Latin (Ficus carica)
Figs do well in our mild Mediterranean climate and dryer warm temperate areas. Figs are tolerant of most types of soil, but perform best on well-drained, reasonably fertile soils. Their root systems are fairly shallow, but extensive and aggressively seek water, therefore pot cultivation is recommended. Figs can easily be propagated from 15cm old wood cuttings, air layering or grafting, however, figs grown from seeds are not true to type.
Figs are deciduous and easily able to be kept as dwarfs by the potting method. Young trees are usually planted between June and August when they are dormant. A wicking pot/bed is ideal due to the constant availability of water without over wetting the roots which leads to split, watery fruit.
If you do plant them in the ground cut the main stem back to within 2 feet off the ground and remove most of the lateral branches. This rather rude beginning ensures a straight tree and strong scaffold branches. The practice also helps you train the tree as it grows rather than resorting to harsh pruning methods annually.
Young trees benefit from whitewash on the trunk because after pruning much of their shielding branches are gone and they have no defence against harsh sun. Fig trees are also susceptible to frost, the weak wood can split.
Figs do not ‘flower’ like other fruit. The skin of the fruit encloses hundreds of tiny flowers that make up the flesh of the fig. Two crops are usually produced each year. The first (breba) crop forms in spring on wood from the previous year and matures in December to January. The second crop (main crop) sets on new season wood in November to December. This crop usually matures between February and June. The ‘apical’ pore, small hole at the apex, may begin to split slightly when ripe.
Pick only when ripe and serve fresh or within a day or two. If you plan to dry them in the sun, you need warm days with very little humidity. A warm, dry breeze circulating around the figs for two – three days is ideal. Bring your trays in before the evening dew. To discourage bugs, you can prop a layer of cheesecloth up across the trays. To ensure the figs harbour no bacteria You can either heat them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes at 175°F (80°C) or put them in freezer bags and freeze them for at least four days.
Fig trees thrive in the inland areas of NSW . Considered to be a sub-tropical plant, but can be grown successfully in cooler areas where winters are relatively moderate. For home gardeners the most commonly grown type has female flowers only and does not need cross-pollination.
Genoa (varieties include White, Black, Purple or Black Spanish) The fruit ranges from pale green to dark purple at maturity, with very rich, sweet, excellent flavour. It has a distinctive squat, pear-shaped fruit and good storage qualities.
Preston Prolific was developed in Victoria The flesh is very thick, creamy white and juicy with a distinctive sweet flavour. The pulp is amber coloured, sometimes tinted red.
Dwarf Brown Turkey grow to about 2 metres high and about the same in width. Nice sweet flavoured brown to violet skinned fruits and a genuine dwarf tree suited to smaller spaces and backyards. Can be eaten fresh or preserved.
Health Benefits of Figs
Figs are high in fiber and a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium (which promotes bone density), copper, and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins, principally K and B6.