, fire up your grill, slice the figs in half and indulge in a few ripe grilled figs and some goat cheese … and maybe a walnut for texture … or just some crusty bread … let the fresh-from-the-hot-grill-fig smush on the bread with the cheese … YUM! So now I have to go find a fig tree.

    August 14, 2010
  • Molly Chester

    Madness – It's on Montana, but I found another with way more figs. I talked with the owner, and they are going to let me pick the tree clean when it becomes ripe! I just have to return the favor with a fig tart. I'll share the wealth!

    Yogini – yuuuummmmm…. that sounded absolutely divine.

    xo Molly

    August 14, 2010
  • Danielle

    Molly – I am a die-hard fig fan. We even transplanted our three fig trees when we moved two years ago. They were just seedlings then, and they are now at least eight feet tall. This year, we have our first REAL harvest, and the kids and I are in heaven. I'm glad you worked it out with the owner so you can reap the benefits of their neglected beauty. Danielle

    August 15, 2010
  • Kathlean

    I grew up in Israel. I used to wait for the figs to ripen on a tree in Lifta, at the entrance to Jerusalem every summer. I can relate to your excitement. It's an amazing thing to observe and participate in. Nature's little miracles.

    August 16, 2010
  • Deliciously Organic

    You are too cute. :) I read an article recently that said it's completely legal to take fruit from trees that aren't on private property. They actually included a map of LA and where to find all of the free produce. You never know, the fig swiping might have been totally legal after all. haha..

    August 22, 2010

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