Traditional Fig Cultivation
The fig is a hardy tree and can tolerate the cold much more than the olive tree. It can grow at mountainous areas, at an altitude of 650m. The quality of the figs is better when the soil is clay or sandy-clay and has low calcium content compared to figs grown at very wet or not well-drained terrains. The best quality figs are those that grow on hills, but can only be found in small quantities. Areas that produce superior quality figs are the villages ofLeukochora, Manesi and Polylofos.
Τhe cultivation of the fig tree entails the propagation with cuttings, off shoots or grafting and pollination so that the domesticated figs grow and are preserved on trees from late May to late June. During pollination, farmers cut 4-5 wild figs,string them through a green cattail, and hang them on the domesticated fig trees. The hanging of wild figs occurs every 8 days on each tree and is repeated 3 times. The tasks before the production of figs start in September, when the fig trees are cleaned from weeds and manure is added under the trees. Theplowingwith the use of a plow and a harrow, and the removal of fig wax scale (Ceroplastesrusci) from the branches so that the insect does not infect the tree and fruit take place in October.
The harvest of the figs lasts from mid-August to late September because figs do not ripen all at once, but gradually. Farmers have prepared the harvesting tools, such as cane frames (kalamota),large wicker baskets (pourgia), needles for stitching (bourliasma) and the special picking rods (tembles). Every week they shake the fig trees with their rods and the mature figs fall on the ground. Tree shaking is a male task whereas the picking of figs from the ground is a task assigned to women and children, who put them into hampers and then into woven baskets (pourgia) to transport them to the drying floor. The drying of figs takes place on cane frames (kalamota) or straw mats, which have previously been placed on the drying floors. The figs are placed one next to the other in rows and are left to dry under direct sunlight. Three or four days later, the figs are turned on their side so thatthey are uniformly dried.
About ten days later, the selectionof figs begins, depending on their quality and size. Selection is based on three categories (first, second and third selection). The first two categories can be sent to fig companies where they undergo disinfestation and are then packaged. The third category, which is called ‘aposyka’, is intended only for animal feed. In areas of the Messinian Mani, residents select the figs during the evening to start the making of crowns (tsapeles). This is done by stitching the figs (bourliasma) with a long needle and the aid of board. Each tsapela contains a specific number of figs depending on the purchase order (10,12,15,20 or 40). In addition to local processing, there are large cooperatives and companies, where the tasks of making of ‘tsapeles’, packaging and promotion of the product take place. This ismainly done atthe SYKIKI Cooperative, the Organization of Dried Figs Producers of the Peloponnese Region. Its headquarters are located in Sperchogeia of the municipality of Kalamata.