Gowanus Lounge: Serving Brooklyn

Are the South Slope Backyard Figs Okay to Eat?

September 9th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Here’s an interesting question that came to our attention via the Park Slope Parents list that might be of some interest to those lucky enough to have gardens in which they can grow things. Can one reassure oneself that any fruits or vegetables that one grows are safe to eat? Here’s the question:

We live in South Slope and have 4 huge fig trees in the backyard that have been here for more than 60 years. The figs are delicious but we wonder if they are safe to eat after washing b/c of the possibility of lead and other contaminants in the soil. Does anyone have recs for testing the soil or the figs themselves?

We have heard of people who’ve had backyard soil tested in Carroll Gardens that have found traces of contaminants.

Tags: South Slope

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 PZ // Sep 9, 2008 at 10:26 am

    If I’m not mistaken, most plants filter many harmful particulates. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to grow (just like we couldn’t live with those same substances inside of us).

  • 2 Knitteronomy // Sep 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

    It depends on the contaminant – you may want to get the soil tested, especially if you know there was past industrial activity nearby. Cornell will test soil samples for a range of possible contaminants: http://cnal.cals.cornell.edu/ It looks like you have to request what you want them to test for, though, so it may be good to do some research about possible contaminants first.

    If industrial pollution isn’t likely, the main risk is probably lead, both from lead paint and exhaust (how we love you, BQE). Luckily, fruit doesn’t readily take up lead from the soil, so as long as you wash the figs carefully they should be safe. (The same goes for e.g. tomatoes, strawberries, etc.; leafy greens are less safe, and root veggies are probably unwise outside of lined raised beds.)

  • 3 anonymous552 // Sep 9, 2008 at 11:50 am

    slope parents: feed the figs to your kids. If they don’t get into Harvard, they’re toxic and you shouldn’t eat them.

  • 4 toby // Sep 9, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    is it safe to live there?

  • 5 2319 // Sep 10, 2008 at 8:57 am


    Is that what happened to you?