This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V18", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
While along the Gulf coast recently the writer noticed that the fig, though in a climate exempt from frost, seemed determined to keep to its deciduous proclivities, and was in a perfectly leafless state. We can, therefore, say nothing about southern figs, but by the way the southern people talk of them they must be something to tempt even an anchorite. But we were told that no one has been able to dry them so as to compete with those of Europe. So far as we could learn no one seemed to know the process by which they were dried in Europe. We therefore give the following account. It may be remarked that even in raisin making the Europeans make free use of lye to open the pores and hurry up the drying.
The preparation of figs for market is given as follows: Sheets are held under the trees - clear of the ground - and the fruit is shaken into them. They are then placed into baskets and dipped in a bath of strong potash lye for about two minutes, and then dipped into clean water. This is to remove the gum on the outside of the fruit and to improve the color. They are then placed upon hurdles to dry in the sun, or in a dry-house, and when soft enough to pack closely are pressed tightly into wooden drums or boxes. The drums hold about fifteen pounds and must not be made of pine, as it injures the flavor.