The fig tree native to the region of Palestine reached a height of thirty-five feet at full growth and flourished in both rich and rocky soils. Fig trees and vineyards were often planted together; thus, the phrase "to sit down under one's own vine and fig tree" came to be a common expression of contentment.
The main crop of figs, called "late" figs, ripened from August to November. "Green" or "winter" figs grew on the tree from late November until April, when they turned russet in the warm spring sun. These figs stayed small and could easily be blown off the tree in the spring winds. Those that were blown off were used. The remainder of the figs slowly matured during the summer, from June on. These fruit were called "first-ripe" figs and were highly prized for their sweetness and flavor. A healthy fig tree had fruit on its branches for at least ten months out of the year.
It was wholly within reason that Jesus should expect to find figs on a tree in the spring, the season of the Passover festival (Matt. 21.18-22). The absence of figs at that time of the year indicated that the tree, although seemingly alive because it had leaves, was actually dying. Jesus foretold its destruction, which happened with surprising suddenness.