I've created a series of blog posts that contain comprehensive information on fig varieties that are what I could consider standards. There are 1000s of fig varieties in existence, but figs like Chicago Hardy are usually easy to find, they're inexpensive, and are a classic fig variety that you ought to know like the back of your hand. Check out the other blog posts on the other varieties I've covered in the variety directory here:
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2. Growing Characteristics
Origin: Likely Italy, but it is widespread throughout Europe. Its origin is unknown.
Taste grouping: Complex Berry
Ripening period: Early
Rain resistance: High
Split Resistance: High
Hang time: Slightly below average
Climate preference: Well adapted
Taste rating: 4.7/5
Hardy Chicago is a fig variety that many fig hobbyists believe originated from the area around or on Mt Enta in Italy. In fact, you may see the term thrown around, called "Mt Etna" figs. This term is simply referring to Hardy Chicago.
It's possible Mt. Etna in Italy is the true origin of Hardy Chicago, but no credible evidence was ever presented. The true origin of fig varieties is a funny thing because Hardy Chicago is the perfect example of a fig variety that has made its way into North America from all kinds of immigrant backgrounds. Italian, French, Portuguese, Middle Eastern, etc... and in current times it's a fig that's growing in many places throughout the world.
The reason for this is that Hardy Chicago is highly adapted and is considered to be the standard fig variety in terms of hardiness for its ability to withstand 0F. It’s also quite the tough fig, with incredible resilience and an eagerness to produce high-quality fruit.
For these reasons, it’s quite clear that it has so many reasons for it to have been continuously propagated throughout the last 100+ years in North America and for much longer in the rest of the world.
Regardless of where this special fig variety originated, or whose family it was originally from, what’s important is that it's become a widespread variety. I can walk around different parts of Philly and find this fig everywhere. I can drive all over New York, New Jersey, DC, and Boston and I’ll fig a Hardy Chicago tree in some fig lover’s yard.
An old Hardy Chicago tree at the Southwark community garden in Philadelphia.