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The Fig Boss' 2023 Year in Review

As the 2023 fig season comes to a close, I wanted to update you all on this year’s journey starting with fig hunting in Philadelphia, the start of spring in a commercial greenhouse, an in-person presentation on growing fig trees at Fair Amount Food Forest in Philadelphia, a local fig tasting I hosted, and my wonderful fig-filled trip to Italy.

First, may I present to you a film that encompasses the entire growing season.

"The Fig Boss of Philadelphia"

A film by Ricky Oliveras will air on my YouTube channel on Sunday, November 5th at 7 PM Eastern.

“Ross Raddi set off on a fig-growing journey, inspired by his grandfather. Now, he is known as the fig boss. Ross is on a mission to share his love of figs with the world while discovering and preserving unique fig varieties in Philadelphia.”

Take the time to sit down with your family for the premiere! You won’t want to miss this emotional and relatable film about figs.

And don’t forget to subscribe to Ricky's YouTube channel. He'll be publishing an additional 3 more videos on his YouTube channel!

“The video opens with Ross Raddi discussing the growing popularity of figs and the profound experience that a perfectly ripened fig can offer. Ross Raddi, a fig hobbyist turned enthusiast, narrates his journey from combating a moldy-smelling basement with houseplants to his passion for figs, influenced by his Italian grandfather and the unsatisfactory taste of store-bought figs compared to fresh ones.

Ross describes the transformation of his interest in gardening from simply ornamental to purposeful, aiming to grow produce that is challenging to find in stores, like figs. His appreciation for food was inherited, and although his family didn't always have the healthiest diet, his love for high-quality, fresh food has driven him to pursue gardening seriously.

He outlines the issues with commercially available figs, which are often picked before reaching peak ripeness, unlike homegrown figs that can be allowed to fully mature, enhancing their flavor and nutrient content. This difference, he says, is something most people don't experience unless they grow figs themselves.

Ross then takes us on a tour of his Philadelphia home, where he grows an extensive variety of fruits, especially figs, with over 100 trees in containers and 130 in the ground. He talks about the unfavorable conditions for fig growing in Philadelphia due to the excess moisture but mentions the historical introduction of figs in the area by European immigrants, particularly from Italy."

But wait, I don't want to spoil it all! Check out the premiere and hit the notification bell on YouTube to be notified when it goes live. I'll be watching with you all.

Fig Hunting in Philadelphia

The year started with two new friends, Ricky (a videographer who loves permaculture and fruits) and Justin (a passionate fig grower who teaches public school in Philadelphia) have joined me on the hunt for local fig tree heirloom varieties in Philadelphia. After scouting over 100 trees in PA and NJ the prior summer, I mapped out the journey, we met some interesting local fig growers along the way and acquired 10-13 new varieties that could someday be lost.

Now if proven worthy, they will be given the opportunity to live on.

I'm deeply committed to unearthing fig varieties that thrive in various conditions—those that are robust, hardy, and can stand up to rain. My drive stems from a desire to find distinctive figs that can enrich gardens far and wide, breaking free from the confines of their traditional growing regions. It's not just about preservation, but also about broadening the horizon of cultivation, allowing more people to experience the joy and flavor of home-grown figs.

Below are photos from the day.

Growing Figs in a Commercial Greenhouse:

Thanks to a new friend and local farmer, Chip (Sherwood Taylor) I was able to start my fig-growing season off with a bang!

Growing fig trees in a greenhouse offers several distinct benefits, particularly for those in shorter-season climates. First and foremost, it allows for an early start to the growing season, which is crucial for figs that typically ripen between August and the first frost and require 150 to 180 frost-free days. By using a greenhouse, growers can awaken the fig trees from dormancy well ahead of the last frost date, thereby accelerating ripening dates.

The benefits of growing fig trees in a greenhouse are discussed in detail, here along with tips and tricks for success.

Because of the greenhouse headstart, my potted fig trees mostly finished fruiting by September! Before the heavy rains came in.

Big props and thanks to Chip for sharing his space and allowing me to learn in this environment. Check out his seed company for locally grown seeds and a wide selection of incredible varieties.

The Fair Amount Food Forest

“I am thrilled to announce an exciting event, "Growing Figs with Ross the Fig Boss," slated for Saturday, August 5th from 1 pm to 3 pm at Fair Amount Food Forest located inside Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Join me in person as I explain the details of growing and nurturing these amazing trees. It's not just about the basics; it's about understanding the subtle relationship between the fig tree and its environment.

During this two-hour event, I will cover the fundamentals of fig tree care also mentioning tried-and-true techniques for quality fruit production that even novice gardeners can adapt. But that's not all! Participants might also get the unique opportunity to taste some of my own figs, gaining a hands-on appreciation for the diverse flavors these fruits can offer. This session promises to be an insightful blend of theoretical knowledge, practical tips, and sensory experiences, making it a must-attend for anyone keen on expanding their horticultural horizons.”
Additional Details
Address: 2300 N 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19132 Website: Fair Amount Food Forest There is no signup required. The event is free, but donations to the nonprofit that runs the food forest are always welcome. They are doing great work. A donation link can be found here or they can be made by cash or check.

I want to personally thank everyone who attended and Michael Muehlbauer for reaching out and organizing the event.

Photos from the event:

We had a great showing of fig growers from all over the area. Growers had the opportunity to taste some well-ripened figs and learn about their flavors, textures, and types. We then moved on to learning about growing them in the ground with lessons on winter protection and pruning. Finally followed by lessons on growing them in containers and characteristics we should look for when choosing a fig variety for our area.

A Local Fig Tasting, Hosted by the Fig Boss

Again, I want to thank everyone who came and participated. A special shoutout to Dominic Russo. The man with the best pizza in the tri-state area. Follow Dom to taste his amazing pizza, here.

Admittedly, the tasting was a lot of work. Expecting high attendance, I harvested figs for 4-5 weeks in preparation for the event. Each fig harvest was carefully cut open and placed inside my refrigerators to slowly dry and concentrate their flavors further. We ended up with exceptional quality and a real treat for some folks who had never had a fresh fig and another grower who had just tried their first fig right off their own tree.

I’d also like to thank Romeo, Anthony, BigBill, Dave & Steve for bringing some of their own harvest for the event. In total, we offered over 40 varieties for the tasting. Dave drove all the way from Virginia to attend.

Shoutout to Matt in Yardley. He gave me a wonderful charcuterie board that will be featured in my future videos. This was his review of the event. The ** notes his favorites:

“Fig Tasting 2023

  • Adriatic- jammy/red interior, green exterior, sweet berry-like

  • **Hative- grey/purple ext, red interior, French variety, berry flavor/ earthy note

  • Long Yellow- yellow int/ext, semi-sweet, almost watery flesh, med-large size

  • Little Ruby- brown/pink ext-int, figgy flavor

  • **Smith- extreme berry- super sweet, excellent, green ext/red jammy int

  • Norella- sweet figgy flavor/mix berry, purple ext/red int

  • **Marseillaise- champagne sweet, delicate sugar, small

  • Dottato- honey/sugar sweet, little melon hint, pink/yellow int, green ext

  • Paratjalina- honey flavor, green ext/pink int

  • Ronde De Bordeaux- berry- almost spicy flavor- pungent, purple ext/red int

My personal favorites are soon to come in an end-of-the-year review of my favorite fig varieties. There are quite a few to give some love to.

A Fig-Filled Italy

In September while it was raining here in Philadelphia, I was lucky enough to be travelling in beautiful Italy. Inspired by the stunning beauty of the HBO show “My Brilliant Friend” and the lovely Mattia & Cornelia of Omezzolli Nursery, how could I not visit?

The trip started off by flying into Milan, getting a rental car, and heading straight to Lake Garda. A beautiful lake surrounded by beautiful mountains and Italian Cyprus. The town of Riva del Garda is a dream. There I visited the owners of Omezzolli Nursery and spent multiple days with them learning about figs, wine, olive oil, and so much else. The nursery manages and maintains over 2000 varieties of various nuts, fruits, and other plants. I would highly recommend a visit. Tell them I sent you!

I also met the amazing Uncle of Mattia Omezzolli who was the one who named Verdolino and Nerino–two of the most incredible fig varieties for humid and cold climates. He was ahead of his time collecting special varieties before it was the “hip” thing to do. A modern-day Gallesio.

I also managed to taste some incredible Northern Italian genetics and learn about what Mattia is up to. I tasted varieties like Foradori, Laghel, Rosato Bresciano, Torbole, and more!

We were also treated to a wonderful Italian lunch in their beautiful garden surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges tasting cheeses from nearby towns.

From there I went to Valipolcela, Verona, and then Florence.

Once in Florence, how could I not visit my friend Siro Petracchi? A master commercial fig grower, with special products, baskets, and a wonderful Italian family.

Like Mattia and Cornelia, Siro also spoiled us and I was able to taste just about EVERY fig variety in Siro’s orchard! Siro’s Favorite Fig is unreal. The most vibrant red-colored pulp I have ever witnessed in a fig. It's so red that the pulp even bleeds through the skin.

His family was lovely and treated us to a homemade pasta and meatball lunch with his family followed by a tasting of some of his products. Shoutout to Siro’s Momma for her incredible fried Italian meatballs!

If you’re in Siro’s area, buy his fig nectar and fig spirit. The spirit is expertly crafted and I wholeheartedly think his spirit should be in every shop in Italy.

Here we got an up close and personal view of the Aclees, a fig pest threatening all of the fig trees in Italy. More to come on that! It’s an important topic for all fig growers and even more important for preserving the special and potentially lost fig varieties of Italy. That was the theme of this trip among many others close to what I am trying to achieve here in the US.

More to come on both the visit to Siro and Omezzolli Nursery.

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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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