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July-August 2019

East Texas Farm & Ranch Living

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Monster fig tree may be world-record By William Patrick Palestine Herald-Press


n old Greek proverb says: “Sharing the figs can leave you with nothing at all.” That’s not a worry for John Marks, who has what he believes to be the world’s largest fig tree. “The tree is almost 17 feet high, and nearly 100 feet around,” Marks told the Herald-Press. “The biggest ones I’ve seen online are, maybe, 15 feet tall and 70 inches in circumference.” Marks moved to Anderson County 20 years ago with his wife, Katherine, and their three children. Back then, the tree was just a sapling. The secret to its growth, Marks said, is something he has in abundance: chicken manure. “We have about 800 chickens,” he said. “Whenever we clean out the chicken houses, we shovel the manure on to the tree’s roots; we’ve been doing it since we moved in.” The results of Marks’ all-natural methods are indisputable. The 20-year-old tree, an adolescent in fig tree years, bears thousands of figs a year, feeding friends, family – and, oddly enough, the chickens. “During the summer months, the chickens fly up in the tree for shade,” Marks said. “They sit up there and eat the figs right off the branches. I guess the tree feeds the chickens, and the chickens end up feeding the tree.” Although the chickens eat hundreds of figs each year, Marks said he still has enough to supply his wife’s preservemaking, and still have bushels left over. Friends have tried to convince Marks to call the Guinness Book of World Records

to have his tree examined and officially awarded the title “world’s largest fig tree.” A private man, Marks isn’t sure he wants all that attention on his property or his family. “We have the tree behind a fence,” he said. “I don’t know if I want my home to become a tourist destination.” He might not have a choice. The Marks’ fig tree is not done growing. With a lifespan of 100 to 300 years, the fruitbearing behemoth might grow too big to ignore, as long as Marks keeps shoveling. Meantime, he will continue to enjoy his wife’s strawberry-fig preserves. Katherine Marks’ strawberry-fig preserves: 6c figs 4c sugar 2 lg packages strawberry Jell-O

Photo courtesy of the Marks family

John Marks stands at the base of his fig tree. The tree, Marks said, might be the largest of its type in the world.

• Rinse figs, drain, cut off stems, and mash. • Place figs and sugar in a large pot, stir and let set for 15 minutes to draw out juice. • Cook on med. Heat until it comes to a boil. Slow boil, stirring frequently for 15-20 minutes. • Add Jell-O and cook for 15 more minutes. • While still slowly simmering, fill sterile jars up to 1/2-inch from the top. Make sure to wipe clean the top of the jar before sealing with hot lids and ring bands. • Place jars on a dishtowel to cool, and wait for lid to seal. When you hear a “pop” sound, you will know it is sealed. (Wait until completely cool before cleaning residual stickiness from jars.) • Store in cool, dry place.

Photo courtesy of the Marks family

John Marks, 16, stands atop the family barn to reach the top of his family’s giant fig tree.

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Farm and Ranch Living July 2019  

A special supplement to the Palestine Herald-Press focusing on East Texas Farm and Ranch Living.

Farm and Ranch Living July 2019  

A special supplement to the Palestine Herald-Press focusing on East Texas Farm and Ranch Living.

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