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The Shape of Fig Fruits - Why it's so Important for Higher Fruit Quality

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

In this blog post, we will be delving deeper into the topic of split resistance in figs, and why it is such an important characteristic for many fig growers. We will discuss the causes of splitting in figs, and the ways in which growers can prevent it by considering the shape of the fig variety, as well as the way the fig hangs during ripening.

We will also explore the different shapes of fig varieties and how they can affect split resistance, drawing on expert resources such as Monserrat Pons' book "Fig Trees of the Balearic Islands" and Condit's Monograph. Additionally, we will discuss the role of the skin and the angle at which the fig swells, in determining split resistance. Overall, this post will provide valuable insights for fig growers looking to improve the quality of their crops.
Key Takeaways:
  1. Split resistance is an important characteristic for fig growers as it prevents the interior of the fig from being exposed to outside elements and spoiling.

  2. The shape of the fig variety and the way the fig hangs during ripening can greatly impact split resistance. Growers should choose varieties that have a shape that sheds water well and ripen at the right angle.

  3. The skin's elasticity and firmness, as well as the length of the stem and neck, can also play a role in determining split resistance. It's important for growers to consider these factors when selecting fig varieties.

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How splitting affects fruit quality:

In regard to my previous blog post on fruit quality found here, I elaborate on why split resistance is such an important characteristic for so many fig growers. When the interior of the fig is exposed to the outside elements, it doesn't take much to spoil the fig. Keeping the outer shell of the fig intact and crack and split free is the best way to prevent this. Unfortunately for many growers splitting happens too frequently and especially at the eye. This is where the fig is most susceptible.

Why do figs split?

Splitting is frequently caused by too much moisture in the soil, but it also can be caused by the fruits themselves absorbing moisture after or during a rain event. That absorption causes the fruits to expand too quickly. Quick expansion leads to split fruits. Therefore any depression in the shape of the fruit is not ideal. At those locations, more moisture will be absorbed.

So growers need to start thinking about the shape of fig varieties when grown in humid places. As well as how exactly can the shape of the fig or the way the fig hangs during ripening shed water in a way to prevent absorption. Below you will see a drawing taken from Monserrat Pons' book, "Fig trees of the Balearic Islands."

The different shapes of figs and their names:

These are the 6 major shapes of fig varieties: Esferica, Cucurbiforme, Turbinado, Ovoidal, Piriforme & Urceolado. Of course, there are many variations and some even display fruits that can have a certain percentage of one shape and a certain percentage of another.

What's cool about the shape of fig varieties is that it is the most or one of the most reliable descriptors for a fig when trying to identify a fig variety. The shape is the most consistent characteristic even when grown in different parts of the world. If you see a photo of a fig variety that was grown in Malaysia, it will have a very similar shape to the same fig variety when it's grown in California. Because of this many highly respected documents, articles, and books on figs like Condit's Monograph, for example, often describe the shape of the fig. The shapes all have different names depending on the language. Sometimes you may hear them described as oblate or ovoid or spherical in English.

Whatever you want to call them is up to you, but through my extensive history of trialing fig varieties in a humid climate, it is clear that figs with an Ovoidal or Pyriforme shape, will shed water a lot better and therefore won't split nearly as often.

More details on what characteristics affect splitting:

However, the answer is not exactly that simple because there are figs that do split and could split quite frequently that have those particular shapes and that's not to say that a fig of another shape like Urceolado will always split. The skin also plays a critical factor. The elasticity, and specifically the skin's ability to either shed water or absorb water into its skin. For more on the skin, click here:

What I believe is equally as important to the shape of the fig is actually the way the fruit hangs as it swells and ripens. When the fig is swelling and becoming softer and changing color, the fruit can be in a state that is still quite hard, and at that point, it can be very difficult for the fruit to split at the eye. As it softens and expands, it becomes easier and easier. Some varieties as they soften and expand have their eyes pointed toward the sky.

The Importance of the ripening angle of the fig:

The eye is the most sensitive part of the fig, so if the eye is pointing toward the sky rather than it being the last part of the fig that rain will touch, then we have a problem and it is very likely at that point that the fig will absorb water into that location of the fig and split.

Simply put, the angle at which the fig is swelling can also dramatically affect that fig variety's split resistance. So how do we choose figs that ripen and swell at the right angle?

Well, actually it's also quite simple. If you look at the length of the stem, each variety has a different stem length. Additionally, each fig variety has a different length of its neck and each variety's neck can be of a certain firmness as it ripens.

For example, the Campaniere variety is a fruit that is of a spherical shape and therefore is prone to splitting more than a fig-like Celeste, which displays your classic Pyriforme shape. However, Campaniere doesn't split as often as let's say Ronde de Bordeaux or Pastiliere (these are other varieties with a spherical shape) because Campaniere usually has a long stem and the neck of the fig allows it to droop in a way that is conducive toward preventing splitting.

For a detailed account of the Campaniere fig, click here:

So if we want the best possible variety to prevent splitting, the best solution is to look at photos of the shape and of course also how the fig hangs. We want long necks, long stems, and slender bodies to allow the fig to shed water without absorption for avoiding the eye. See Moro de Caneva below for a great example of what we're looking for. And if you want to know about other varieties that also have the right shape, click here:

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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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