Updated: Jun 14
I'm starting a series of blog posts related to fig varieties that are standards or MUST grow figs, they're usually easy to find, inexpensive and are just a classic 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!
Next up is Smith.
Similar varieties: Texas BA-1
Taste grouping: Elegant berry
Size: Medium - Small
Ripening period: Mid season
Rain resistance: High
Spoilage resistance: High
Shape: Urceolado / Pyriforme
Hang time: Average
Split resistance: Above average
Growth habit: Erect/Upright
Climate preference: Well adapted
Light requirements: High
Productivity: Below average
Taste rating: 4.7/5
The most credible information I've heard is that Smith originates from Croatia. It somehow made its way to France where the Becnel family picked it up and then brought it to the United States. Over many years they made it a very popular fig in the South through their many nursery sales and to many growers down there it's as popular as Celeste or Brown Turkey.
I can assure you though that it's far superior to Celeste and Brown Turkey in terms of its eating quality. The berry flavor is strong, acidic and exquisite. One bite is all you need to know that the fruit quality is superb.
It really It's also one of my current best overall figs for a humid/short season climate. I believe that I have it tied for my 3rd best variety with 3 other fig varieties (Hative d'Argentile, Moro de Caneva & Rossellino). Because I have given it so much praise in recent years, I believe Smith will immortalize itself among one of the very best fig varieties. Similar in the way we think about Black Madeira. I don't see it going away or losing favor anytime soon among hobbyists.
Believe it or not it is also said that Smith was used for a short time in LSU's breeding program. There's a fig called LSU Strawberry or some just call it strawberry that is said to have Smith parentage. Clearly a fig with a lot of history.
As stated above, Smith is well adapted to all climates. It stands up to rain, is better with splitting than most (which is odd because it's often more flat in shape than teardrop), is VERY tasty and is early enough to finish the entire crop before my rainy fall weather sets in. It's got all the boxes checked. I haven't been able to confirm it myself, but Smith is said to be one the least hardy varieties struggling with temperatures at 10-15F.
However the most frequent complaint about Smith is that it can be low on production. Some even have even thought about getting rid of their tree until other growers chime in and have shown that their tree is fruiting on every node! Being in the same camp, I had wondered what the problem was my with trees for years. Some hobbyists believe that there are different strains of Smith. That was my first thought, but I've realized that it's largely unlikely as we know that Smith originated from once source... the Becnel family. One argument that could be made is that Smith has adapted to different locations in the South because Smith has been in the US for such a long time that minor differences due to adaptation is certainly possible.
I want to note that all 6 of my potted Smith trees are showing fantastic production this 2021 season. Smith is an erect grower and if you're not willing to intervene and change the angle of the scaffolds, this is not the tree for you. Production will be limited and I believe that's exactly what's occurring for many of us. The tree is shading itself out. As the tree matures, open the canopy to allow better light penetration and you will see a fig on every node and at the very least much higher production.
I'll be selling Smith trees most weeks this growing season. Do check out my listings if you're interested in buying a Smith tree: https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=rossraddi
Also check out the video I've done on Smith on my YouTube channel: