So-called Smyrna-type figs, such as Calimyrna, need a process called caprification to help the figs mature. In California, commercial growers introduce tiny, stingerless wasps called Blastophaga into their orchards to transfer pollen and fertilize the fruits. Without caprification, the figs would shrivel and drop before ripening. Calimyrna figs are sweet and delicious, with a mild, nutty taste. The trees need a mediterranean-like climate (long, warm summers and cool, wet winters).
Great for eating fresh or drying, ‘Conadria’ figs have rosy pink flesh and light greenish-yellow skins. Hardy in zones 7 to 9, the trees are self-pollinating and vigorous, with fruits that resist spoiling in the rain or splitting. This variety is recommended for the Southeast and California.
An Italian heirloom named for a plantsman's mother, 'Letizia' crops heavily. Its sweet, juicy fruits ripen in summer, and they're great for turning into jams and jellies. 'Letizia' is also an attractive and low-maintenance ornamental. The trees have a bushy, multi-stemmed growth habit and reach 8 feet tall with a 4-foot spread. They're hardy in zones 6 to 9.
If you want to try growing figs, but aren't sure which varieties to choose, try an assortment of rare varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The company says you'll get three small plants of two varieties; the flesh may be pink, green or red, and they'll thrive outdoors in zones 7 to 11. Gardeners in colder regions may be able to grow these trees with winter protection.
Along with their unique attributes, heirloom plants have the power to bring generations together. My grown children learned to make fruit preserves from their great-great-grandmother’s fig bush, and now they each have a “start” of the original tree in their own gardens.
Best for eating fresh, green 'Panache Tiger' figs are small to medium sized fruits that have attractive yellow stripes. The inner pulp is deep strawberry red. These trees need a long, warm growing season for their raspberry-flavored figs, which ripen from about August into November.
'White Genoa' is an old fig variety native to the Mediterranean and western Asia. This fig performs well in cool coastal regions, and it’s also fine for growing inland. The fruits have greenish-yellow skins and amber flesh. Many gardeners enjoy the trees as ornamentals, too, for their deeply lobed, green leaves and gray bark.
Native to Sicily, 'Peter’s Honey' figs are shiny and greenish-yellow when ripe, with a sweet, amber-colored flesh. Use them fresh, for eating out of hand. Although the trees are hardy in zones 6 to 10, gardeners in the maritime Northwest should plant 'Peter's Honey' in a warm spot with a southern exposure to ensure the figs ripen properly.
'Italian Honey' figs are slow growing, but worth the wait. They bear heavily twice a year on trees that top out around 15 feet high. Since the figs don’t require summer heat to develop their rich, sweet favors, they're fine for northern gardens. For bigger yields, plant another fig for pollination. Eat the figs fresh off the trees, or dry or preserve them. 'Italian Honey' is hardy in zones 7 to 10.
Purplish to eggplant-brown ‘Black Jack’ figs are sweet and juicy and elongated in shape. This variety is a semi-dwarf, so it’s great for small garden spaces. Rated for hardiness zones 7 to 10, the trees grow about 15 feet tall and wide, but can be pruned to stay around 6 feet tall.
'Black Mission' figs originated in Spain and have become popular for their dark purple-black skins and sweet, red flesh. The pear-shaped fruits are delicious when eaten out of hand or cooked for jams and jellies. Hardy in zones 7 to 10.
'Violette de Bordeaux' is a fig that produces two crops each year. The naturally dwarf trees grow 6 to 10 feet tall and bear small to medium purplish-black figs with dark strawberry-red flesh. This variety is self-fruiting, deer and pest resistant, and tolerant of heat, drought and humidity. Hardy in zones 5 to 8.
This so-called white fig, 'Janice Seedless Kadota,' is hardy in zones 8 to 9. The self-fruitful trees bear big, sweet, nearly seedless fruits, which have light greenish-yellow skins, starting in late summer to early fall.
Self-fruitful ‘Improved Brown Turkey’ is a popular fig trees to grow in both coastal and inland climates. The trees, which are hardy in zones 7 to 9, produce big, brown-skinned fruits. The flesh inside is pink, rich, and sweet.
Blue cheese is characterized by its sharp and salty taste. In addition to the flavoring, blue cheese is also known for its strong scent. If guests find its characteristics too strong, figs can help sweeten the salty taste.
Purple-skinned 'Texas Blue Giant' thrives in hot climates, as you might guess from its name. The amber flesh is delicious for eating fresh or drying. Hardy in zones 7 to 10, the self-fruiting trees grow 8 to 10 feet in height.
A robust fiddle leaf fig tree is a lively addition to this urban living space. The organic shape of the potted houseplant contrasts sharply with the refined silhouette of the transitional chaise lounge. Sophisticated accents complete the eclectic look: an Hermes throw, zebra print rug and x-base coffee table.