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Hasn't this been a strange year for fruit trees?  Every year is different, but this one is more different than most.  In my orchard, some later season peaches bore quite early (Babcock is bearing already!), and some early season peaches look to bear quite late.  The apple harvest was down from last year, and the Annas got mushy even before they took on their pink blush.  On the figs, not much of a breba crop from any tree but Desert King.

Desert King hasn't been one of my favorite figs.  It was one of the first I planted, and the tree itself is extremely vigorous.  It soon became the biggest fig in the orchard, and during a couple of winters I even tried to prune it back.

The disappointing thing about Desert King is that, although it has lots of figs, they never really seem to ripen fully.  Although a very few of the fruit seem to ripen to tastiness, most of the fruit remains tough with a latex aftertaste.  Yet I've read testimonials as to what a great fig Desert King is.

Somewhere I read that Desert King is a smyra-type fig, which means that it should bear edible brebas, but the main crop won't be edible unless it's caprified.  I've never heard of anyone in Arizona caprifying figs. (If you haven't heard of caprification, I can explain at some point in the future.)

But this year (2011) Desert King had a wonderful, juicy, delicious breba crop--dark green fruit with pink centers; sweet but not cloying.  The tree was very prolific as well.  The birds got over half the crop (the tree is far too big to net), but there was plenty for all.

Alas, Black Mission--no breba; Brown Turkey--just a few breba fruits, but these were practically fist-sized and delicious; White Genoa--an unusually small breba crop that, unfortunately, mostly soured.  I had one large breba fruit from the Improved Brown Turkey--I usually have much more.  Black Jack usually has great big breba figs, but was bare this year, but perhaps because the acacia tree now shades it.

Still, I'd think twice about planting Desert King in Phoenix unless you have a lot of room for a big, vigourous tree, and can tolerate a lot of time between edible crops.

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Comment by Becky P on September 19, 2012 at 3:04pm

The Master Gardeners out in Maricopa have a small orchard that includes several fig trees. I've eaten the White Kadota and Black Mission and canned a few of each. Both have closed eyes. I thought the White Kadota was good but it lacked the traditional "figgy" taste of the Black Mission. (White Kodota with strawberries made a nice jam though.) We planted several new varieties in the orchard this spring and I stopped by to look at them today. All seem to be growing well with a few small figs on them. Unfortunately, I can't remember which kind were planted. I'm looking forward to seeing how they do out here. I am definitely going to make room in my yard for a Black Mission Fig. Our family loves fig preserves!

Comment by Andrew Brewer on September 19, 2012 at 12:48pm

Grew a China Honey Fig from a cutting purchased through the AZRFG.  Great tasting fig -- but it is an open eye fig.  Grower beware.

Comment by Jeff Reich and Farraday Newsome on September 19, 2011 at 2:45pm

Sorry Rob,

I wrote Bob but meant Rob.

thanks again,

Farraday

Comment by Jeff Reich and Farraday Newsome on September 18, 2011 at 3:22pm

Bob,

Thank-you so much for your thoughtful insight about figs. We had always heard that Black Mission Figs had closed eyes, but after reading about your experience I googled the matter and many sites concur with you: that Black Mission figs have small, but not closed, eyes. So, we are now intrigued by the Texas Blue Giant too and I think we've seen them at Baker Nursery. Again, thank-you and please keep us posted with your experience.

Comment by Rob Risley on September 10, 2011 at 7:19am

Hey folks, thanks for your comments.  I hope that this reply is valuable, since I'm afraid that there is some potentially misleading information out there.  Perhaps I can provide some clarity.

 

Here's my experience.

 

Brown Turkey.  Actually there are two kinds of Brown Turkey: Brown Turkey and Brown Turkey Improved.  They look a lot alike, but they have very different flavor.  I find "improved" more complex and satisfying, but not nearly as prolific.  Expect really nice, but small, breba crops on both--the figs themselves can be huge even if the crop is small.  Unfortunately, both of these trees are susceptible to the dried fruit beetles and, thus, fig souring.  In my orchard, beetles and souring set in when the humidity starts in July, although the last few years souring has even affected some of the brebas.  On regular Brown Turkey, I sometimes can pick part of the main crop before it sours.  You have to be quick, and pick just before the fruit reaches full sweetness.

 

White Genoa.  Maybe I can provide some context to Randy's comment.  First, understand that a lot of figs are mislabeled, and I've found that common names are often confusingly applied to different varieties.  The White Genoa I have (purchased from Baker and labeled as such), is a big, rambling tree.  It has very big, delicious fruit.  The brebas are very big, sometimes huge; the mains a bit smaller.  Both crops are very prolific.  The taste is outstanding, and the texture and color of the fruit is very appetizing.  Downside is that on MY White Genoa, the eyes are very large.  This fig is the most susceptible one I have to souring.  I consistently lose ALL of the main crop.  In the last couple of years, I even lose a lot of the breba.  A real shame.  So, Randy, I take it that your White Genoa isn't the same tree as mine.  Where did you get yours?  A lot of nurseries mix up labels too.

 

Violette de Bordeaux.  I have 2 of these, from different nurseries.  They're similar, but not the same tree.  I think one catalogue said that an alternate name was Petite Negronne, but this may be another tree (another example of nurseries confusing names).  My experience here has been mixed.  The fruit on both trees is small, and can be tasty on both trees, although a bit hard and dry.  Both of mine have closed eyes, and are more resistent to souring!

 

Now, Becky, I would highly recommend having a fig tree in your garden.  They are great trees--quite good looking even in winter with their interesting  branch structure.  But I would just be careful to get one with a closed eye, or else you'll deal with the heartbreak of souring.  DAMN, most catalogues really won't tell you consistently which ones have closed eyes.  You really have to research.

 

Jeff, Farraday, I have Black Jack too.  Delicious figs, and the huge breba fruit are a real delight.  But I could never say that my tree has dwarf tendencies.  It's not the most vigorous by far, but the tree is quite large and grew quickly--at least until my perimeter trees grew up to shade it.  But I concur--big eye; this one is very susceptible to the beetles and souring.  Probably best to avoid.  My experience with Kadota is like yours--big, vigorous tree, but fruit kind of raw and bland tasting and many seem never to ripen.  Generally simply not worth picking.  And now a warning about Black Mission--I've had several of these trees in several different properties in PHoenix.  This is one tree that seems to be consistently labeled in nursuries.  It's a medium-sized black fig, and has good breba and main crops in some years, and often a third crop in late October/early November.  But my experience with all of these trees is inconsistent with yours in that it always has a significant eye, and the main crop on my trees is always susceptible to souring.  I simply can't recommend it.

Great to hear that RAndy has done some research on these new

Comment by Jeff Reich and Farraday Newsome on September 9, 2011 at 8:17am

The Black Jack Fig we planted in our new garden last fall (chosen due its natural semi-dwarf size) has had tasty fruit, but now we know, unfortunately, that they are open-ended so the beetles & ants often get to them before we we can. Not good.

The other fig tree we chose was the Kadota Fig. It's supposed to be tasty & we thought a white fig would be nice with the black fig of the Black Jack. It has been prolific, but it's fruit has poor taste and texture. The upshot of this disappointing first fig season is that we may yank both trees and go with the closed-end, tried-and-true Black Mission Fig. Yes, they are common, but they always taste great! We would need to prune it hard every winter to keep its size okay for our 9' high garden enclosure.

Now, after reading Randy's post, we might try a Lemon Conadria too & we are considering the Texas Blue Giant too! Randy - are those both closed-ended?

 

Comment by Becky P on August 26, 2011 at 7:55pm
Hmmm.... I was planning to put a fig tree in the back yard but now am rethinking it. Wasn't aware that they were such a finicky fruit to grow. Maybe I'll use that precious space for something a little more predictable. It always helps to hear what grows well (or not) for people here in the valley. Thanks for the comments.
Comment by randy yavitz on July 1, 2011 at 4:27pm
There are hundreds of fig varieties.  Most have low chill hours so will produce figs in Arizona, but VERY FEW produce delicious figs.  I remember in the 1980s having year after year of bumper crops of Brown Turkey figs.  Then the sour fruit beetle came to Phoenix.  As a result, that tree simply does not work well anymore and we are looking for figs with a tighter eye.  White Genoa has a tight eye but most of the fruit stays small and even the big ones lack sweetness. Last year I headed our Fruit Tree Day program and I ordered some violette de bordeaux.  I'm disappointed.  However, I'm having a bumper crop with my Texas Blue Giant, so that is the fig Liz and I are ordering this year as well as the Lemon Conadria (a large tree of that variety at the Cooperative Extension Office produces fantastic green figs every year).  For next year (i.e. Fruit Tree Day 2013, the Arizona Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers is growing out cuttings of the Chinese Yellow Honey Fig (the tree that Deng gave to Nixon in the historic first Presidential visit to China).  That is a variety that works great in Phx--again a monster tree at the Cooperative Extension Office proves my point.  In sum: my current top 3 figs for Phoenix: 1. Lemon Conadria; 2. Chinese Yellow Honey; 3. Texas Blue Giant.  I'd like to see more opinions!

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