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Breba Figs: A Fig Tree's First of Two Crops and the Varieties That Produce Them

Updated: 3 hours ago

So... What Are Brebas?

One of the amazing traits that makes Ficus Carica my favorite fruiting plant is its wide adaptability. Although the fig tree performs best in dry and hot locations, fig trees are grown worldwide, even in mild-summered, cold-wintered, and rainy climates. The breba crop that fig trees produce ripens on the previous year's growth, providing an additional and earlier harvest before the main crop. As a result, growers in less-than-ideal climates can still enjoy a yield of figs.

You read that right, fig trees can produce two distinct crops of figs: the breba crop and the main crop. The main crop forms on the new growth of the growing season and that's "mainly" what fig growers focus on, but what some don't know is that if they choose the right fig variety, they may be able to benefit from tasty figs 30-45 days earlier than normal.

In fact, they can be completely relied upon in mild areas of the world like the United Kingdom, San Francisco, or mild regions of the PNW as the breba crop can ripen in only 90-120 days after a fig tree's awakening from dormancy. The main crop may need more ripening time in those climates.

In hot and long seasoned climates, growers also highly benefit from the breba crop. Who wouldn’t want figs 30-45 days earlier? It’s a big deal for every fig grower.

So in this article, I’m going to share with you everything there is to know about the breba crop. The varieties that produce them, how to improve your harvest, and their wide range of benefits.

As always if you want to see more fig-related content like this, feel free to subscribe to the monthly Fig Boss newsletter at the top of the page.

Before we get into the varieties that produce brebas, let's talk more about why you’d want to select a variety that produces them.

The Benefits of Choosing Breba Fig Varieties:

  • Extended harvest season.

  • Minimized risk of spoilage.

  • Greater flexibility in harvest timing.

  • Increased marketability.

  • Larger fruits.

  • Brebas never require pollination.

  • The breba crop has a short ripening window of only 5-15 days, whereas the main crop ripens usually within 30-60 days.

There are a lot of benefits. Unfortunately, not every fig variety produces a breba crop and in my experience, the average fig grower doesn’t know about this special crop of figs. Below is a list of varieties that produce brebas so you can take advantage of what fig trees can offer.

Reliable Breba Producers:

  • Peter's Honey, Dotatto, Kadota or Rigato del Salento (PB) - Tasty, Medium

  • Italian 258 or Genovese Nero (AF) - Tasty, Medium

  • Vern's Brown Turkey - Medium

  • Figo Preto de Torres Novas - Tasty, Medium

  • Florea or Michurinska 10 - Tasty, Medium

  • Teramo, Brandon St. Unk or Nebo - Tasty, Medium

  • Italian 215 - Medium

  • Lampa Parda 

  • Lampeira Preta - Large

  • Raspberry Latte - Tasty, Large

  • Princesa 

  • Fiorone di Ruvo - Large

  • Longue d'Aout - Tasty, Large

  • California Brown Turkey - Large

  • San Antonio

  • San Miro

  • Adler

  • Cascitello

  • Campaniere - Tasty, Medium

  • Sementino Rosso - Tasty, Medium

  • Hardy Chicago - specifically from Azores Dark, St. Rita, Luisa’s Fig, and others - Tasty, Medium

  • Little Ruby - Tasty, Small

  • Paradiso (Baud) - Tasty, Medium

  • Paradiso (Siro) - Tasty, Medium

  • Paradiso Bronze (VS) - Tasty, Medium

  • Torbole - Tasty, Medium

  • Eve's Black Cherry - Tasty, Medium

  • LSU Hollier - Quite possibly the best-tasting breba I've eaten, Medium

  • Brianzolo Rosso - Tasty, Medium to Large

  • Iranian Candy - Medium

  • Rosa Esmeralda - Tasty, Medium

  • Pel de Bou

  • Blava Flor

  • Roja

  • Molondra Blanca

  • Tia Penya

  • De la Gloria

My Favorites:

The breba crop is lower in quality, sugar content, and taste than their main crop counterparts. Only a few varieties produce breba that rival their main crop. That's what I thought until I ripened some incredible brebas in 2024.
Many varieties can produce a breba crop that is only a hair lower than the main crop in quality and flavor. LSU Hollier produced better brebas than its main crop this season and quite possibly has the best-tasting brebas of any variety I've eaten.

Here are my favorite varieties that are chosen based on their eating experience:

  • The Adriatic or Verdino figs

  • Desert King

  • Violette de Bordeaux

  • Joualle Noire, Beat Ramon, Molla Vermella

  • Verdolino

  • Figo Moro da Caneva

  • Italian 258 or Genovese Nero (GF)

  • Grise de St. Jean

  • Verdino del Nord (VR) or Figoin

  • Dalmatie

  • Barbillone or White Marseilles

  • Longue d’Aout

  • Paradiso (Siro, Baud & VS)

  • LSU Hollier

  • Brianzolo Rosso

  • Neruciollo d'Elba

  • Sultane

  • Rosa Esmeralda

I hope to add more to this list in the coming years.

Important Notes: 

  1. As always select varieties that are suited to your climate. For example, I don’t grow English Brown Turkey (aka Olympian) because it performs poorly in my humid climate. Even though the breba crop is plentiful, it’s also typically average-tasting. Even in hot and dry climates.

  2. There's a gap between the breba crop and the main crop. Choosing varieties like Longue d'Aout, Sementino Rosso, and other fig varieties that ripen later can help hold you off until the main crop starts to ripen.

  3. Many of these fig varieties have multiple names or are genetically similar but called different things due to poor naming practices. For example, English Brown Turkey has at least 15 different names. Don't accidentally buy two trees when you only need one. If you want to read more about synonyms, this article will save you time and money.

  4. Do further research before purchasing your fig tree. Not every Verdino or Adriatic fig produces a breba crop. The same can be said for Hardy Chicago. It's important to find a source that does.

  5. If a fig variety can produce brebas, that doesn't mean it will every growing season. The opposite can also be true. Many varieties should not produce breba figs. Yet, some growers (including myself) sometimes report interesting surprises. Some varieties may trick you into thinking that they will, only to eventually drop their figs prematurely.

The Two Drop Phases:

It’s important to understand that the breba crop on your fig tree can have two drop phases similar to the persimmon tree. First, the fig tree wakes up from dormancy and is possibly overloaded with brebas. Without having enough carbohydrates stored within the fig tree to put toward the brebas, some or all will drop. This usually occurs within the first 15 days of breba formation.
The best results will be on trees that are planted in the ground or soil. Established trees with more energy stored within are less likely to drop their brebas.

After about 60 days, the second drop phase occurs as the brebas enter their 3rd and final ripening stage. If a variety is not genetically capable of ripening breba (Unifera Common varieties), but they’ve gotten this far, the breba often will turn yellow, become soft, and eventually abort. This is how they can play a trick on you. 

As always with the breba crop, I’ve learned to never count my chickens before they hatch.

So why is this happening?

Main crop figs don't swell late in the season and become overwintered main crop. When the tree wakes up in the spring, these figs appear to be breba.

But that brings up a great argument about brebas: what are they exactly?

To be classified as a breba, a dormancy period is a requirement. At least that’s my definition. Therefore, areas without a dormancy period cannot ripen brebas. Instead, these are overwintered main crop.

But are overwintered main crop figs technically breba if there’s a dormancy period? More closer examination is required.

The following varieties have done exactly that. They are technically Unifera Common figs, meaning that the variety will only produce the main crop and it does not require pollination. Yet, I’ve seen them ripen breba figs firsthand:

Factors affecting breba production:

  • Choosing the right variety. I estimate that roughly 15% of the fig varieties I’ve grown can produce them.

  • Usually, after 3-5 years production becomes reliable.

  • A larger root system. Establishment in a larger container (15 gallons or more) or planted in the ground.

  • Mild winters or overwintering practices.

  • Proper pruning.

  • Mild springs that avoid late frost and extreme dips in temperature.

Cultivation Tips for Maximizing Breba Production

To encourage the formation and success of breba figs, several cultivation practices are essential. Pruning plays a critical role in breba fig production; careful pruning in the dormant season can help preserve the previous year's growth where the breba figs will form. Additionally, providing adequate winter protection for your fig trees, particularly in cooler climates, can help ensure that the overwintering figs survive to produce a spring crop.

Types of Fig Trees That Produce Brebas:

  • Only Common figs and San Pedro figs produce brebas. Smyrna figs do not produce brebas, and caprifig brebas are usually inedible and used for their pollen (profichi).

  • Within Common figs, there are two types: Unifera and Bifera. Meaning, they produce one or two crops. Roughly 15% of common figs are bifera.

  • San Pedro figs need pollination to produce the main crop, but many growers associate them exclusively with the breba crop. Especially, the variety called Desert King. However, this should not be the case. In the long list of breba producers above, very few of them are San Pedro-type figs.

The Hardiness Zones for the Breba Crop

Brebas may not be reliable in zone 7A, but it's a nice bonus when the winter is mild. In growing zones 7B and higher, I see no reason why you can't expect a breba crop for the majority of growing seasons. If I can do it, you can do it.

The secret lies in how winter pruning or winter damage affects a fig tree's lignification the following year. The better your tree is lignified, the better it will withstand cold temperatures.
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I'm Ross, the "Fig Boss." A YouTuber educating the world on the wonderful passion of growing fig trees. Apply my experiences to your own fig journey to grow the best tasting food possible.
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