Fig is considered one of the earliest cultivated plants in the hot, dry climate of the Middle East, according to legend. Agriculturists may have learned early on about its easy propagation. You simply need to put an on branch of this accommodating tree in the ground, and a fresh tree similar to the parent will develop and bear fruit in two to three years. Considering this, it’s little wonder that it spread so fast throughout the Mediterranean, where it could be carried with relative ease by land (via camels) and by sea (via ships). New cultivars emerged and were cultivated over time in countries, including African countries like Morocco and European countries like Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and France.
Native to Asiatic Turkey and northern India, the common fig grows wild in most Mediterranean nations and is grown where temperatures are warm enough. Fresh and dried figs are so frequently utilized in the Mediterranean region that they have earned the nickname “the poor man’s meal.” Calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron are all abundant in the fruit.
Figs reached the American continents in the 1500s, and it only took it two centuries to spread in California and the west coast of Mexico, which turned into the first major commercial industry for the fruit by the late 1800s and now covers about ten thousand acres. The yield is comparable to major global players.
13 Major Fig Varieties
There are many kinds of figs, each with a different set of properties. Let’s take a look at some of the common commercially available figs.
1. Black Mission Figs
The most often planted fig tree type in California is Black Mission, which thrives in the state’s hot and dry environment. It produces medium to big, dark purple berries with flesh that looks like strawberry jam and tastes like a sweet berry. Those that have been left on the tree for an extra long time, when the sun dries them out like prunes, have a sweeter, gooier texture.
Somewhere off the coast of Spain, in the Balearic Islands, is where the Black Mission had its start. Franciscana was the variety’s previous name, and it rose to prominence in the Catholic missions to California, where it was appropriated by the state’s burgeoning fig industry. This earned the fig variety the moniker Black Mission. Another name for this is Beers Black fig.
2. Brown Turkey Figs
Brown Turkey figs (or Ficus carica, which translates to ‘Brown Turkey’) are sometimes known just as Brown figs or Turkey figs. They feature a rusty red to the purple exterior and a beautifully toned pink interior. They’re sweet and tasty. There’s a moderate sweetness to their flavor, evocative of melon and honey, but it’s less nuanced or strong than many other fig kinds since it’s less “figgy.” A medium-sized fruit with brownish-rusted purple skin and bright pink-amber flesh on the inside, this is a fig.
The trees thrive in a Mediterranean environment and bear fruit profusely, making them invasive in some regions. It was initially brought to England in the early 1700s, presumably from Italy. USDA zones 7 to 11 allow for the growth of brown turkey fig trees, making them widely available. Compared to breba (the Second crop of the season), the primary crop is said to be considerably sweeter and more delicious. When the figs are mature and ready to be harvested, they tend to split along the bottom, exposing part of the inner flesh.
3. Adriatic Figs
The high sugar content of this Mediterranean fig makes it ideal for drying and using in fig pastes and bars. The skin of the fresh Adriatic fig is a pale green, while the flesh is a delicate pink. As a result of its exceptionally light coloration, they’ve earned the moniker “white figs.”
The vibrant pink to vivid crimson inside of these figs steals the show and imparts a taste that’s aggressively sweet, even for a fig. The flesh and skin contrast has also earned them another delicious name: Candy-striped figs. And fig variety is quite popular for drying, fig pastes, and fig bars, thanks to its high sugar content.
Even though the tree can endure just about every type of weather, the fruit will only mature from June to August each year. Because of their extreme sweetness, they make a great simple fruit treat on their own.
4. Celeste Figs
Celeste figs are held to a higher degree of sweetness and taste because of this. In fact, celeste figs, which have a light brown to the violet exterior with meat that is a brilliant strawberry-red in color, are sometimes called “sugar figs.” They are also called honey figs for their characteristic sweetness. But the flavor is not just sweet; it’s also refreshing (not unlike berries). This makes it ideal for both: Preparing preserves and eating fresh.
It’s a great bet if you live in the South or Southeast. Celeste fig trees can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F when planted outside, making them one of the more cold-hardy fig types. They’re also well-known for producing a lot of fruit on little trees, which makes them particularly productive. Pest, disease, humidity, and splitting resistance are all boosted in celeste fig trees.
5. Calimyrna/Smyrna Figs
Compared to other figs, Calimyrnas are the largest and have a greenish-golden exterior. Even though Calimyrna and Smyrna might be marketed as two different fruits, they are not. The only major difference is where the crop comes from. The contrast between their pink interiors and their black exteriors accentuates their stunning pink exteriors. The color of these figs is a stunning greenish-yellow when eaten fresh. However, if you plan on drying them, they’ll become a pale golden color, and the taste will become nuttier.
Cut up Calimyras and serve them as-is because of their beautiful interiors. Nutty taste distinguishes them. Because they pair so well with almonds, all figs have a nutty flavor, but this particular type has a greater nuttiness. They also taste like honey, jam, and butterscotch, with a nutty undertone from the many seeds in each one.
6. Kadota Figs
The Kadota, a common green plant, has been around for a very long time. This Italian cultivar, called the Dotatto, was praised by Pliny the Elder, according to legend. Fresh figs of this kind are common throughout California.
A yellowish-green exterior and amber-tinted meat cover these tiny to medium-sized fruits. Harvested throughout the late summer and early fall. As the temperature rises in the summer, the fruit’s sweetness deepens. Kadota figs are great for drying, canning, or preserving because of their somewhat gritty texture.
Figs from Kadota have no seeds, and when dried, they turn a pale golden color. Zones 5 and 6 are the greatest for them since they can endure cold.
7. King Figs (Dessert King Fig)
Many small farms in colder regions, such as the Pacific Northwest and places with harsh winters, produce this cold-tolerant fig. A green-skinned fig, sometimes known as a “white fig,” does not turn brown when it is mature. When it rains, it dependably produces delicious fruit, and it does well in coastal and high-elevation areas as well. As a result, birds are less likely to nibble at ripe fruit now.
The tree produces big, delicious, juicy berries with reddish-pink flesh that has green to pale yellow skin. To put it simply, the fruit’s organoleptic qualities are out of this world: melting texture, strawberry-like flavor, greater sugar content than breba’s, and seeds that are both noticeable in the tongue and delicious.
8. Chicago Hardy Figs
Mid-sized Chicago Hardy figs feature dark purple skin and pale pink meat. The purple skin has also earned them the name: Bensonhurst Purple. They’re a beautiful combination. The flavor is characterized as “fruity berry,” and it’s light, sweet, and strawberry-like (rather than deeply rich or complex). Brown Turkey flavor dominates the aroma and flavor profile.
Even though the Chicago Hardy isn’t as well-known as the Common or Celeste fig, it’s nevertheless regarded as one of the toughest fig trees of all time by many. Chicago Hardy is well-known for producing two sets of fruit per year. Spring is when they produce tiny harvests, with the bulk of their yield coming in the early fall.
9. Purple Genca Figs
Another purple fig variety you may want to try is Purple Genca Fig, also known by other names like Black Spanish or Black Genoa figs, though the skin is definitely purple. They’re enormous, purple, and delicious, with sweet red flesh. They’re great for both fresh and dry eating, as well as for jam-making.
The purple Genca fig tree may reach a height of 13 feet and has a modest growth rate, but it produces a lot of fruit and leaves. It’s self-fertilizing, making it relatively easier to grow and propagate.
10. White Genoa Figs
White Genoa figs are a bit different from their purple/black variant, and the difference is more than just in color. With two harvests every year, the White Genoa fig is a medium-sized fruit with a distinct flavor. Its big, yellowish-green fruit with a honey-yellow to the rose-colored pulp is much sought for. A honey berry taste with a sweet honey undertone that’s perfect for fresh consumption as well as for canning or freezing. When the green-skinned fruit is nearly ripe, it begins to turn yellow. The early Breba crop produces two harvests each year and is loaded with taste.
Even at an early age, this fig tree type tends to be a heavy and reliable bearer. Cooler coastal or temperate regions are ideal for growing and maturing White Genoa. A big open “eye” on the bottom of the fruit makes it susceptible to rotting in damp summer weather, thus growing it in hot, humid settings is not recommended.
11. Sierra Fig
In addition to being a new variety (released in 2006), the Sierra is a green-skinned fig. Like the Calimyrna fig, the Sierra is believed to have its origins in western Turkey. Big spherical fruits with light skin and a Riesling-like fresh and sweet taste define this variety.
They’re perfect for slicing in half and topping with cheese and olive oil for dipping. In addition, it’s served with cured meats and on cheese platters. Serve this with dessert for a delicious meal. Serve with a fine dry wine or Port and some cheese and nuts.
12. Alma Figs
The Alma Fig Tree, which is mostly found in Mexican regions and has delightfully rich figs, is yet another outstanding tree. In spite of its unappealing appearance, the fruit makes up for it! This tree has a reputation for being extremely vulnerable to the effects of both snow and frost.
The green fruit with a pear or spherical form that ripens to golden or bronze in color. Alma’s rich, sweet flesh ranges from amber to pink in color and is prized for its high quality. Honeydew fills the tiny eye, making it a suitable pick for the South and Southeast of the United States.
13. LSU Gold And Purple
The LSU gold figs resemble large golden berries with a crimson tinge. It’s a big fruit with a rose blush and pink to the crimson interior pulp, with a light yellow-green exterior. It has a deep, sweet flavor and works well, fresh, dried, or preserved. It’s delicious when it’s still fresh, but it also keeps nicely when dried. The fig is ideal for jams and jellies.
There are three fruiting seasons on the LSU Purple Fig, unlike other trees: a modest crop in early spring, a huge main crop in July, and a late crop in November or early December. This makes it unusual. Fruits are medium in size and have flesh that is pale raspberry in color. Caramel, brown sugar, dates, and persimmon flavors abound in this too-sweet concoction. When the LSU AgCenter first released the purple fig variety in 1991, it was developed for disease resistance and sweetness.
These 13 varieties by no means encapsulate the full spectrum of figs. There are several other, more niche varieties of this fruit, many of which are specific to certain regions, and quite a few of them are proprietary to the developers/researchers that first perfected them. But the list above covers most of the commercially available figs around the globe as well as some common and identifiable lab-perfected varieties.