Fig trees are a Northern Asia native. The fig tree family consists of more than 800 ornamental and indoor plants.
These trees have been in existence for 9,000 years. The common fig has beautiful broad palmate leaves, which resemble the human hand.
Other species have different-looking leaves like oval, undulate, cordate, or truncate leaves.
Fig trees shed these leaves because they fall under the deciduous category. Enough about the fig tree. Is fig wood any good?
In the past, fig trees had a religious and cultural purpose. However, woodworkers today utilize fig wood to make turned objects and artwork. Fig wood is also excellent for smoking.
Fig wood is very light and lacks figure. Woodworkers tend to stay away from it. Its rapid and dramatic splitting makes it hard to work with. Let me take you through some fascinating facts about fig wood.
Is Fig Wood Hardwood or Softwood?
Like other fruit trees, fig tree wood is hardwood. Additionally, fig trees have broad leaves, common to hardwoods.
Fig trees also have deciduous leaves. In the winter, they lose their leaves like most other hardwood varieties.
Fig trees thrive in zone 8 and warmer in the United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map. In colder areas (zones 6 and 7) where temperatures go below -12°C, I recommend that you plant hardy fig tree varieties.
It has a density of 390 kilograms per cubic meter. Compared to most hardwoods, fig wood falls under the category of lesser-density hardwoods. As a result, fig wood is soft and not very strong.
What is the Color and Grain of Fig Wood?
Many people refer to the grain as slightly curvy. Unfortunately, trees in the Ficus species do not show distinct sapwood and heartwood.
Maybe that’s why many refer to the wood as boring. However, there’s some detail about the end grain being coarse with prolific bands of white soft tissue.
The bark is very smooth and soft to the look and touch. Fig wood bark also has a lighter gray color with minimal textural properties.
Is Fig Tree Wood Good for Smoking?
When grilling or smoking meats, do so over hardwoods, especially fig wood. This wood has a sweet and somewhat cinnamon smoke. It’s so good that its smoke alone makes you hungry. I experienced this first hand.
Fig wood is perfect for smoking pork, poultry, and even seafood. However, avoid smoking beef and lamb using fig wood.
I do not think their flavors pair well. Use oak and hickory for beef and lamb.
Is Fig Wood Good for Firewood?
Some people discourage burning fig wood in a fireplace. However, fig wood makes excellent firewood as long as you remove the sappy branches and leaves.
Proper seasoning is also necessary, especially for sappy wood such as fig wood.
How Does Fig Wood Burn?
Fig wood burns hot and fast because of its lesser density. Unfortunately, you would have to use a large chunk of your fig wood firewood to get the fire burning for longer.
Compared to other fruit trees, the fig tree has thinner branches that I can describe as “twiggy.” You cannot chop and season it like you would oak wood.
Seasoning fig wood takes longer than most other woods because of the white latex in the stems. Once you remove the leaves, ensure you store the fig wood in a well-ventilated and dry place.
What Does Fig Wood Smell Like?
Of all the woods, fig wood ranks as one of the most aromatic. It has a distinct sweet and floral aroma, especially while burning. Chefs and pitmasters love this wood for cooking meats.
I would classify fig wood as one of the best-smelling woods I have ever come across.
Woodworkers are not lucky enough to get the sweet smell since fig wood does not have any characteristic smell when being worked. Wearing a mask while working on fig wood is a standard requirement.
Even though the wood has no odor, dust and vapor can still irritate your eyes and respiratory system.
Is Fig Tree Wood Toxic?
Contrary to popular opinion, fig wood is not toxic. However, the sap contains allergens that could irritate you and cause rashes.
I would also advise you to keep off the white latex since it has fucomarines that cause skin irritation and blisters.
Burning dried and seasoned fig wood will not emit any toxic fumes. If anything, it emits a beautiful scent.
Is Fig Wood Good for Woodworking?
In the past, fig wood was one of the most preferred woods for carving. In fact, people used fig wood for representations of phallic worship.
Staining is necessary to prevent the blue-stain fungus, common to fig timber. Remember, it is very light-colored timber, thus very easy to identify the fungus.
Its soft nature makes it possible to turn the wood and make it into bowls, knitting needles, and boxes. However, it is not weight-bearing which means you cannot make furniture out of it.
Besides, fig wood is not commercially available, lest we forget its low density and soft nature. These features make it difficult to make furniture and cabinetry.
How Dense is Fig Wood?
In the list of hardwoods, fig wood ranks as low-density wood. It has a density of around 390 kilograms per cubic meter.
It is also soft and does not do well with heavy weight. This makes it a terrible option for making furniture pieces that carry weight because of their low strength.
How Sustainable are Fig Trees?
According to research, fig trees are not an endangered species. Fig wood does not appear in the CITES appendices or IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
In Israel, there is only one specimen of Ficus palmata. Conservationists planted this wild fig in Knesset gardens to spare the endangered species. So, you shouldn’t be caught trying to cut down this fig tree.
Common fig trees are readily available in most Mediterranean countries like India. Some species also grow in Central and South America.