There’s something about figs – people just lose track of their variety names. Fig trees are easy to start from cuttings, so when people find a good one, they multiply it and give it out to friends and neighbors. But if the parent fig tree had a variety name, its baby trees go out into the world, more often than not, without that name.
As a result, there are lots of fig trees that I find growing in people’s yards here in Florida with excellent fruit, but the owner doesn’t know what variety it is. (Or if they do know a name, someone told them it’s a ‘Turkey’ fig, or ‘Brown Turkey’ fig – lots of clearly different fig varieties get called by those names.)
When I’ve collected these cultivars and added them to my collection, I’ve given them temporary, provisional names, like ‘Mary’s Fig,’ or ‘Eric’s Purple Fig,’ just to keep track which one it is and where it came from, but I’m sure most or all of these are actual, named varieties.
I’m still at the very early stages of learning to identify fig trees by the characteristics of fruit and foliage – part of the problem is that I have so few actual, known fig varieties to work from – even fig cultivars I’ve gotten from other fruit tree enthusiasts, which came with variety names, have often turned out not to match the published characteristics of that variety. (Like a batch of ‘LSU Purple’ fig cuttings I got which turned out to make brown fruits. Hmmm….)
Another thing I find tricky when I try to compare the leaf shape of a mystery fig to the leaf shapes published of fig varieties: the leaves vary tremendously in shape from leaf to another leaf, all on the same tree.
So I decided to try crowd-source it, posting pictures and descriptions of some of my mystery fig varieties, to see if any fig experts can help figure out their proper names. Here’s the first one.
This mystery fig is growing at my neighbor’s place – several years ago he got a number of unlabeled figs, and planted them out. Fruits on this tree are small, elongated, with a long neck, a closed eye, and reddish-purple colored inside and out. At maturity the fruits droop and develop a series of fine cracks on the skin.
Flavor is extremely sweet and concentrated when the fruits are fully ripe, almost like fruit-flavored honey, or strawberry jam. Any unharvested fruits have a tendency to hang on and start to dry out on the plant, even in our rainy, hot, humid summer weather here in Florida.
The fruits on this tree have been ripening during June, a month ahead of most of the fig varieties around here.
I discussed this variety with a gardener in Australia on Instagram, and he suggested that it might possibly be the variety ‘Black Genoa’. I’ve looked up that variety, and it certainly does look like a possibility. Some of the pictures of fruits labeled ‘Black Genoa’ fruits I see online look just like these. But some of the pictures show a fruit that’s much more rounded, like a slightly flattened sphere, with almost no neck. I don’t know if the fruit shape of ‘Black Genoa’ could vary that much based on growing conditions, or maybe there are actually different varieties people are calling that name. Another thing I notice is that all the references I see to this variety are from people in Australia, so I don’t know if ‘Black Genoa’ is in North America.
This is a really good fig cultivar, and I want to know its proper name. If you have any suggestions as to what variety this fig is, I’d really appreciate some help identifying it.