My Top 8 Overall Best Fig Varieties
Wrapping up my 2020 season has been a long process. I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to explain my cull list, keeper list, my favorite or best tasting varieties and some of the "newer" varieties that have really impressed me.
To the overall fig community it was quite a shocker when people heard that Verdino del Nord and Nerucciolo d'Elba were my best fig varieties. I know for those of you who follow along with my YouTube channel, Fruit Talk! or even this blog were not caught by surprise, but many were, so I'm making this post to explain my thoughts on the new additions that have taken the spots of some that have been standards here for years like Smith or Azores Dark.
For me there is no attachment to specific varieties. Yes.. I do have favorites, but at the end of the day if something is performing better and tasting better than another it will become my favorite. It has become very clear to me over the last 2 or more years that figs with high drying capabilities will be the most superior performers in my yard. It's just too humid here. Fig fruit quality suffers dramatically in high humidity. Having experimented enough and with the drive of wanting my figs to rival those in California or another dry/warm place, I finally found two very special figs that can withstand almost anything here. Verdino del Nord and Elba are basically indestructible.
They don't crack, split and they resist fermentation extremely well. The interior is almost never exposed to the outdoor conditions. They also have some of the best drying capabilities I have ever seen in a fig. Sure.. Calimyrna is the standard commercial fig used for drying throughout the world, but would Calimyrna dry here in this humidity? I don't think so. There are different levels to this. Like anything else. There's a spectrum of drying and even shriveling capabilities as I like to call it. Maybe the size of the fig plays a part? Still more to learn on the subject, but what is clear is that they both will start to dry at about a 6-7 day hang time. This enables them to ripen to perfection consistently. If my figs are ripening to perfection at a higher rate, that also means that the flavor is consistently high. Why should I consider a fig like Black Madeira that in its own right is one of the best tasting figs that exists, but I may only get a handful per season at that oh so amazing flavor when I can get almost every fig off of the tree at that same level of quality from these two varieties. The peak level of flavor may not be exactly there, but its close enough and in my opinion these two varieties compete with tree ripened and caprified figs grown in California. Trust me.. I've eaten them and I dream about what they tasted like on occasion.
That last statement is key when considering my best fig varieties. Every fig I'm about to mention has great rain resistance, split resistance, resistance to spoilage, not all have such amazing drying capabilities, but they're super reliable and anyone can use these recommendations in their humid climate yard. They all ripen to perfection at an extremely high rate for this climate. So my point really is in a sense that reliability translates to flavor, fruit quality and overall how happy you'll be. Instead of trying to grow the next best tasting fig, people in a similar climate to my own should be focusing on instead what will consistently ripen to perfection.
Now onto the list...
1. Verdino del Nord - I've spoken at great length on this fig so I'll try to keep it short. Second only to Elba in terms of drying capabilities, but extremely flavorful. Moreso than Elba and really does rival figs like the Coll de Damas here. This fig will rival the best tasting fig varieties even in California and anyone saying it doesn't, hasn't had it for very long. It also seems impervious to insect and animal pressure because of it's skin and skin color. It's small in size, but what amazes me is the varieties strange habit of putting out 2-3 nodes where there should only be 1. Therefore you get more leaves and more figs per length of branch than just about every variety I've grown.
2. Nerucciolo d'Elba - As I said it's even better on the drying capability scale than Verdino del Nord. Drying starts at 6 days, which is unheard of. Overwhelmingly beautiful fig as well. The interior is almost black with a complex berry flavor that does not disappoint.
#'s 3-6 are very close to each other and it's quite difficult for me at this time to definitively give each variety a particular number for reasons I'll mention.