Archeological finds in the eastern Mediterranean region suggest that figs were among the earliest cultivated crops.
Quicklist: Types of Figs
- Adriatic Fig
- Alma Fig
- Black Mission Fig
- Brown Turkey Fig
- Calimyrna Fig
- Capri Fig
- Celeste Fig
- Chicago Hardy Fig
- Corky’s Honey Delight Fig
- Desert King Fig
- Excel Fig
- Kadota Fig
- LSU Gold Fig
- LSU Purple Fig
- Olympian Fig
- Osborne Prolific Fig
- Panache Tiger Fig
- Peter’s Honey Fig
- Ronde de Bordeaux Fig
- San Pedro Fig
- Violette de Bordeaux Fig
- White Genoa Fig
- Yellow Long Neck Fig
Anatomy of a Fig
A fig (Ficus carica) is not technically a fruit — it is an inflorescence, a cluster of flowers and seeds inside a bulbous stem. The seeds, the ovaries of the fig, are pollinated by fig wasps, with the life cycles of both fig trees and fig wasps interdependent on each other.
“While this tree-wasp relationship may not be common knowledge to all fig-eaters, it is well-known to biologists as one of the most solid examples of co-evolution,” says the Ecological Society of America. “Each species of Ficus has a corresponding specialized species of wasp that fertilizes it. Wasps that actively collect pollen in pouches have a responsibility to uphold in the mutualistic relationship.”
Recent archeological finds in the eastern Mediterranean region suggest that figs were among the earliest cultivated crops. The nutritious fruit, packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, phytochemicals and fiber, has a complex and symbolic history among many cultures.
There are over 600 varieties of figs with a remarkable genetic diversity. In this article, we will discuss the types of figs, their fruit shapes, their taste, and some of the commonly asked questions about figs.
Related: Characteristics of Common Fig Tree | Types of Fig Trees | Bat Fig Tree | Types of Fruit Trees | Types of Ficus Trees
Types of Figs
Adriatic Figs have green skin with pale pink flesh and a high sugar content. The extra sweetness makes this variety ideal for fig bar and paste applications.
You can consume the fig in various ways, such as a fruit dessert or chopping and incorporating them into yogurt or juice. Adriatic Figs are harvested in June and August.
Texas A&M developed Alma figs in 1975 by crossing “Allison” with a male “Hamma” caprifig. You can expect to bite into one of these purple fruits in June and August. Almas are on the sweeter side, as are most of the darker figs.
Black Mission Fig
Black Mission Figs are small with a deep blue to purple outer skin, and solid pink on the inside. Left on trees to dry in the sun, they gain a gummy texture and additional sweetness. You can eat Black Mission Figs on their own or with foods such as yogurt, fresh cheese and ricotta.
Brown Turkey Fig
Brown Turkey Figs are relatively larger than most figs and comparatively less sweet. They have brownish to dark purple skin, and pale pink inside with fewer seeds than other types.
Due to their lighter sweetness, Brown Turkey Figs are best for salads as they act as natural sweeteners. You can also mix them with honey and use them in desserts, make bread or jam.
This type is larger than most varieties and has a greenish and slightly golden outer pigment. It has a pink interior and is one of the softest and most delicious figs. The fruit has an earthy and sweet-like honey taste profile and can be used in numerous savory cooking roles.
Calimyrna Figs are great with cheese or walnuts, due to their nutty flavor. You can also simmer them in water, wine, or juice and use them for sauces, marinades and glazes.
Capri Fig trees only produce inedible male-only (capri fig) fruit, the pollen of which Blastophaga wasps take to caprificate (pollinate) female plants.
Due to its sweetness, the Celeste Fig has been nicknamed “sugar fig.” Its skin is light brown to purple with a pink inside. One of the sweetest figs, it is mainly eaten as part of a dessert.
The Celeste Fig tree is low maintenance and pest-resistant. It ripens earlier in the season than many fig varieties and is known for packing lots of fruit.
Chicago Hardy Fig
Chicago Hardy, named for its cold hardiness, has small fruit that have brown to purple skin and light pink flesh. The tree is easy to grow and is drought-resistant, heat-resistant and self-pollinating.
The fruit is prized for its sweetness and rich flavor. You can eat Chicago Hardy figs raw or incorporate them into salads or charcuteries. Additionally, they can be dehydrated, canned and frozen.
The leaves have a smoky flavor and can be used to flavor tea, or grilled and steamed for baking purposes.
Corky’s Honey Delight Fig
Corky’s Honey Delight Fig is a moderately growing tree that produces green fruit that turn light yellowish green, when ripe. It has an amber, pink interior with sweet notes of honey flavors. The tree produces two yields a year, in June and late summer.
Corky’s Honey Delight Fig has succulent skin, and the tree grows fairly fast. It does well along coastal and mid-humid areas but can also thrive well in other areas with good soil. This fig type was bred and created by Monrovia, with a strong initial breba crop.
Desert King Fig
There’s dessert figs and then there’s the Desert King Fig. Featuring a mild yellow skin with red flesh, the fig thrives in cool climates, coastal and higher elevation regions. It has an exceptional fruit quality due to its melting texture, high sugar content, and pleasant-tasting seeds.
Excel, regarded as one of the best yellow figs, features a sweet and honey flavor. It is also one of the easier fig plants to grow and can adapt to a wide array of climates.
The tree produces sweet fruit even in cooler climates. Excel is a relatively new type of fig, created in 1975 as a hybrid using Kadota as the parent.
This is one of the most common fig trees in California. The fruit is light green with a pale interior, but less sweet compared to most fig types. They can be eaten raw and also work well as an ingredient in jams and preservatives.
Eating them with a pinch of salt can bring out most of their sweetness. They can also be chopped into salads and pizzas with other ingredients. The Kadota tree itself is prized as an ornamental tree with a beautiful, bold, and branching structure.
Thanks to Louisiana State University, we have even more figs. Their breeding program has created plump, yellow figs with a toned-down red interior.
LSU Gold leans on the sweeter side of figs and works well in preserves.
Another great product from LSU, this type provides a longer harvest time. LSU Purple figs have three fruiting seasons. You can expect to get a light amount in April, a whole basket in July, and one more sweet treat in November.
With all that output, it sounds like LSU Purple would need a lot of upkeep. Not necessarily. Stark Bros. says, “Each LSU fig variety is self-pollinating and will set fruit without cross-pollinating with another variety.”
The Olympian Fig variety was first cultivated in Washington state. The fruit has tender purple skin and violet flesh. The tree has medium growth, is extremely hardy and can survive in both cool and coastal climates. Olympian Figs ripen as early as May.
Also known as the Neverella Fig tree, this tree has a semi-dwarf growth and produces medium-sized fruit, with yellow to purplish-brown skin and honey amber flesh. It is known to be one of the moistest figs with sweet berry and honey notes. Osborne Prolific Fig is known to be a prolific producer but requires cool coastal climates for optimum yield.
Panache Tiger Fig
No breba crop, the fruit appears late summer into the fall. Best eaten fresh, Panache Tiger figs are aromatic with a sweet, berry flavor. Its origins have been traced back to at least 16th century France.
The tree is named after the late Peter Danna of Portland and is regarded as one of the best figs. As the name suggests, Peter’s Honey has tender, sweet fruits that have yellowish-green skin and amber flesh.
The tree has a medium growth rate and does well in gardens. The fruit are medium-sized and ripen well in warmer climates.
Ronde de Bordeaux
Ronde de Bordeaux is a French fig variety that produces small to medium fruit featuring dark purple skin, and reddish-pink flesh. It has a sweet flavor with notes of grapes, syrup, and strawberry.
Ronde de Bordeaux produces one crop starting mid-August. One of the earliest ripening figs, it does well in cool climates.
These figs are more like mini-green squashes. They have two crops but often don’t stick around long enough to enjoy, especially the second time around.
Violette de Bordeaux
You might look at a Violette de Bordeaux and see a resemblance to the Black Mission Fig. The reality is that, for appearance’s sake, they are nearly indistinguishable. Taste is where they really really become independent types. Violette figs are more tart with just a dab of sweetness.
Homestead and Chill says, “Violette de Bordeaux is known to have one of the richest flavor profiles of all the fig varieties!”
The White Genoa cultivar grows moderately and produces large fruit with yellowish-green skin and rose pulp. The tree does well in coastal areas but does not tolerate humid, wet summers. A large open eye also makes it prone to pest damage.
White Genoa fig trees bear fruit after one to two years after planting, ripening between late July and early August.
Yellow Long Neck
The Yellow Long Neck fig tree produces twice a year. It has a tender, thin skin that is bright yellow in color and has light amber flesh. The fruit are large and round with a long neck.
The fig’s thin skin and sweet flavor make it ideal to be eaten fresh. It has a better taste after drying in at least eight hours of sun. You can also use it for numerous kitchen purposes, such as making jams, pies, or frying with various dishes.
Best Type of Fig Tree for Various Purposes
Fig trees are native to the Mediterranean and they’ve evolved to tolerate the unique climatological effects of that region — a seasonal rainfall pattern which gets almost all of its precipitation in the winter and with bone dry summers.
Best Fig Trees for Growing Indoors
Col de dame noir
This fig tree doesn’t attract bugs and the fruit is usually medium-sized and resistant to splitting. They feature a mild to moderate sweetness with a rich berry flavor.
This tree offers incredible production. It’s an early producer and the typical size of each fig is usually 50 to 60 grams. It produces a very syrupy fruit that drips honey from the eye. It also tastes like rich berry maple syrup.
Best Fig Trees for Hot/Dry Climates
This is another common variety that is rain resistant and features a complex flavor profile similar to strawberry pancake syrup.
While this variety does require pollination, it’s really worth growing if you live in a hot/dry climate because it will produce delicious, rich-tasting figs with a smooth texture.
Best Fig Trees for Cold Climates
This is one of the most common varieties out there and that’s because it’s very rain-resistant and can be grown in climates that have shorter, cooler summers, as well.
Its flavor can be likened to peaches and honey which is unlike the flavor profile of any other type of fig. It almost never splits or cracks.
Best Companion Plants for Fig Trees
Since figs are warm-weather-loving plants, you want to use a mix of perennials and annuals to set off the plant and help it to grow.
- Rue: Features bright yellow flowers that grow well around fig trees.
- Rhododendron: Shallow root systems will not compete with the roots of the fig tree sitting deeper in the soil.
- Strawberries: Perennial plants grow well in the topsoil under a fig tree.
Best Type of Figs for Making Jam
With a rich strawberry taste, this variety of fig tree is great for making a berry/fig jam preserve that you can then enjoy with cheese.
This tree puts out amazing-tasting fruit with a unique flavor profile. The fruit tastes like cherry syrup with a light brown sugar flavor.
Where to Buy Figs and Fig Trees Online
Is it possible to grow fig trees in the U.S.? Can I grow just one fig tree? These are some questions that people are likely to ask when considering growing their own fig trees.
I like figs, but do not have the space for large trees. Where can I buy fresh or dried figs? Buy figs in your community or online for delivery.
Willis Orchard Company
Willis Orchard Company carries black fig trees, white figs, and common brown fig trees. Consider Black Jack Fig Tree, a large, deep purple fig with strawberry-red flesh. Grow it as a dwarf tree, growing under six to eight feet, or as a normal fig tree, growing 12 to 15 feet tall.
The Celestial Fig Tree is prized for its high yield and cold tolerance. The figs are juicy, sweet and firm. The company ships from October to June. Select your zone from the drop-down tab.
If you plan to visit the store location in Surrey, BC, Canada, call first. Some fig trees are not always in stock. Buy the Black Italian Fig, the Chicago Fig, or other options for delivery within Canada.
Burnt Ridge Nursery & Orchards
Burnt Ridge Nursey & Orchards sells fig trees hardy to zones 6 through 10. Check your favorite to see if the company recommends it for your area.
The Beall Fig produces two annual crops in California, while the Pastilliere Fig ripens in the fall. Do you want a smaller tree? Consider the Violette Du Bordeaux Fig, which produces dark, sweet fruit.
Peaceful Valley Farms & Garden Supply
Peaceful Valley Farms & Garden Supply has been “at the forefront of sustainable agriculture, promoting abundant access to healthy foods” for decades.
Prune the Kadota Fig Tree to any shape you want and enjoy the large, light green-yellow “white” skin and amber flesh. The Improved Brown Turkey Fig Tree produces figs with a sweet, rich flavor. Choose other varieties, shipped to your home.
Where to Buy Fresh or Dried Figs
People buy fresh figs to enjoy right from the package or to use in sweet or savory recipes. Use dried figs in recipes, give them in gift baskets, or enjoy them right from the package.
Baldor has state-of-the-art warehouses in New York City, Boston and Washington, DC. Order fresh figs, including Black Mission Figs and Organic Brown Figs.
The site carries more than just nuts. Order dried figs, shipped to your home. Choose Turkish Figs, California Figs or products such as fig jam.
Agata & Valentina
Order fresh figs for delivery to areas that include the Upper East Side, Lower Manhattan, East Harlem, or Midtown West.
Whole Foods Market
Check your local Whole Foods Market for generous-sized containers of figs, perfect for snacking, or for adding to your favorite main dish, sauce or dessert.
Not sure where to purchase figs? Get them for delivery or pickup by ordering from Instacart. Choose your favorite fresh or dried variety of figs.
Growing Your Own Fig Trees
Fig trees are easy to grow if you take proper care of them. Sandy loam soil allows for good drainage. Grow fig trees in a sunny but sheltered area, like against a fence, a shed, or other area that helps to deflect heat.
Water fig trees regularly when you first plant them. Gardening Know How suggests watering fig trees with a minimum of one inch of water per week.
No rainfall in the forecast? Allow the water hose to run slowly, or “position a dripline or soaker hose” a short distance from the tree trunk. Water more deeply once a month. Fig trees do not need a lot of water once established.
Can I Grow Fig Trees in a Container?
Yes, fig trees usually do well in a container. Plant it in a container about 2 to 2 ½ feet wide and 2 – 2 ½ feet deep.
Allow for good drainage. Water more often in temperatures above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a fig take to grow?
Figs are known to be fast-growing fruit trees that require minimal maintenance. However, the growth and ripening rate will depend on the variety. Some will take one to two years to bear fruits, while some can go up to five years.
How many fig varieties are there?
Being one of the earliest fruits ever to be cultivated, figs have an infinite number of varieties. There are approximately over 600 fig varieties.
How do you know if a fig is ripe?
Ripe figs are soft and yield to pressure when squeezed gently. In addition, loose stems are signs that the fig is ripe. Those that are shrunken or have sap oozing from cracks are overripe.
What is the shelf life of figs?
Fresh figs are highly perishable and it is recommended you eat them within one or two days. Storage also determines how long they will last — if you place them in a bowl without stacking them over each other, they can at least last for five days.