Dark Fig Varieties
Note: I have images of some varieties. Just click on the links to see
them and hit the back button of your browser to return to this page. Most of
these images were published in the September 1997 issue of Martha Stewart
Living (a wonderful magazine for crafts and garden ideas) and are copyrighted
by the publisher. Some of the identifications they use are erroneous, but I
have left the magazine's labels on the images wherever possible and merely
added the correct name. Correct varietal names are in bold type.
I am eagerly seeking more photos of figs and fig leaves to scan for
this website. If you have any, please e-mail me at
- A medium to large, purplish-black fig. Unusual for a dark fig since it has
amber pulp. Brebas are pyriform with prominent neck; main crop figs are oblate
to pyriform with a short, thick neck. Leaf: base cordate; 5 lobes; sinuses
narrow; margins crenate. Very good flavor. Well-adapted in California. Apparently
not hardy enough for the Eastern U.S. No synonyms.
- Black Jack
- An unidentified, large to very large fig with reddish-purple to black sking
and strawberry pulp. Oblate, flattened at apex (eye end); ribs not elevated,
but darker; shaded side of fruit is a lighter shade of purple; numerous white
flecks. Leaf: base calcarate; 5 lobes, latate. Good flavor. Fairly hardy.
Some say it is California Brown Turkey. I have not yet reached an opinion
on this question. Synonym: Black Spanish(?).
- Brown Turkey
- Small to medium, light-brown to violet fruit with strawberrypulp. Turbinate to oblique, mostly without neck.
Small eye which has a reddish color from a very early stage (unlike Celeste).
Leaf: typically small; base subcordate; 3 lobes; margins crenate. Cold hardy.
It fruits on new growth if winter killed. Often bears two crops a year. Condit
writes that it is very sweet, but not rich. My own experience is that is not
as rich as Celeste, but is considerably better than passable. Good fresh or
as preserves. Synonyms: Eastern Brown Turkey, English Brown Turkey, Everbearing,
La Perpetuelle, Lee's Perpetual, Texas Everbearing.
- California Brown Turkey
- A medium
purplish-brown fig with amber tinged with pink pulp. Best for fresh use. Light
crop of brebas which are oblique-pyriform, sometimes elongated; main crop
figs are obovate to oblique-pyriform with variable neck. Leaf: base calcarate;
lobes lyrate; margins crenate. Well-adapted in southern California, but usually
a disappointment in the South since it loses hardiness quite easily in the
spring. Experienced California growers recommend heavy pruning for the best
crops. Synonyms: Black Spanish, Brown Turkey, San Pedro, San Piero,
Thompson's Improved Brown Turkey.
- Small to medium fig with light brown to violet skin and
straw- berry pulp. Pyriform with tapering neck. Small, closed eye. The eye remains
green until the fig is almost ripe which allows it to be easily distinguished
from Brown Turkey the eye of which turns red quite early. Leaf: typically
small; base subcordate; 3-5 lobes; margins crenate. (The first image on the
right is used by permission of Travis Callahan of Abbeville, LA; activate
the second image by rolling your mouse cursor over Travis' photo.) Very cold
hardy. [Condit and other experts write that Celeste will not bear on new wood
in years in which it is frozen back. There are some strains, possibly the
original, of which this is true, but J. Stewart Nagle has identified at least
two strains which will bear on new wood. I also have one that bears on new
wood after a freeze and is otherwise indistinguishable from the Celeste Condit
describes.] Excellent fresh, dried or as preserves. Breaks up when stewed.
Main crop only. Well-adapted in the Eastern United States, but usually unsatisfactory
in California and the Southwest. Synonyms: Blue Celeste, Celestial, Conant,
Honey Fig, Sugar Fig, Malta (after its supposed place of origin), and
Tennessee Mountain Fig (which may be an even hardier bud sport).
- Early Violet
- A small to very small, chocolate-brown fig with amber to pink pulp. Turbinate
to oblate-spherical. Leaf: subcordate to truncate; 3 lobes; shallow sinuses;
margins crenate. No brebas. Main crop is early. Fair to good. Once very popular
in the South, but Celeste replaced it long ago. Susceptible to mosaic which
dwarfs fruit and leaves. No synonyms.
- A medium, yellow fig with violet stripes and amber pulp, bred and released
by Ira Condit in 1965. Pyriform with a long slender neck. Leaf: base cordate
to calcarate; eye often nearly closed; leaves: 3-5 lobes, latate. Excellent
flavor and suited for all uses. Plants are vigorous, but do not seem to be
particularly hardy. Good breba crop. Main crop ripens late. Well adapted in
south coast and San Joaquin Valley, California. Deserves trials in the South.
Synonym: Verdone Hybrid.
- Hardy Chicago
- Fred Born acquired this variety
from an Italian grower in Chicago a number of years ago and has shared it
with other enthusiasts. It has also become a commercial variety for it is
an excellent fig. (Note: Hardy Chicago does resemble Brown Turkey,
but the leaves and fruit are distinguishable. It is very hardy. The fruit
is small to medium with blackish=purple skin and strawberry pulp. Small eye.
Pyriform with long slender neck. Leaf: base calcarate; 5 lobes, lyrate. Very
good fresh, dried or in preserves. Responds well to oiling (a method of inducing
ripening of immature fruit in late Fall). Well-adapted in the Eastern U.S.
and deserves trials in the Northwest. Last summer I confirmed to my own satisfaction
that the commercial variety offered by Edible Landscaping is identical with
Fred's variety. Synonym: Chicago Hardy.
- Hâtive d'Argenteuil (Early Fig of Argenteuil)
- A small, oblique-spherical
violet fig with strawberry pulp. Good quality and dries readily. Condit has
only a meagre description of this variety and I just acquired a plant likely
to be this variety in Nov 1998. I expect to trial this variety with northern
growers since it should be very suitable for areas with cool summers. It is/was
grown in Argenteuil, a Parisian suburb, for market. Northern France is not
noted for having warm summers. No synonyms.
- A small brown fig with amber pulp tinged with strawberry, bred
- by E. W.
Hunt of Eatonton, Georgia in the 1920s. Pyriform with a short distinct neck.
Slender, variable stems to 1 3/4" long stems help it shed rain. Leaf: base
subcordate; 3-5 lobes. Very good flavor. Sweet and rich. Not a heavy bearer,
but well-adapted in the rainy areas of the South. Deserves trials in the Northwest.
Seems fairly hardy. Probably not popular because it is hard to propagate.
- A small purplish-black fig with strawberry pulp. Oblique-pyriform to turbinate.
Leaf: subcordate to truncate; unlobed to 3 lobes; sinuses shallow. Fairly
sweet and rich flavor. Well-adapted in coastal California, but not very productive
in the South. Not particularly hardy. Has been replaced by Celeste. Synonyms:
Blue Ischia, Nero
- LSU Purple
- A small to medium purple fig with variable shape and flavor introduced by
E. N. O'Rourke of Louisiana State University in 1991. Leaf: base calcarate;
5 lobes, central lobe spatulate, side lobes latate. Said to be nematode resistant.
It may offer good rootstock for grafting (if the grower doesn't like the fruit).
Well adapted to the Deep South. Fairly tender for me, but Mike McConkey says
it is hardy in Virginia. Does rebound well from winter freezing and killback.
- A large black fig with light strawberry
pulp. Heavy crop of brebas: pyriform with a prominent thick neck; main crop
figs are smaller and more variable, Leaf: base calcarate; 5 lobes; latate.
Distinctive, rich flavor. Well-adapted in California. Very vigorous, but not
hardy. Often infected by mosaic which mottles the leaves, but does not seem
to effect the crop. One of the best where adapted. Good fresh and dried. Synonyms:
Franciscana, Black Mission.
- Large almost black fruit
with a very deep red pulp and a distinctive, but agreeable acid flavor. Brebas
are pyriform with a thick, tapering neck; main crop figs are spherical or
pyriform to obovate, often oblique without neck. Medium eye. Leaf: base truncate
to shallowly cordate; middle lobe spatulate, side lobes latate. Probably needs
heat to develop the best flavor. Excellent fresh or dried. Well-adapted in
the South and Southwest. Fairly hardy. (Note: Condit calls this variety
Bordeaux. See the Introduction for a discussion
of this issue.) Synonyms: Beer's Black, Bordeaux, Petite Figue Violette, Violette
- A very large fig. Purplish-black, lighter or even
green towards the stalk. Numerous white flecks. Pulp is light strawberry.
Turbinate-pyriform, sometimes oblique with a broad apex. Eye medium, open.
Roll your mouse over the image on the right to see a close-up of a Nero fruit.
Leaf: base cordate; 5 lobes, middle lobe spatulate, side lobes latate. Flavor
is sweet and rich. Needs heat to develop good flavor and adequate sugar. Very
good to excellent fresh; poor when stewed as it breaks up. Well-adapted in
the Southwest and South. Synonyms: Barnisotte, Brogiotto Nero
medium, bronze to brown fig with white to amber pulp. Brebas are pyriform
with prominent neck; main crop figs are pyriform to turbinate with a thick
neck. Variable stalks. Leaf: base cordate; 3-5 lobes; basal sinus narrow.
Fair to insipid flavor. Synonyms: Archipel, Osborn, Osborne's Prolific.
- Osborn Prolific
- A medium, reddish-brown fig with amber pulp tinged with pink. Main crop
figs are pyriform with variable necks. Long slender stalks (to 1" long). Leaf:
base truncate to shallowly cordate; 5 lobes; upper margins serrate. Sweet
and rich flavor. Best use is fresh. Well-adapted in northern California and
the Northwest. Fairly hardy and very productive. Synonyms: Archipel, Hardy
Prolific, Neveralla, Osborne, Rust
- Petite Negri
- Identical with Negronne. Introduced under trade name of Petite Negri by Mike McConkey of Edible Landscaping. This
fig is Negronne: The name Petite Negri was given Ischia
Black by a Frenchman in the late 19th century. It was eventually imported
into the U.S. and became confused with Negronne
in a commercial nursery. (An understandable error since the very young, reddish-brown
fruit is easily confused with that of Negronne.)
- Royal Vineyard
- A medium bronze to brown fig with
light strawberry pulp. Brebas are pyriform with a prominent thick and curving
neck. Leaf: truncate to subcordate; 3-5 lobes; upper sinuses shallow and narrow;
margins serrate. A San Pedro type. Brebas only! Condit says the breba crop
is typically small. Not worth growing in parts of the South with late frosts
which destroy the fruit in most years. I discarded my own Royal Vineyard in
1995 since it had only produced two fruits in ten years. The plant is vigorous
and might deserve trialing in the North and West. Synonym: Drap d'Or
- Saint Jean
- A small to medium fig giving two crops.
Leaf: deeply subcordate, 3 to 5-lobed with shallow sinuses, light green. Brebas:
medium, grayish-bronze with light pink pulp, oblique-turbinate to pyriform,
large and open eye. Rich and sweet. Main crop: delicate violet-gray with strawberry
pulp. Other characters, including flavor, are much the same as in the brebas
except for one distinctive feature: there is a heavy bloom on the body with
a very sharp demarcation line with the apex which is devoid of bloom. Note:
I do not have this variety and would very much like to acquire it. Synonyms:
Grisé Savantine Bifère, Grisé de Saint Jean, Grisé
Madeleine, Grosse Grisé Bifère.
- Sal's Fig
- A small to medium, unidentified,
black fig with good flavor. Well-adapted in the Northeast. The Belleclare
Nursery (no mail orders) in Bellevue, Long Island introduced it years ago.
You can find a listing of local varieties, not described in the literature,
but possibly very worthy of growing on the U.S.
- Tennessee Mountain Fig
- See Celeste
- Texas Everbearing
- Also, see Brown
Turkey. The literature, that is Condit, says that the Texas Everbearing
and Brown Turkey figs are very similiar if not identical. Generally speaking,
I rank myself with the "lumpers" and not the "splitters," but the fruit and
leaves just don't look the same to me. The Texas Everbearing in my collection,
pictured on the right, does not closely resemble my Brown Turkeys.
© Copyright, Ray Givan, 1997, 1999. Permission to download and print
for personal use is granted to viewer. All other rights are reserved.