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The Fig Trees of Philadelphia

Updated: Jan 25

This is a Hardy Chicago fig located in the Southwark community garden.

Fig trees in Philadelphia are like an untapped gold mine. On the surface, you may think that it's just another city, but if you dig around, you'll realize that there are trees everywhere. Not only that, but the city has had a huge number of fig-growing immigrants come through and with them, they brought their fig trees.

It's also a city that has never been fully explored. I don't know of a single serious hobbyist grower that has spent the time to look around. In NYC my friend Danny Gentile (the owner of FigBid) was the go-to guy in New York City for fig trees. He would hand out business cards, put ads in the local papers and prune fig trees for folks around New York City. Through his efforts, he has found a number of fig trees that potentially could have been lost forever and never introduced to the fig-growing community.

In Philadelphia, there isn't a Danny Gentile, which is partly why I decided to champion this effort.

As always if you want more fig-related content like this, feel free to subscribe to the Fig Boss newsletter at the top of the page.

And consider supporting the cause by buying the beautiful and easy-to-read Fig Tree Timeline fig poster, here:

If you'll take a look around Northeast Philly & South Philly, you'll understand why. They're everywhere. Not only are they numerous, but I've seen in a limited time this season at least 40 trees that are over 10 ft in height and appear to have been there for an extended period of time. There's clearly a huge resource of genetics here and I aim to find something unique, hardy, and special. In fact, I feel like I already have. After looking around this summer, it didn't take a long time to closely inspect some trees and realize that they're unique.

Most of the trees in the city are Hardy Chicago and Columbaro Nero. They're very easily identifiable. Celeste is probably third in quantity with some Dotatto and Adriatic figs mixed in.

Below are photos of the commonly found figs in Philadelphia. For more on different fig varieties, check out the Fig Boss variety directory, here:

There is also the somewhat famous Paradiso fig grown by Giovanni. There was an article written about him and his figs years ago after selling his amazing fruits at Reading Terminal Market. His tree is located in South Philly. You can read the article here:

In Giovanni's community in South Philly the families there are overwhelming of Italian descent. When visiting this fall, I could not believe how numerous the fig trees were there. And each house had not only its own but usually something unique from the next house.

My plan is to go back this winter, knock on doors and ask for cuttings. I'll keep you all updated as I grow more of these trees. There will be a lot to learn about each one.

Here are some trees I photographed on my travels:

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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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