So why do we even care about the Celeste fig variety? What makes it so special? Well... it's easily one of the most humid climate-tolerant figs in existence. Having a teardrop shape allows it to shed water easily, it rarely if ever splits, it has a skin that acts like a waterproof jacket and Celeste has a high enough brix content to usually avoid fermentation and spoilage. Those are all great traits for a fig variety when they're being grown in humid climates.
However, not all Celeste figs are created equal... They can in fact be quite different even though some may share parentage, have the same exact genetics, or be named similarly.
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2. Celeste vs. Blue Celeste
These are your classic, true and original Celeste figs. One of which called Blue Celeste was touted to be a little different than Celeste due to its blue skin, but as I currently understand it, I'm not sure there is a difference genetically between them.
As Jon Verdick mentions here: - "Generally, I propagate from Celeste JN, GM, IS, and Blue Celeste JN. Those are my favorites, which is why I propagate them. Fruit drop has not been an issue with any Celeste in my collection. USDA / UC Davis DNA testing indicates all of the Celestes and Blue Celestes are the same (I think we tested 19 different ones), but performance here is not the same."
After reading this, I now think of them like the many Hardy Chicago figs. There are over 100+ named varieties of figs that are very similar to the popular fig, Hardy Chicago. These 100+ named varieties may be genetically equal like the DNA testing mentioned above, but I know for a fact that they show different observable characteristics due to something called epigenetics.
Some are much more different than others, which is where I think the whole "Blue" Celeste confusion comes into play because some Celeste figs will not have blue skin. Some stay brown or even turn a greyish color.
It should be noted, however, that there is a variety found in the USDA's collection called Blue Celeste, but I think that's where the term stops. Even Blue Celeste is simply genetically the same as other Celeste figs as mentioned by Jon Verdick.
3. Standout Celeste Sources
So far some of the standout Celeste strains that I'm growing are The One, Stallion, Sweet Diana, Bill's Patrick Supergiant "Not" & Violette de Marseilles. I'd like to grow some of the strains Jon is recommending at some point to compare the epigenetic differences.
4. What Does the Celeste fig Taste like?
In terms of flavor, the original Celeste is your classic sugar fig. It was even once called the "Sugar" fig. You can read more on what a Sugar fig is here: - Some Celeste figs have a little more complexity to them than others because of their concord grape, blueberry, and other berry flavor notes.
5. The Different Types of Celeste
Onto Black Celeste - Having cleared all of the confusion regarding the classic Celeste fig and Blue Celeste, I now want to point your attention toward Black Celeste.
In my opinion, this fig variety is the best tasting among the many Celeste figs that I'm going to mention in this blog post. Why? Because the berry flavor is much more intense. It's also quite different, which makes me think about the potential epigenetic differences, or maybe Black Celeste is indeed an entirely different fig genetically.
It's hard to really say without genetic testing. But you can see the difference. You don't really need a genetic test. The pulp and skin are much different in color and with it, the flavor usually follows. There are other observable differences too, but the most that stand out to me is the difference in flavor. You can read more about Black Celeste here: - I wrote an entire blog post about it.
Improved Celeste - This is where things get a little confusing. Improved Celeste is a fig that was bred with Celeste as one of the parents to try and improve it. LSU In the 50s started a breeding program and thus gave birth to figs like LSU Purple, Tiger, Champagne, Hollier, and even a fig we hobbyists call "Improved Celeste."
There is a distinction here, however, LSU Purple is what you could consider an "improved version of Celeste," but it is not the variety that many hobbyists refer to as Improved Celeste. And believe it or not, there are quite a few figs labeled Improved Celeste at LSU's orchards that people have propagated and spread throughout the online fig community.
LSU O'Rourke you could say is one of them. Mine is from Ediblelandscaping in VA, which is clearly different than your typical Celeste. However, it is also a sugar fig and overall I do find it to be an "improvement."
LSU Tiger - Out of all of the named LSU-bred figs I find that this one is the closest to Celeste outside of O'Rourke and Improved Celeste. This from what I can tell is very similar to the Celeste figs that I have tried but simply double the size and generally is a much better eating experience due to its unique sweentess and chewy skin.
It also is a sugar fig like Celeste, but it also has concord grape and blueberry-like flavor notes. It's very good and one of my favorite figs period. Some other names you may hear for LSU Tiger are Calderwood & Easton Purple.
Mega Celeste - This is one of the worst figs I've ever grown. It has a very different shape than Celeste. It was named by Herman2 after he found it and bought it at a Lowes or Home Depot claiming that it was similar to Celeste but much larger.
I can agree with that. Kind of similar to LSU Tiger in that way, but Mega Celeste is a very poor performer with a much worse flavor. It probably has no relation to Celeste. Only in name.
Malta Black - This is a Hardy Chicago type that is said to have Celeste somewhere in its genetic line. I believe it has no direct relation to Celeste. There is a fig however that is called "Malta" which is a Celeste that attains a blue skin that Dalton Durio sells in LA.
Malta is one of the original names for Celeste that is mentioned in Condit's monograph.
Southern Brown Turkey - You can find many strains/versions of this fig too. As people in the South (not knowing what their fig is called) simply named their fig Brown Turkey. However, some of the strains of Southern Brown Turkey fall under the Celeste umbrella and should be additions to the many strains of Celeste Jon Verdick was talking about above. The true Southern Brown Turkey and the true Celeste are very different figs, however.
6. Other fig varieties with Celeste parentage:
LSU Hollier - This fig is no doubt worth mentioning in any Celeste write-up. Similarly shaped, but it's got yellow/green skin and red pulp. It has a very different flavor profile than your typical sugar fig. Boasting a more fruity honey profile that I find so unique and pleasurable to eat.
LSU Scott's Yellow - This fig variety is supposed to be quite similar to Hollier in its appearance, but with a slightly different flavor. I am looking forward to trying this one myself in the future.
LSU Champagne vs. Golden Celeste - LSU Champagne is probably the most reliable honey fig I grow. That makes sense if it has Celeste in its parentage.
It has yellow skin, amber pulp, and numerous sugar spots. Sometimes it's called LSU Golden Celeste, but do not confuse this fig with the handful of Golden Celeste strains that exist.
LSU Champagne was the strain of "Golden Celeste" that was chosen to be released by LSU. The others found at LSU's orchards were not released and simply have the name, Golden Celeste. Although they might be similar in appearance these figs are quite different than each other. Some Golden Celeste strains even have a red pulp.
The Celeste fig is a variety that is highly prized for its ability to thrive in humid climates. While all Celeste figs may not be the same, the original Celeste and Blue Celeste are considered to be the same, genetically.
The standout strains of Celeste figs include The One, Stallion, Sweet Diana, Bill's Patrick Supergiant "Not" & Violette de Marseilles.
Black Celeste is considered the best tasting among Celeste figs, with a more intense berry flavor. Additionally, there are many figs under the Celeste umbrella that vary in taste and characteristics.
For more information on Celeste, watch my latest video on a fig called "The One." A really nice source of Celeste boasting a very short hang time. I also talk about some of the other named Celeste figs: