The Fig Tree Whisperer

My cousin Giavonni propagates fig trees from parent trees in Italy, and gives young plants to grow to friends and family. One of them has crossed the ocean to Atlanta…

Giovanni Picano, my cousin, has a passion for the fig trees that grow in the rich soil of Cassino, the small town in Southern Italy where he grew up.

Born in the thirties, Giovanni has a rough start. The war makes him an orphan when he’s barely in his teens. He ends up as child labor working on his grandparents’ farm. He’s hungry and ready to climb these trees as soon as the figs are ready!

A decade later, Giovanni immigrates to France for a better life. He’s a builder. With his wife Rosina, who’s also originally from Cassino, he builds a house—the same house where they both live today–just outside of Paris.

For decades, Giovanni regularly visits Cassino. He needs to see those fig trees! (He’s less mobile now and hasn’t been there for a couple of years.) During each of his visits in Cassino, he cuts branches from parent fig trees and brings them back to Paris to grow new trees in his backyard or a friend’s backyard. Today, his big “Cassino” fig trees in his Paris backyard are legendary in the family.

In 2015, after my father passes, Giovanni gives me a sprout of one of his fig trees to bring back to Atlanta. My ex, John, plants it in his garden. The plant in Atlanta that comes from a parent tree in Paris that comes from a grandparent tree in Cassino, becomes a big fig tree!

I am simply ecstatic when John gives me three young plants, last summer, so I can grow them into new trees in my own backyard. One has been in the ground since then, and I’m about to plant the other two in the next few weeks. A little piece of Paris and Cassino are in my home in Atlanta, and you have no idea how good that makes me feel.

Summer ’20. The gorgeous leaves of my fig tree.

6 Replies to “The Fig Tree Whisperer”

  1. There are a lot of fruit trees in Atlanta, but this has to be one of the most special fig trees in all of Atlanta.

  2. Such a beautiful story & such an example of endearing family traditions! You will have great pleasure eating those special figs!

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