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The Paradiso Fig | Comprehensive Variety Review

Updated: Feb 2

There are 1000s of fig varieties in existence, but fig varieties like Paradiso are worth learning about. Check out the other comprehensive variety reviews I’ve created on other fig varieties on the variety directory page found here:

The Paradiso Fig

Paradiso has a rich history in Italian culture. This fig variety was made famous in the early 1800s when it was featured in Gallesio's Pomona Italiana. Gallesio traveled throughout Italy, documenting and drawing commonly found varieties of fruit (not just figs), creating a historical record. The photo shown above is how the original Paradiso fruit was drawn in Gallesio's book.

The name Paradiso originates from a tale about an old man in Italy who sat under his fig tree each morning eating figs. People passing would inquire about his state. His reply was, "This is my Paradise," which of course translates to Paradiso in Italian.

Nowadays, the Paradiso fig is being preserved by Italian growers like Siro Petracchi, Paolo Belloni, Claudio Lorenzi, and others. However, after years of research and firsthand experience growing this special fig variety, there's no guarantee that the original Paradiso still exists today.

In fact, after a little digging around, you'll find several fig varieties with the name Paradiso, and each has different shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors a little different than the others. This has led to a lot of confusion in determining which current-day Paradiso is the original Paradiso that was first depicted in Gallesio's Pomona Italiana.

It's possible that after hearing the beautiful tale of the Paradiso fig, growers wanted to name their fig Paradiso. Man, I wish I could name a fig Paradiso.

I guess you could say that each of the named Paradiso figs is that fig grower's version of Paradise and after firsthand experience, I can agree that somehow almost all of them actually are. What's even more strange is that I have found some commonality between their eating experiences. When eating Paradiso (Baud), Paradiso Bronze (VS), and Paradiso (Siro) it's almost like eating a Coll de Dama fig with a slightly different thickness, and an almost equally amazing pulp texture.

In this article, I will share with you all of the information available to make your own decision about this 200-year-old fig mystery.

Here's What You Need to Know

Don’t be mistaken, not only are each of the Paradiso figs different from each other, but they're also unlike any other fig variety I've tasted. It's frequently mixed up with the Verdino fig in Italy also known as the Adriatic fig in the US due to their similar coloration.

According to my friend and fig enthusiast Rafael Santangelo, "None of the current Paradiso figs are an exact match for Gallesio's description and drawing."

And by definition, "Most Paradiso figs in the USA, and all of the ones in Europe are green-skinned with a red interior, which can be either Unifera or Bifera. They display a range of shapes, sizes, and flavors, but differ from the Adriatic or Verdino classification of figs."

I want to personally thank Rafael for being a great source of information on this topic. Because of our long talks on this subject, I am very pleased to say that this is the most comprehensive and accurate information on Paradiso to date.

Below I’ll explain each of the Paradiso figs highlighting their similarities and differences so that you can make your own decision about this fig mystery. First, let's get into the history of the Paradiso fig.

History & Other Information:

To understand the Paradiso fig most clearly, we first must go to the sources of the most accurate and well-respected information on this fig variety, Gallesio, and Condit.

Here is Rafael's translation from Gallesio's description into English:

"The breba are large and of medium width; the skin is green with white freckles. The pith can be stained violet, similar to a Dottato breba. The pulp is pale colored, shaded with light red, and enveloped in a delicate, ethereal honey that results in an exquisite, heavenly flavor. They are nearly identical in appearance to the breba of Monaco, another distinguished cultivar.

The main crop is totally different. They are smaller and bottle-shaped, with super thin skin and a celestial golden hue. The flesh is pale with a pinkish tinge, soft and delicate but on the dull side (flat flavored), almost tasteless. They are similar to the Fico Troiano main crop, but Paradiso is more yellow (lighter) and longer in shape. At first glance, they are quite similar to Pissalutto's main crop. The main crop ripens quickly in September, and the ripening period is not long, i.e. the entire crop ripens in quick succession."

Here is Condit's description from his manuscript:

"Paradiso. Described by Cupani (1696), Gallesio (1817), Gasparrini (1845), Duchartre (1857), Pasquale (1876), Savastano (1885), Vallese (1909), Ferrari (1912), and by Tamaro (1948) as Paraíso (probably). Illustrations of leaves and fruit by Vallese. The short Latin description of this variety by Gallesio is under the heading Ficus carica bifera; he regarded the first-crop figs as better than the second. Gasparrini used the term Ficus deliciosa, with the common name Fico Paradiso; he stated that it was the belief of growers that second-crop figs required caprification. Paradiso is a Neapolitan variety, disseminated near Genoa as Albero d’Oro.

Trees were rare along the Riviera, according to Gallesio, but some were grown in
Provence. Savastano noted that the trees of Paradiso were grown primarily for the production of the first crop. In his account, Vallese reported that it was well distributed in Lecce Province, but he did not give descriptive notes of the first crop.

The leaves are of medium size, generally 5-lobed. Brebas (according to Gallesio) medium, elongated; skin green, with white flecks; meat violet, like that of Dottato; pulp light rose, delicate; flavor exquisite. Second-crop figs (according to Vallese) turbinate, slightly oblique; ribs present on the lower half of the body; stalk rather short; skin greenish yellow, shaded with violet on the ribs, especially on the sunny side; pulp wine red, very sweet. The fruit is produced over a long season, from August and September to December and January. Marketed only fresh."

To summarize:

After breaking apart each sentence of Gallesio's description, Rafael and I agree that Gallesio's description lacks critical detail and also contradicts his drawing. This could be for various reasons and therefore we believe that both the drawing and description cannot be entirely relied upon. For example, one of the issues we have is regarding the ripe fig of Paradiso drawn on the branch. We cannot be certain if that is a breba or the main crop.

However, I believe that Condit's description is much more helpful in finding the original Paradiso based on the following points:

  • Paradiso is Bifera producing an exquisitely flavored, medium in size, and elongated breba with white specks on the skin and a purple-stained pith.

  • The main crop is smaller, turbinate, and slightly oblique in shape with a mild-tasting, pink/light red pulp. The skin has a golden hue.

  • I believe the purple-stained pith of the breba crop is an important characteristic to pay attention to due to its uniqueness and consistency in the drawing and descriptions. While all of the other characteristics are important, the purple-stained pith of the breba crop will provide more certainty than any other trait when trying to solve this mystery.

Now we can compare this description to the many named Paradiso figs that are commonly available in the US and Europe.

Paradiso (Baud):

Paradiso from the French nurseryman Baud remains at the top of my list regarding its eating experience. Some of the figs that I’ve harvested from that variety have been absurdly good. 

  • Flavor: It’s one of the best-tasting figs, with intense sweetness, mild berry notes, and a thick cakey texture. The true treasure of this fig is in its texture.

  • Late ripening, but bifera. The brebas do not have the purple staining pith.

  • Downsides: Its open eye and variable, but mostly flat shape make this variety a poor choice in humid climates. 

Unfortunately, splitting is a major issue with this strain of Paradiso. However, the shape is quite variable. Sometimes they are ovoidal or pyriforme. I suspect when planted and established in the ground instead of growing in a container, the shape will elongate helping with splitting.

One of the major differences I've seen when comparing Paradiso (Baud) to the true Paradiso is the shape. The shape of a fig is the most consistent and reliable way to identify a fig variety. However, in varieties like this one, the shape is inherently variable making it more difficult to properly identify.

Paradiso (Siro):

Another Paradiso that I'm growing is from an Italian commercial grower named Siro. Siro is growing what he, Rafael, and I believe to be the best candidate for the original Paradiso depicted in Gallesio's drawings.

  • Flavor: Strong comparison to the Coll de Damas, with a slightly different texture and an equally amazing pulp. It has a stronger berry flavor than Paradiso (Baud).

  • Earliness: Shockingly, this strain of Paradiso is an early variety giving a wider range of growers access and growers in humid areas the ability to ripen it before rainy months. It’s the only earlier ripening Paradiso I know of.

  • Downsides: It can split in humid climates. However, it’s not nearly as bad as the Baud strain.

  • Suitability: This Paradiso performs better in dryer climates and might be manageable in humid areas.

Comparison to the original Paradiso:

It's bifera with a purple staining pith. Note the purple pulp bleeding through the skin. Below are photos courtesy of Siro of the breba crop. These are medium in size and the shape matches. However, the white specks on the skin are minimal.

The main crop also matches. It's slightly oblique and turbinate in shape. The first photo is from Siro's tree, the remainder is from my immature tree.

Paradiso Bronze (VS):

VS is the initials of Vasile, a respected grower in New Jersey who experimented greatly with fig varieties suitable for cold and humid climates. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any original information about this fig variety. Hence, one of the many reasons I have created this blog. However, I recall that this Paradiso strain produces breba, and both the main crop and breba have bronze specks on their skin when ripe.

After spending time with this tree in 2023, I realized that those bronze specks are a consistent visual with the start of the drying process. Despite some fig enthusiasts not speaking highly of it in the past, I found this strain to be very tasty. It hasn’t received any attention, possibly due to reports of splitting. However, I'm still not completely certain of how to classify this strain of Paradiso. It falls somewhere between a Paradiso fig and White Adriatic, similar to Blanche de Deux Saison.

I need to evaluate more fruits, but so far, it's one of the best-tasting figs of 2023, and its ability to dry on the tree was impressive.

Paradiso (JM) or Paradiso Genova:

As mentioned in Condit's monograph, "Paradiso is a Neapolitan variety, disseminated near Genoa as Albero d’Oro." The problem current fig enthusiasts have is that Gallesio makes no mention of Genoa in his description. It's unclear where Condit has disseminated that information.

Regardless, the Paradiso fig grown in Genoa is the worst fig variety on this list by far and it stands out as quite different from the rest. It has brown/red skin with a brown sugary simple flavored pulp. In reality, it's a strain of Brunswick, which I'd compare to Brown Turkey. Both, even when grown in dry and favorable climates, you can choose to grow hundreds of other better fig varieties, and in humid areas, they are among the worst you could choose. Therefore, Paradiso Genova or Genoa is not worth discussing further. Save yourself the trouble and avoid this one, even if it's labeled as Paradiso.

Paradiso (Gene):

This Paradiso comes from a grower named Gene Hosey. Taken from Gene’s old website, Gene describes it as bifera. Here’s what else he says:

“My favorite green fig, very tasty; the birds love it too. I acquired this in 2000 from an elderly man whose father came from Italy. The father had gotten it from a fellow Italian immigrant.”

One of my closest fig friends, Rafael grew this strain of Paradiso for years in Queens. From him, I managed to get my tree the first time I attended Bass’ fig gathering. Today, I am still growing it and because of my renewed interest in the Paradiso figs, I aim to evaluate this strain properly. More to come in the future.

This strain is bifera, splits like the average fig variety and it does ripen later in the season.

Paradiso (Giovanni)

Many years ago an article was written about a fig grower in Philadelphia named Giovanni. The article mentions that Giovanni sells his figs at Reading Terminal Market (a popular market in Philadelphia) and at the very end of the article it mentions that his fig is called Paradiso. Hence the name Paradiso (Giovanni).

Rafael managed to taste some of these figs at Reading Terminal. For years he would tell me how much he enjoyed them hoping one day to try more of them.

Years later I managed to visit Giovanni during my fig hunting around Philadelphia (he actually calls himself John) and was able to speak with him about his tree and obtain cuttings.

He was featured in the Fig Boss Documentary that was published in 2023. Check it out below:

And here is what was written in the article.

More to come as Rafael and I evaluate this special fig variety.

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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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