Updated: Nov 13
I covered this blog post in video format. Check that out below:
Growing figs can be a “fruitful” endeavor, but only if you select the right varieties for your climate. After expensive and time-consuming trials of hundreds of fig varieties in the Philadelphia area, I've observed the characteristics that enable a fig to thrive in humid conditions. There are 1000s of fig varieties in existence and only 2-5% of them can make the cut in rainy climates.
And that’s exactly what this article is about, figs suited for humid climates. These are the best fig varieties I’ve evaluated and the reasons why.
Remember, part of the secret lies in their genetics – much like us, each fig variety comes with its own set of genetic traits that determine a whole host of characteristics. A fig variety’s genetics largely determine its flavor, texture, size, shape, productivity, suitability to a particular environment, and so much more.
However, genetics are not everything. Where you’re growing your fig tree also plays a large part in consistent fruit quality.
Understanding the Impact of Climate on Figs
During a fig’s final ripening stage, the current weather conditions are critical; high humidity or rain can negatively impact the fig's quality and taste, reducing sweetness and shelf-life while increasing the risk of fermentation and mold. In dry climates, figs lose water through evaporation and concentrate their flavors.
“So how do I know if this list applies to me? Am I in a dry climate or a humid climate?”
Let me do you one better. Fig varieties can be broadly classified based on the climate they best suit.
The Five Main Categories of Fig Varieties
Dry Climates: Ideal for figs that thrive in arid conditions.
Humid Climates: Requires varieties that can handle moisture or avoid moisture without losing quality. Determine if you're in a humid climate by checking your annual rainfall – over 25 inches per year, with 2.5-3 inches of rain each month during the summer and fall, this may indicate a humid climate.
Hot Climates: Favors figs that can endure intense heat. Ambient temperatures consistently over 95F while figs ripen on the tree can cause some varieties to spoil easily.
Cold Climates: Best for hardy figs that can withstand lower temperatures. In zone 6B, protection is required; in zone 7A, you can plant hardy varieties without protection. In 7B, most fig varieties don’t require winter protection.
Short Season Climates: Suitable for figs that ripen quickly within a limited growing season. A minimum of 150 frost-free days is necessary for figs to ripen reliably.
Let’s use my climate in Philadelphia as an example.
Philadelphia's Climate is a cold (zone 7A), humid/rainy climate with a six-month growing season. Therefore, the fig varieties I choose to grow must fall within 3 categories. Figs for humid climates, cold climates, and short-season climates.
If you're unsure about how to classify your location as dry or humid, you could always ask me, but the easiest way is to look at Google Maps. If your location is green rather than a tan color, the rainfall is supporting forests rather than a lack of rainfall/humidity leading to desert.
Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic U.S.: These regions require humid climate varieties.
Southern U.S. and Parts of the Midwest: Extending westward from the mid-Atlantic to areas within Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and West Texas, growers should focus on varieties suitable for humid climates.
The West Coast: States like Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho may also fall into the category that may necessitate these fig varieties.
Similar Rules Apply to Europe: Countries like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Northern Italy often experience the required 2.5-3 inches of rain monthly during the fig growing season.
Now onto the characteristics we should be looking for.
Decoding Fig Varieties for Humid Climates
As fig enthusiasts seek the best varieties for their gardens, it's crucial to go beyond mere suggestions. A responsible educator in the field of fig cultivation must provide a rationale grounded in sound reasoning. This is about more than just listing preferred varieties; it's about demonstrating professional responsibility and delivering reasoning with ethical consideration.
Below, we’ll go into my reasoning, but I would suggest reading about the criteria in more detail here:
In recent years, my research has shifted to focus on two pivotal traits in fig varieties:
1. Hang Time or the "Susceptibility Window"
What is Hang Time? This term refers to the duration a fig takes from the onset of ripening in the final ripening stage to full maturity.
What is the Susceptibility Window? When the fig starts to enter the final ripening stage, it turns from green, hard, and almost indestructible to soft, edible, the sugars increase, and the colors change. Once it softens, the fig is susceptible to damage until we remove it from the tree. That’s the window where rain, pests, and critters can ruin our harvest.
A prolonged window coupled with rain can cause water absorption into the skin of the fig, and sugar dilution, followed by spoilage, fermentation, and mold. A short hang time or window allows us to harvest our figs before damaging rains at a higher and consistent fruit quality.
Regardless of soil temperatures and the fig tree’s metabolic rate, some fig varieties ripen quicker or longer than others, and this trait can significantly influence the quality of your harvest.
2. Tolerance to Underripeness
The beauty of a short hang time allows growers to harvest before damaging rain events. During these harvest periods, it’s unavoidable that some of your harvest will have to be harvested early.
I’ve always advocated for allowing figs to hang longer to develop and intensify their flavors, contrasting the often bland taste of commercially harvested figs picked only at 50-60% ripeness. This is the homegrown advantage. The true essence of a fig's taste potential is rarely found at the grocery store or a farmer’s market.
That being said, if we’re forced to harvest early, the ability to harvest figs that are underripe and still taste pleasant has become a key trait I value in fig varieties.
This has been a newfound respect that I discovered during the 2023 season. For a full list of varieties that taste great underripe, click here.
Keep in mind, the overall eating experience is a major factor in my recommendations. Not just their performance in humid conditions. However, I’ve said many times before that the best-tasting fig is ultimately one that ripens consistently at the highest quality. Therefore, the fig that performs the best, you’ll end up enjoying the most.
Fig varieties that can boast exceptional taste even at partial ripeness receive a special mention and the varieties that generally taste better than the others are marked with an asterisk (*).
I would also highly recommend reading prior lists that I've put together.
And lastly a list of the best tasting figs. These varieties are more suited for those of you in dry/hot places because performance is less of a concern. That blog post can be found here:
Finally, let's begin with my recommendations starting with the early ripening fig varieties.
More Specifically Black Celeste & The One
We should start with Celeste. It is the standard fig variety for humid climates. It’s no wonder that LSU used Celeste in their breeding program. It’s a parent of just about every fig they released.
Like the next fig variety we’re going to talk about below called Hardy Chicago, these two figs are so widespread throughout the world that they’ve acquired many names. This multitude of names has led to a lot of synonyms for essentially the same fig. This is why serious hobbyist fig growers classify them all under a category. Just to give an idea, there's a staggering count of at least 25 different fig varieties synonymous with White Adriatic.
While they might share the same genetic code, believe it or not, it's not rare to spot differences among them due to epigenetic changes and mutations. Frequently, branches or single buds located on a fig tree will mutate. I would argue that every bud on a fig tree is slightly different than another. How crazy is that? Sometimes these buds can mutate more than expected and will display very different characteristics than the Mother tree.
To read more about mutations and epigenetic changes, read this very interesting article about the many strains of Celeste, here and this interesting article about synonyms, here:
Black Celeste is the perfect example of a mutation. The skin color, pulp color, and flavor all have changed drastically. Along with other less-noticeable performance-related characteristics. Truthfully, I sometimes can't believe something like this exists. After eating many Black Celeste and Celeste figs, I am convinced Black Celeste is the best-tasting Celeste fig you can eat. For one, the berry flavor is more intense on this strain of Celeste than any other.
Blueberries are known to have high amounts of antioxidants. In the Draper blueberry I grow, I swear that you can taste the antioxidants in it. Black Celeste has that same antioxidant flavor that blueberries do. I wouldn’t call the berry flavor intense, but it’s complex and elegant. It's more elegant than 99% of the berry figs I’ve eaten.
I don’t know where this fig originated (likely somewhere in the Southern US), but it appears that another fig I am trialing called Marion also matched Black Celeste.
The One short for “The Biblical One” is a fig introduced by collector and my friend, Bill B. in MO. All credit to him!
I would also consider The One fig another clear improvement to Celeste. This variety ripens very quickly with only a 1-3 day hang time. That's unheard of. Going back to what I discussed about the best-tasting figs being the most ripe the most consistently, this fig fits the bill. You eat The One perfectly ripe almost every time.
Thus far there’s a significant difference in hang time compared to the other 10 or more Celeste figs I am currently trialing alongside these two special strains. When you have this many, it’s easy to point out the superior traits. Black Celeste also has a shorter hang time than the other 10. While the hang time is not shorter than The One, it is significantly shorter than your average Celeste fig. They both shrivel and almost dry on the tree very quickly and consistently leading to a more concentrated fig-eating experience.
When perfectly ripened, you’ll note that The One has an elegant Concord grape flavor.
More Specifically Azores Dark & Norella
Azores Dark and Norella are both named Hardy Chicago figs. Like with the Celeste figs mentioned above, each Hardy Chicago fig is not created equal. I’ve eaten figs from 25 or more Hardy Chicago figs, and even from large and mature trees that are planted in the ground and they don’t compare to the eating qualities of these two.
Read a comprehensive variety review of Hardy Chicago here.
Azores Dark has been my favorite Hardy Chicago fig for years. Originally, I received this tree from a grower in Hamilton, NJ who got it from Dominick Romano in NY. After speaking with Dom, Sao Miguel Roxo should be the same fig as Azores Dark. I’m in the process of confirming that. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping the original name that this tree was given, Azores Dark.
The flavor of Azores Dark has something extra that the other Hardy Chicago types don't. It's got a bonus of earthiness and figgy flavor that I haven’t detected in others, but it's also a small fruit. Smaller figs on average taste better than larger figs in humid places. There's a smaller surface area for the rain to absorb into the skin and ruin the brix, but smaller fruits also dry and concentrate on the tree more quickly and easily.
There’s also less water that’s required for evaporation to concentrate the flavors. Therefore, you will have a higher quality and better-tasting fruit more consistently.
The texture is also something of note. It’s a thicker jam consistency. My favorite texture.
Norella has a similar thick and jammy texture that Azores Dark does, but it’s larger and with a different flavor. From afar or at first glance, this fig sometimes even resembles Italian 258. I cut them open and can’t believe how great they look.
In the past, I’ve given Malta Black, Conde, and Sicilian Dark a lot of credit. These are also known as Hardy Chicago figs. However, I’ve yet to prove that they can compete with these two in terms of my fig-eating preferences. Mostly due to either lack of experience or the fact that they were planted in a much drier location leading to a huge difference in flavor. The drier the soil, typically, the better and more interesting the flavors our figs produce will be.
Campaniere is a fig variety introduced by Thierry of Figues Du Monde. An exceptional find outside of Paris that has a short hang time, it’s exceptionally hardy, and it ripens early. If you can afford to let them hang on the tree longer, Campaniere figs dry easily leading to the amazing eating experience you’ll find in this variety. In 2023, they rivaled Smith and were easily some of the best-tasting figs I ate all year.
This variety has always been impressive. It can split, but that is its only downfall. When planted and established in the ground I've noted that the occurrence of splitting is almost none. In 2022, I ripened my best-tasting fig from this tree. It displays a minerality and earthiness when grown in a dry soil similar, similar to Azores Dark.
The Campaniere tree that ripened this exceptional fig is also growing in the same dry location as my Malta Black and Sicilian Dark. Even Teramo (a fig not known for flavor) produced some incredible figs in 2023 in this drier planting.
In 2022, Campaniere produced a few figs with a red strip down the side. Similar to Coll de Dama Mutante. The stripes are displayed as they ripen and don’t fade like a striped Rimada fig. I’m sure this mutation can randomly occur. Thierry has shown this on his blog years ago.
You can read more about Campaniere here.
Little Ruby is a seedling of Hardy Chicago bred by Denny McGaughy that displays exceptional hardiness, earliness, and reliability in humid climates. It even produces breba. You can read more about Little Ruby here.
After an exceptional showing from Little Ruby in 2022, I decided to add it to this list and after many seasons with it, I've learned that the fig is way better than I originally thought. Truthfully, hobbyist collectors give this variety no credit because it doesn't have a spectacular name. It’s sad but true. And what’s even worse, that’s usually a good reason to grow it.
The hang time is very short and it was the sole variety to ripen high-quality fruit very shortly after Hurricane Ida in 2022. Others took weeks to recover in this regard. The flavor is impressive too. They're like dried fruit sugar bombs. It’s the closest fig to a dried fig on this list for all of the dried fig lovers out there.
In 2022, I also added LSU Tiger to this list. It’s a child of Celeste bred by the LSU breeding program. In my opinion, LSU Tiger is the best fig that was produced from that program. It’s a clear improvement of Celeste in terms of size. It can be 2 times larger than Celeste, but it's way more than that.
The skin is incredible. It has a unique chewy skin that you must try. With its distinct flavor and texture, the fig reaches a whole new level in terms of eating experience. In 2022, I noted considerably less splitting (actually none), very little cracking if any, and pretty much the perfect fig every time.
Read more about LSU Tiger here.
Also known as Figo Moro da Caneva, Nerino, Szivarski, and Fico Secco. Moro de Caneva probably originates in Caneva Italy, which is in Northern Italy. A climate similar to the Northeastern United States.
It displays a high productive yield over a long period, great cold hardiness, a breba crop, and earliness. In 2022, this variety produced more figs than any other and in 2023, it’s pumping out figs when almost all others have stopped.
Caneva is a fantastic commercial choice, but even for hobbyist growers, this fig is in an upper echelon of eating experience that's very consistent due to its short hang time and great flavor even when picked underripe. These are my favorites if they need to be picked earlier. You can cut them open and place them in the fridge. They intensify and become seriously good.
The other bonus is its unique elongated shape and long stem length. The eye is always pointed downwards and therefore protected from water absorption.
From the island of Elba in Italy is a hardy, breba-producing, small fruit-sized, dwarf-sized, and reliable black fig called Nerucciolo. As I said many times before in videos and on this blog it's even better on the drying capability scale than Verdino del Nord leading to a consistent flavor-concentrated fig-eating experience.
Like Black Celeste, the interior color is often dark purple or black with a complex blueberry berry flavor similar to VdB or Black Celeste that does not disappoint. The figs are strikingly beautiful.
The skin of this variety is bitter and in the fall when temperatures are cooler and the sugar content of figs is lower, the bitterness can overpower Nerucciolo’s sweetness. Acidity, bitterness, and sweetness need to be in balance. If one dominates the other two, that can be a turnoff for most palates. Especially during cold fall weather, but most of the crop ripens early enough to avoid this phenomenon, and in warmer climates than mine, you may not even recognize this about Nerucciolo.
In short, I enjoy the stronger bitter notes of the skin. Nerucciolo reminds me of a very dark roasted cup of coffee combined with blueberries and dried figs. LSU Purple, Moro de Caneva, Ronde de Bordeaux, Silin Dubh, Sweet Joy, White Marseilles, Pernette Noir, and many others have a similar bitterness to their skin. Again, this may only be detectable when the sweetness levels of these fruits are low.
In 2023, I met the man named Nerino and Verdolino, Francesco Omezzolli. Well ahead of his time, he was a modern-day Gallesio learning about special varieties of fruits and nuts in Italy. Verdolino is a popular local fig variety around the area of Lake Garda. Interestingly, there is a theory of Mattia Omezzolli who believes that a very small number of seeds from unpollinated figs can germinate. Sergio Carlni, another well-respected fig enthusiast in Italy calls this parthenogenesis. A theory of his that he proposed to the University of Pisa.
After visiting the region in 2023, my first instinct was that the fig wasp must be present in this area. Even in low numbers. There’s a Hungarian paper demonstrating that the fig wasp can survive temperatures of 12-14F. However, it’s apparent that on my visit the fig wasp was not present. There’s also the matter of Fico Salame and other named Verdolino-type figs.
Yes, you read that right, there are many named Verdolino figs like the Celeste and Hardy Chicago strains we talked about. One of which I have firsthand experience with is called Fico Salame. Comparing them side by side this year, they had the same flavor profile, but Salame is noticeably larger with a different shape and an entirely different leaf pattern. Could this simply be a mutation like I mentioned in the Black Celeste section or are Mattia and Sergio onto something?
Nonetheless, the Verdolino type of figs is without a doubt the best you can grow in humid, cold, and short-season climates. It’s exceptionally hardy, early, produces a reliable breba, it has the same long slender shape and stem length that you’ll see in Moro de Caneva with an impressive eating experience to boot. In 2021, I compared the eating experience to the Coll de Damas. It’s exceptional.
What’s also incredible is the short hang time and drying capabilities. You’ll get an impressive fig almost every time. In 2023, Verdolino was one of the few to still taste great even after a long rainy period.
Hative d'Argenteuil is a fig variety that the USDA imported. As the name suggests, it’s likely from the Argenteuil region of France. However, I have never heard of or seen photos of a single Hative tree growing in France. I would argue it’s more popular in the United States than it is in France.
Despite a somewhat unclear history and origin, Hative d'Argenteuil has garnered significant praise over the years. Initially, I learned about Hative from a fellow and well-respected fig enthusiast, Dennis Johnson many years ago on the Figs4Fun forum.
After gladly growing it and many years of evaluating it, I would consider Hative d'Argenteuil to be highly productive, vigorous, and reliable. Additionally, Hative d'Argenteuil stands out for its skin quality, which helps it resist water absorption, reducing the likelihood of lower fruit quality from a lowered brix, cracking, or splitting. This trait, shared with other varieties like Smith and Celeste, makes them particularly great at withstanding rainy conditions. To boot Hative even has a short hang time and it tastes great even when harvested underripe if you were forced to harvest them after a bad rain.
The figs of Hative d'Argenteuil ripen around mid-season, and its skin can change color from yellow/green to grayish blue as the season progresses. It’s one of the most striking fig varieties I have grown.
Flavor-wise, Hative d'Argenteuil is distinguished by its distinct cherry flavor, setting it apart from other varieties in this article. Like Smith and the Coll de Damas, Hative also expresses a cakey texture when ripening under favorable conditions. Its eating quality is a clear notch above most figs and in my opinion, is among the best-tasting figs you can grow just about anywhere.
Adriatic or White Adriatic*
Green Michurinska, a Bulgarian fig variety introduced by a collector named PenandPike, alongside another variety called Vagabond (also mentioned below), Green Michurinska stands out for its adaptability and high fruit quality in less-than-ideal conditions. Initially introduced to U.S. growers as an earlier-ripening Adriatic fig, it sparked interest due to the renowned taste of Adriatic figs, which typically ripen late in the season, posing a challenge for growers in colder or shorter-season climates. This variety promised to offer the exceptional flavor of Adriatic figs but at an earlier ripening date.
Adriatic figs, originally known as White Adriatic, have been a cornerstone of commercial fig cultivation, particularly in California and Italy, where it's known as Verdino. One of their key characteristics is their delightful taste even when not fully ripe, a trait beneficial for commercial and home cultivation. These figs have undergone numerous name changes and variations, yet they all share a genetic base with the original White Adriatic. They are recognized by their green skin and rich red pulp, offering flavors reminiscent of strawberries and raspberries. However, the appearance alone doesn't confirm a genuine Adriatic fig, as variations exist due to epigenetic shifts and mutations.
Green Michurinska, initially met with my skepticism, I believe is proven to be a variant of the early Adriatic fig, as confirmed by the original claim of respected grower Kelby Taylor. The variety exhibits a consistent strawberry/raspberry flavor profile, with a balance of acidity and sweetness, and performs well even when underripe. In 2023, it ripened alongside other early fig varieties and produced two distinct crops following the River's pruning technique, which boosts fruit production and allows for better timing of your second main crop.
Besides its notable flavor, Green Michurinska boasts high vigor, productivity, and hardiness, making it a versatile choice for growers in various climates, including cold, humid, and warm/dry regions. Its overall performance cements it as one of the top choices among Adriatic figs, especially for those in shorter-season climates.
Read more about the Adriatic figs here.
In 2021 and 2022, Prosciutto was my favorite Adriatic fig. Even though the Adriatic figs ripen in the middle to late part of the growing season, they all taste great when ripening in fall cold weather. They can taste great even when underripe, but I found Proscuitto to be superior because it dries easily and has a slightly shorter hang time than others I’ve come across. Even in the cold fall, these figs ripen beautifully as if you were picking them in September.
In 2023, I was not as impressed with the 2021 and 2022 differences I noted, but I was surprised to see that it’s a prolific breba producer, which is not a quality I’m familiar with among most Adriatic figs. They’re also very tasty and produce some of the best-tasting breba I’ve ever eaten.
Risoulet is another Figues du Monde introduction. I am very happy to have acquired it, but it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Originally, this variety was quite unhealthy, it dropped its fruits and struggled with a severe case of FMV. Since, I’ve solved the issue by planting it in the ground, rejuvenation pruning it and now it’s on its way to being an established healthy tree.
In 2022, when it did produce figs in a container before I planted it, the figs were exceptionally early and ripened with a 2-3 day hang time. Like The One, Risoulet ripens as quickly as it gets. It also easily dries and shrivels on the tree. The skin prevented rain damage from quite a bit of rain that I received in 2022 while some of these figs were ripening. Another positive note for this variety.
In terms of flavor, the fig reminds me of a Black Mission that meets Coll de Dama. Very thick jammy pulp but in a Black Mission-styled package. I hope to be able to report more on this variety in 2024.
Rossellino is a local Italian fig variety popular in Tuscany that is known for drying. It’s customary in this region to dry Rossellino for winter storage.
In 2022, I noticed that the fig is very different than Hardy Chicago. I always thought of it as being very similar, but if you look at the leaves, you'll see that it has long-fingered leaves. This has one of the nicest berry flavors you'll find in a fig when grown in a humid climate. It's very fruity. Like a fruit-forward wine that ages well.
When semi-dried the variety turns into fig candy and is ridiculously sweet, exploding with flavor, and is very hard to beat. It makes for an exceptional dried fruit.
Read more about Rossellino here.
Smith / Texas BA-1*
Smith is believed to have originated from Croatia and then traveled to France before being introduced to the United States by the Becnel family of Becnel Nursery. Over the years, they have been the main reason for their immense popularity in the southern United States, comparable to well-known varieties like Celeste and Brown Turkey. However, Smith is far superior in eating quality, especially noted for its strong, acidic, and exquisite berry flavor that distinguishes it from most other fig varieties.
Smith is also known for its adaptability to various climates, particularly excelling in humid and short-season environments. It's highly resistant to rain, less prone to splitting despite its flat shape, and ripens early enough to avoid most of the rainy fall weather. Despite its many strengths, Smith has a noted limitation in hardiness, struggling with temperatures around 10-15°F. However, after experiencing the impressive hardiness of my Texas BA-1 (described below) I believe Smith does not lack in hardiness as much as we once thought. Hopefully, I’ll have promising results with my Smith tree at the beginning of 2024.
One of the other challenges with Smith is some growers report inconsistent production. Others report higher-than-average productivity. So which is it? With proper cultivation techniques, including managing the tree's canopy for better light penetration, Smith can produce fruit prolifically. As an erect grower, Smith requires intervention to change the angle of the scaffolds to prevent self-shading, which is often the cause of limited production.
This variety also doesn’t respond well to hard pruning. Protect in the winter and limit pruning of the apical and lateral buds and your tree will be in the right hormonal balance for reliable fruiting—a topic I frequently cover in all of my pruning lessons.
Addressing these aspects can lead to a fig on every node and a significant increase in overall yield.
In 2022, my Texas BA-1 tree finally fruited and it was a huge surprise! Just like Smith, but confirmed to be a hardy tree in at least zone 7B. Having said that, it does struggle to produce fruit in my lower light planting, but I fear it’s more so due to a hormonal balance that even minor winter damage causes. As of 2023, I still think that Texas BA-1 is a different fig than Smith, but certainly similar enough to avoid if you’re already growing Smith.
Read more about Smith and Texas BA-1 here.
Vagabond is another introduction by Bulgarian grower PenandPike. He was also the one who introduced Green Michurinska. Shout out to Pen, he has an impressive eye for high-quality fruits.
The exterior of Vagabond is aesthetically striking, with an oval shape, short neck, and stem, with a distinctive blue skin that has a beautiful bloom you’ll frequently find on grapes. Interestingly, Vagabond has a remarkable grape-like flavor. Vagabond starts fruiting around the middle of the season and the interior is also visually striking with a beautiful interior resembling the dark purple/black pulp color of Black Celeste.
Vagabond has a potent berry flavor, particularly when allowed to ripen fully, resulting in an intense taste experience that combines elements of grape and raspberry. However, like with all fig varieties, the fig's flavor intensity and sweetness can vary depending on the ripeness at harvest. The longer figs can ripen, the better and more intense the berry flavor can become.
The variety demonstrates excellent drying capabilities on the tree, and Vagabond is resilient against common fig issues like cracking and splitting, even during rainy periods, likely due to its skin properties that prevent water absorption. While it’s still early to tell, the tree has shown dense productivity and a shorter-than-average hang time, making it a noteworthy and exciting addition to any fig collection in humid climates.
Read more about Vagabond here.
Verdino del Nord (VR)*
Verdino del Nord, also known as Figoin, is particularly suited for humid climates. It's an early to mid-season variety with exceptional productivity and an impressive berry flavor. Although small in size, the figs from this variety tend to grow larger as the tree ages and have the highly beneficial characteristic of drying easily on the tree. Not only that, but its short hang time allows for an almost perfectly ripened fig just about every time. Even through difficult rainy periods.
Like Celeste and Smith, it has an incredible skin quality that helps it resist water absorption into its skin preventing fermentation and mold. Its high brix (sugar content) further enhances its resistance to negative elements, making it one of the best fig varieties you can grow during these periods.
If you divide the figs in this article into two categories, you’ll have fig varieties that can be picked at a high quality before the rain and high humidity and fig varieties that maintain a high quality withstanding periods of rain and high humidity. There are very few figs that can withstand as much moisture as this one can.
The flavor of Verdino del Nord is among the best. It has an intense raspberry berry flavor that rivals some of the best-tasting figs like Smith and Coll de Dama. The variety is known for its dark red, ruby-like appearance, jammy texture, and dense berry flavor, making it an exceptional eating experience. Its small size is considered an advantage in humid climates as it’s easier for water to evaporate out of the fig and the flavor to concentrate.
Verdino del Nord's widespread popularity and multiple synonyms across the world are a testament to its quality. Known variously as Figoin, Verdino del Nord, Zigalino, Secalino, and many other names, this variety's broad distribution indicates its historical and contemporary value across Northern Italy. Hopefully, more to come on that as I learn more about this special variety.
One of the tree's unique characteristics is its high density of figs that form close together. The tree produces many smaller leaves leading to more nodes and more fruits. It even has a strange ability to produce two or three leaves at a location that would be one single leaf on other fig varieties.
I want to stress that it does take a few years before this fig matures. It only gets better with age year after year and in the beginning, it can be poor in quality. The establishment is a bit more time-consuming because of this tree’s natural dwarf habit.
Read more about Verdino del Nord here.
Noire de Bellone aka Barnissotte
Noire de Bellone is a fig variety with French origins made popular by the well-respected French nurseryman Baud. Because of its exceptional texture and taste it’s often compared to the queen of figs, the Coll de Dama. It was originally known as the "queen of figs” before the Coll de Damas came into popular cultivation in France.
Noire de Bellone is not only flavorful but also easy to cultivate, thriving even in humid climates. It ripens mid-season and demonstrates impressive productivity, with fruits developing on nearly every node. However, despite its outstanding characteristics and popularity in France, largely thanks to the efforts of Baud, the Noire de Bellone is surprisingly not prevalent at all in the United States. Its flavor profile is primarily sugary with subtle fruity notes, and while it lacked a strong berry flavor in 2023, it has a top-tier eating experience.
The Barnissotte variety, grown and imported by UC Davis, adds another layer of interest to the story of Noire de Bellone. Initially believed to be a synonym for the popular commercial fig Bourjassotte Noire, further cultivation by hobbyists disproved this theory. The confusion around Barnissotte's identity and its relation to other fig varieties stems partly from Condit's Monograph, which lists several synonyms and provides a detailed description that aligns more closely with Noire de Bellone than with Bourjassotte Noire. The characteristics described by Condit – from the purplish-black skin with green patches to the light strawberry pulp – are more reflective of Bellone. After comparing them side by side in 2023, I believe Barnissotte and Bellone are synonymous.
To read more about Bellone and Barnissotte, check out the detailed variety review here.
This fig was found in the city of Nin, Croatia by the collector Michal Hladky. It was found in the same town as Nin V, which has also been mentioned favorably on this blog. Both of which are spectacular finds. Credit to Michal, these are amazing figs.
In 2023, I noted that Nin ZS has high productivity and should mature during the middle of the fig growing season or earlier, making it suitable for short-season climates.
Its elongated pyriform shape, long stem, and closed eye enable it to shed water better than most fig varieties. The exterior reminds me of a combination of Golden Celeste and Pissalutto. However, the differentiating factor with this variety is its brown sugar spots on its skin– a characteristic commonly observed in figs like Smith, Sucrette, Cul Noir, and many other fig varieties. Although, I’m not sure these are sugar spots. They’re different in appearance and could be a unique skin mutation or variation. See the photo below:
In a taste test featuring numerous figs in 2023, Nin ZS stood out for its impressive flavor and texture, indicating its potential as a high-quality fruit. It’s fruity, densely textured, and unique, and I’m very happy to be growing this variety.
Pernette Noire, a fig variety originally sold by Figaholics in California, initially failed to gain popularity among buyers, leading to its discontinuation. However, its unique elongated shape caught my attention for its suitability in humid climates. This shape, featuring a short stem and a long neck, allows the fig to hang with its eye facing the ground, reducing susceptibility to rain damage during ripening. Rain can be detrimental to many fig varieties as it causes the skin to absorb moisture, leading to expansion and splitting. The downward-facing eye of Pernette Noire might make it less vulnerable to such damage, and it has shown a remarkable ability to repel water, further enhancing its resistance to rain.
Pernette Noire distinguishes itself not only through its shape but also through its ripening process. It has a relatively short hang time, which is beneficial for achieving a higher quality, well-ripened fig more consistently. This shorter hang time allows for strategic harvesting before or after rain, effectively circumventing rain-related issues. Additionally, Pernette Noire often dries on the tree, especially during hot summer days, taking only 3 or 4 days to shrivel, which is another advantageous trait.
Despite its initial resemblance to the more common Black Mission fig, Pernette Noire offers a unique experience. While the Black Mission variants have often disappointed growers with their susceptibility to cracking and poor rain resistance, Pernette Noire impresses with its performance, flavor, and texture. It boasts a rich, jammy pulp, and although its flavor is more sugary and figgy than intensely berry-like, the slightly bitter skin adds a pleasing complexity.
All of this elevates Pernette Noire above the typical Black Mission fig, making it a superior alternative and a valuable addition to any garden.
To read more about Pernette Noir, click here.
Marseillaise is another fig made popular by the well-respected French nurseryman Baud in France. But Marseillaise has been overshadowed in the United States due to its superficial resemblance to the more prominent and similarly named fig variety called White Marseilles. Yet, the two are vastly different in many respects. While the White Marseilles presents a yellow skin paired with white pulp and brown seeds, the Marseillaise, also yellow-skinned, surprises with a reddish interior, smaller size, and a much different flavor and texture. Marseillaise also possesses a special capability to dry remarkably on the tree even in humid climates, distinct from the White Marseilles.
Instead of focusing on the White Marseilles comparison, I would consider Marseillaise a part of a trio of fig varieties with Nerucciolo d’Elba & Verdino del Nord. All three are slower-growing dwarf-sized trees with closer node spacing, they produce smaller-sized fruits, and the fruits all ripen consistently at a high quality due to their impressive ease of drying on the tree.
There have been observations from other growers that this variety can occasionally split (Baud has also mentioned this), likely due to its spherical shape. In 2023, my Marseillaise tree ripened every fig almost perfectly without any splitting and at a higher quality due to its small size and great drying capabilities.
In 2023, I detected a potent fruity aroma prior to eating, and upon tasting, you will be greeted with a brown sugar flavor and a standout fruitiness echoing other lauded varieties like Rossellino and Salce. Marseillaise is truly impressive in many respects.
This one was introduced by Justin Patten. Lots of credit to him! This turned out to be quite the unknown and unique French variety. I thought it could be similar to another popular French variety called Sucrette, but I was wrong. There's no fig quite like this one.
Corio is another variety that I was impressed with last year and it also got better. Figs do that. Every year they can be different. Even from one Corio Provence tree to another and even each fig on the same tree can be different. There are a lot of variables, but that's what's exciting about fig trees. They're always something new to observe.
This year Corio displayed a short hang time. The figs also have an exceptional eating experience with a more present berry flavor than another new favorite of mine called Unk Rome. Overall, I’m a huge fan, but similar to every fig variety in this article, I am constantly keeping an open mind and continuing to evaluate their performance. Its short hang time and its enjoyable eating experience were enough to give me a strong enough indicator of performance in humid weather.
Onto the late-ripening fig varieties.
Considering their late ripening nature, these fig varieties have been difficult to properly evaluate. Thanks to the commercial greenhouse headstart these trees received in 2023, I was able to evaluate them and I feel more confident placing them among these special fig varieties.
Please note that not all of these varieties will reliably fruit for growers with short growing seasons. Although not all of the fig varieties at the beginning of this list are exceptionally early, I feel confident that given the right growing conditions, the overwhelming majority of fig growers can reliably ripen their crops during their growing season. Far fewer growers can reliably ripen these varieties.
De La Roca*
Of the rock is what De la Roca translates to in English. I couldn't think of a cooler name. Roca is a fig variety that comes from Montserrat Pons' collection in Spain and was found growing in a garden with frequent irrigation, it's possible that it adapted to more humid conditions over time. Due to its lateness, I've been skeptical in the past to call this variety one of my best figs, but it certainly has always been one of my favorites to eat and it still might be the best fig-eating experience I’ve had from my fig orchard
Now with more experience with this special variety, I am confident it's a great choice for any fig grower that has a long enough growing season. It's exceptional. De la Roca could certainly be a top choice for a dry location, but it also withstands my humid weather.
The fig possesses a pyriform shape that protects the eye from excessive moisture and water absorption. Like most figs with this shape, splitting is less frequent, but the best standout feature of this fig is its superior drying capability.
In 2023, the eating experience of De la Roca reminds one of a well-ripened LSU Tiger, possessing a chewy skin with a fruity and thick pulp. It doesn’t have an intense berry flavor, but its taste has been remarkable.
To read more about De la Roca, check out this comprehensive variety review, here.
Coll de Dama*
Particularly Mutante, Blanc & Cartagena
The Coll de Dama figs are my favorite figs to eat. They are a must-grow in every climate if you’re a serious fig hobbyist for their exquisite thick and cakey texture. It’s the closest fig to eating cake or a pastry right off the tree. There is a problem with them, however. They are typically late to ripen, unhealthy, and therefore their productivity is unreliable.
After this realization, I made it a goal of mine to find a better source for Coll de Dama. Whether it had the Coll de Dama name or not, I want that same amazing eating experience in an easier-to-grow and maintain package. I think these three are at least a step in that direction.
And remember, Coll de Dama Blanc, Noire, Roja & Grise all have the same eating experience, but with different growing characteristics and skin color.
Coll de Dama Gegantina is simply a consistently larger Blanc.
Coll de Dama Cuitat is misleading and should not bear the Coll de Dama name. Instead, it falls under the Hivernenca classification.
Coll de Dama Bordisottenca is different as well. It’s a cross between the Coll de Damas and Bordissot.
Coll de Dama Blanca-Negra is a bit of a fig mystery. However, the true Blanca-Negra could match what Grise, Noire & Blanc offer.
Sarda (even though it doesn’t bear the Coll de Dama name) has a very similar eating experience and is under this classification.
Coll de Frare should be similar as well, but it is one that I have yet to have any firsthand experience with.
Coll de Dama Mutante
My friend Rafael introduced and popularized Coll de Dama Mutante in the United States but it was originally found by Carlos Jimenez Lopez of Spain. Coll de Dama Mutante stands out from all other fig varieties as one of the most striking figs I've ever seen. As a sport of the Coll de Dama Grise variety, Mutante has undergone an interesting mutation. Instead of having striped bark and striped unripe figs like a Rimada fig would, Coll de Dama Mutante shows striping in only its fruits as they ripen leading to a strikingly beautiful harvest.
What's noteworthy about this variety is its seemingly short hang time, an essential characteristic for figs grown in humid environments. I have not noted a difference in flavor or texture yet.
Coll de Dama Blanc
This strain of Coll de Dama Blanc from a French nurseryman named Baud has always been my favorite. It's very healthy leading to easier establishment, higher productivity, and easier to maintain trees over the long term. Regardless of the source, however, Blanc is considered the most productive Coll de Dama.
Coll de Dama Cartagena
Coll de Dama Cartagena from Cartagena, Spain is a black-skinned version of the Coll de Damas like Coll de Dama Noire, but there’s a clear difference in health and productivity. I have not noted a difference in flavor or texture yet. This clear winner was introduced by my friend Bass at TreesofJoy.
Read more about the Coll de Dama figs here.
The Hivernenca category of figs encompasses a range of named fig varieties, often leading to confusion due to the high number of names and subtle distinctions between them. Varieties like De La Senyora (Hivernenca), Lampiera 1, Can Planetes, and others fall under this classification. These variations are partly due to epigenetic differences, where figs adapt to their environments over time, leading to mutations. This results in subtle yet present differences in various strains, despite their genetic similarities. Pons, a notable figure in the study of these varieties, has detailed their characteristics, noting that while some like La Hivernenca, Coll de Dama Ciutat, and De la Senyora are genetically similar, they are considered distinct due to differences in maturation, size, and shape.
The physical appearance of Hivernenca figs is distinctive, typically elongated with a tendency to crack as they mature. Their color transitions from green-yellow to a mix of brown, purple, and gray. A beautiful aesthetic.
Historically, these figs have been more successful in hotter, drier climates compared to milder regions like the Mediterranean. Hivernenca is certainly the last fig to ripen on this list. They are also known for their high productivity, with fruits often weighing down the branches creating a weeping habit. In 2023, this characteristic was particularly observed in my Lampeira 1 tree.
The eating experience of Hivernenca is a combination of the thick texture found in the Coll de Damas and the berry flavor of Black Madeira. Their taste intensity varies depending on the specific type and ripening conditions, but in ideal climates, they rank among the best-tasting figs.
They’ve made this list because of their quick ripening period, even in cooler fall weather, allowing for the harvest of about 90-95% of the tree's crop given a long enough growing season. Contrasting with Black Madeira, I may only harvest a handful of well-ripened figs each growing season. In humid climates, Hivernenca figs can rival and even surpass Black Madeira in terms of flavor and reliability.
To read more about the Hivernenca figs, check out this detailed article.
Molla Vermella, Joualle Noire, Beat Ramon*
Molla Vermella is a part of Monserrat Pons' collection in Spain, standing out for its strong eating experience even when underripe and its unique cake-like texture. It shares many similarities with another Pons variety, called Beat Ramon, and both are similar to another fig called Joualle Noire. Joualle Noire is likely a synonym of either of these two fig varieties. I know that’s a bit confusing, but I wanted to give you all of the information so that you can grow this exquisitely textured fig with confidence. My point is, just choose one of them.
These varieties can maintain taste and quality even when not fully ripe, similar to the Adriatic figs, making them an exceptional choice for humid climates. That being said, if you can get them perfect, you’re in for a real treat. Regardless, the texture is going to wow you even in underripe states. Its internal texture is exceptionally fine, comparable only to the Coll de Dama figs, known for their thick, jammy pulp. This density is akin to pancake batter, offering a natural pastry-like eating experience.
To read more about these fig varieties, check out this comprehensive variety review, here.
Martinenca Blanca is a part of Monserrat Pons’ collection in Mallorca. However, even though it wears the 'Martinenca' label, don't be fooled. Unlike its similarly named fig varieties, Martinenca and Martinenca Rimada, they have dark skin and thus far also have a different flavor. Martinenca Blanca is a part of the Sugar Berry fig flavor profile distinct from the stronger berry-like flavors often associated with Martinenca Rimada. It’s possible that both Martinenca Rimada and Martinenca also share the same flavor profile.
But what truly makes the Martinenca Blanca superior? In terms of output, it’s very productive, rivaling heavyweight producers like the Ronde de Bordeaux and Bourjassotte Grise. But it's not just about the numbers.
In the case of Ronde de Bordeaux, I may only harvest 50% of the crop at a high quality. In 2023, it was an amazing producer of over 350 figs, but it was limited by its open eye and sensitivity to rainy conditions. It is however one of the best varieties you can grow in dry and short-season climates.
That’s not the case with Martinenca Blanca. Its hang time is long and the harvest window is also exceptionally long, but its ability to taste great even when underripe allows us to harvest before rains providing a consistent harvest at high quality giving it the extra bump it needs to be a part of this list. In 2023, it was one of the best figs for cold fall weather late in the growing season.
Read more about Martinenca Blanca here.
Colonel Littman’s Black Cross*
Colonel Littman's Black Cross is often compared to the well-known and best-tasting figs called Black Madeira. These two varieties fall under the same type– similar to the earlier discussion revolving around Celeste and Hardy Chicago at the beginning of the article.
Colonel Littman’s Black Cross was found growing in Gainesville Florida and was originally introduced by Just Fruits and Exotics Nursery. Shortly after a well-respected grower named Phil Siebel in northern Georgia quickly recognized its exceptional qualities particularly suitable in humid climates, where it serves as a superior alternative to Black Madeira.
While Black Madeira offers outstanding flavor, it often struggles in rainy conditions. In years past I may only enjoy a handful of well-ripened Black Madeira figs per season. They frequently split! In contrast, Colonel Littman's Black Cross, with its smaller size, earlier ripening date, better split resistance, shape, and skin quality, will produce higher quality fruit in such environments making it a preferred choice for growers in humid areas due to its better resilience to rain without compromising fruit quality.
A notable challenge with Colonel Littman's Black Cross is its perceived low productivity. As I discussed above, Smith has a very similar issue. These two varieties don’t like excessive pruning more than other fig varieties. I find their balance of hormones is a delicate balance and pruning or lack of pruning is the main way we can keep our fig trees in check. Patience is key with this variety, as an optimal fruit set is typically expected by the third year rather than in the second as you’ll normally see in most fig varieties.
Despite some challenges, Colonel Littman’s Black Cross is the best option we currently have available to enjoy the amazing and must-try eating experience that Black Madeira can offer.
To read more about Black Madeira, check out this comprehensive variety review, here.