Saving a Fig Variety from Extinction | A Fig Story...
Updated: Jan 29
Saving fig varieties is a crucial task for preserving the rich heritage of this beloved fruit. As fig trees are constantly being ripped out of the ground, killed, and disappearing for any reason, it is important to ensure that the variety remains in existence.
By propagating fig trees through cuttings, grafting, and rooting, fig enthusiasts can help to maintain the unique traits and flavor profiles of rare fig varieties. Whether it is a nearly lost Belleclare fig or a hidden gem discovered in your neighborhood, saving fig varieties helps to keep the fig world diverse and thriving.
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2. The story of saving a special fig variety
Black Portuguese #155 is a fig that was long ago listed on the Belleclare Nursery fig variety list. Belleclare Nursery was the first nursery that was fig-focused. In fact, Martha Stewart visited them to learn about growing fig trees. The name Belleclare represents quite a bit of fig history in the US and so finding, learning, or growing any of the figs on their numbered list, has historical importance.
I first saw the Black Portuguese fig on a Figs4Fun thread many years ago. Scroll down and you'll see Gorgi mentioning it here: Because of his excitement for the variety, I thought that it would be a great fig to try and find and grow for myself.
After meeting Peter Cundari at the first Staten Island fig festival that I attended, I interviewed him and decided to ask him about this particular fig.
Because he's the go-to guy for all Belleclare Nursery-related things, I figured he would know best. To my surprise, he told me that he is growing the Black Portuguese variety and that his Mother tree is very old and needs a fresh start.
He told me that it's similar to Figo Preto and Black Madeira and that he would send me some cuttings, but they are the only cuttings that he has left and it would be up to me to save the variety. That spring I messaged Peter and he was elated to find out that I grafted a tree for myself and rooted one for Peter. At the next Staten Island Festival, I repaid his kindness with a replacement tree.
After growing the fig for a number of years, I agree with him that it's definitely a fig that's similar to Black Madeira. How similar? I can't say for sure yet, but a special fig that's worth growing. It's truly a hidden gem in the fig world and a true almost lost Belleclare fig that can't even be found on their last public list of varieties.
In 2023, it's now being offered for sale by a number of fig growers furthering the propagation of this variety that was almost lost.
This is the kind of thing I enjoy the most about figs at this point in the hobby. Finding hidden gems. If anyone has an interesting story about their fig, please share it if you haven't already. Or maybe someone needs to identify a variety? Happy to help or spread around something you think is your own hidden gem.