Small figs average 10-30 grams in weight, while medium-sized fig varieties average 35-60 grams, and large fig varieties average over 65, 70, to 200 grams. Yes, you heard that right. 200 grams! Some can be the size of a tennis ball or larger. In this article, I’m going to share with you how you can increase the size of your figs, what fig varieties you can choose from that produce larger figs, and what the downsides are of having larger fig fruits.
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So what’s the primary way I can get figs the size of a tennis ball?
The Primary Reason for Size Variation:
The size of figs largely (no pun intended) depends on their genetics. Just as people inherit physical traits from their parents, fig varieties inherit their size characteristics from their genetic makeup. For example, the Hardy Chicago fig is generally smaller, while the Brown Turkey fig can grow much larger.
Large Fig Varieties:
The most well-known large fig is what you probably guessed, the Brown Turkey. The Brown Turkey fig, known by several names including the Black Jack fig and the Texas Blue Giant fig, originates from Turkey. This fig has become one of the most globally widespread varieties due to its robustness, ease of cultivation, abundant fruit yield, and notably large fruit size. These characteristics position it as an easy choice as a commercial fig variety.
Flavor and Taste:
Despite its widespread cultivation, the Brown Turkey fig is not especially known for its flavor. While it has a sweet taste and is often filled with nectar, many other fig varieties surpass its flavor, texture, and eating experience.
Different Types of Brown Turkey:
Confusingly, there are three recognized types of Brown Turkey figs in the U.S. and each is named from the region they are most prominent from. This variety has been so widely propagated that over the last century, many figs have been misidentified as Brown Turkey:
California Brown Turkey:
This is the type we’ve been discussing at length thus far. It is the original Brown Turkey before any naming confusion appeared and is most popular in California where it is grown commercially.
Fruit Characteristics: This is a large-sized fig with brown or red skin and light red or brown flesh. Notably, the fruit has a hollow cavity and a simple flavor with pronounced sweetness. A drawback is the fig's open eye and its skin's propensity to absorb water, making it less ideal in moist environments.
Cold Hardiness: Suitable for Zones 7-10.
Ripening Period: Midseason.
Climate Preferences: It thrives best in hot and dry climates.
Recommendation for Backyard Growers: Despite its commercial qualities, this variety is not recommended for backyard fig enthusiasts due to its lackluster flavor and performance in many U.S. regions.
This version of Brown Turkey is most popular in the UK, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark. Along with the California variety, is also not highly regarded for its flavor. Some growers report caramel and sugar flavors that I am quite fond of, but when grown in humid climates they are both lacking. The opposite is also true, when grown in the right climate, they can produce higher quality figs leading to only average or slightly above-average-tasting figs.
Keep in mind, that English Brown Turkey is commonly found under the name Olympian. Like the California variety, it also has many names like Nexoe/Bornholm, Sodus Sicilian, and Sweet George. English Brown Turkey has brown skin and brown to amber pulp usually with an elongated to round shape. It’s also a larger fig variety, but I would classify the main crop as medium to large in size. The brebas however are reliable and numerous. These can reach larger sizes of 150 grams.
Southern Brown Turkey:
Southern Brown Turkey is most predominantly found in Southern parts of the United States. Frequently, Celeste is mistakenly called Brown Turkey by those unfamiliar with fig varieties, but there may also be a unique Southern Brown Turkey variety like its English and Californian counterparts. This fig is typically small in size with purple skin and an amber to red pulp. It’s like a cross between Celeste and Californian Brown Turkey.
Conadria, Atreano, & White Triana:
White Triana is an underrated fig variety that stands out for its distinct thick nectar, dense texture, and consistent melon notes even during ripening. This is unique as most figs tend to lose their melon notes as they ripen. The White Triana, however, retains these flavors, combining them with moderate berry notes.
White Triana belongs to a category or "type" of figs with a melon/honey-like profile. Other varieties in this classification include Atreano, Sister Madeleine's Yellow, Unk Mittica, Brooklyn White, and Conadria. Among these, White Triana has the strongest berry flavor, and depending on the name you choose, they’ll regularly ripen at over 60 grams.
The figs from this classification require extended ripening to reveal their full flavor profile. When ripened inadequately, they may not taste as appealing. A common issue is that many growers do not allow these figs the time they need to fully ripen.
The flavor profile of White Triana is so unique that it could merit its own category and is what I call, Melon Berry. It is recommended for fig enthusiasts to try the White Triana to experience this unique flavor combination.
Longue d'Aout (LDA):
Longue d'Aout, also known as LdA, is a French fig variety whose name translates to "long of August," indicative of its harvest time and elongated shape. The variety is early ripening, producing large-sized fruits that are particularly sweet, with a delightful berry flavor.
Remarkably, in years of drier soil conditions, the fruits have a cotton candy sweetness. Similar to the White Triana, LDA has a challenging-to-place flavor profile that I would also classify as Honey Berry.
The figs produced by Longue d’Aout are large, with individual fruits consistently over 75 grams, and in prior years they’ve been double that weight, around 100-150 grams.
An important aspect of Longue d'Aout is its resistance to splitting, even in conditions that would typically cause other figs to split, leading to higher fruit quality, but like Californian Brown Turkey, it has a troublesome open eye when they are produced at a larger size.
Additionally, it is considered quite productive, vigorous, and hardy, making it an excellent choice for various climates around the world.
However, this variety does have its drawbacks, with the primary one being the skin's quality. The skin of Longue d’Aout figs tends to act like a sponge, absorbing water, which can lead to the fruit spoiling after rainfall. When it rains, the absorbed water can dilute the sugars within the fruit, potentially causing fermentation and attracting fruit flies if the moisture content within the fig becomes too high.
In light of these findings, there is a new objective to find Longue d'Aout types from different sources to ascertain if one might have a better skin quality. Despite its skin issue, Longue d’Aout remains a top-tier variety, particularly appealing to those with a preference for sweeter figs.
Dalmatie is a classic, large, green-skinned fig with a red interior. Its eating experience is outstanding due to its thick texture. It is remarkably sweet and nectar-filled, maintaining a dense pulp.
Its origin is uncertain, but the fig gained popularity due to the French, who have a deep appreciation for food.
Size vs. Flavor:
Dalmatie stands out due to its exceptional flavor despite its large size. The brebas can weigh up to 200 grams or more.
It's perfectly shaped for humid climates and doesn't split easily. Overall, Dalmatie is well-adapted, productive, hardy, and grows quickly.
Comparison with Adriatic Figs:
Dalmatie is often mistakenly identified as an Adriatic type due to its skin and pulp colors. However, the latter is much smaller and flatter. Dalmatie's flavor is sweeter than the more balanced flavor of Adriatic figs, though their berry-like flavors are comparable.
Golden Rainbow (aka Yellow Long Neck):
Golden Rainbow produces enormous honey figs that are early to ripen, rain-resistant, and flavorful. It's an all-in-one variety with significant commercial potential.
Growth & Production:
The tree has extensive leaves, indicating its vigor. It's highly precocious and prolific. If one were to measure harvests, Golden Rainbow would likely be at the top of the list in terms of productivity.
If you’re curious about buying one of these special and large fig varieties, check out my listings, here.
Techniques to Increase Fig Size:
Excessive water, both from rain and soil moisture, can cause figs to swell and become larger. However, overwatering can lead to fruits splitting or cracking and can also dilute the fig's flavor. Figs with too much water content may taste watered down.
Increasing soil moisture throughout the season, especially during harvest time, can boost fruit size, but it might reduce sweetness and overall desirability. This technique might be suitable for commercial growers focused on size for market appeal.
This is the million-dollar technique I can’t believe I’m sharing for free. Excessive winter pruning can stimulate larger fig growth, but growers must be cautious. Improper pruning might lead to increased tree growth at the expense of fruit production due to hormonal balances.
Trees in Japan, trained using methods like "Japanese Espalier" or "low cordons," demonstrate that with the right pruning and training, fig trees can produce larger fruits even after heavy pruning.
The principle behind this method is that with fewer branches, the tree is trained to have fewer branches and, subsequently, larger leaves.
Bigger leaves capture more sunlight, enabling more photosynthesis. This results in the production of more energy and carbohydrates, which are then channeled into the fruits, making them bigger.
Fruit Size from Suckers:
Figs that grow on suckers, or shoots that come up from the base of the plant, often grow larger due to their rapid growth and the abundance of carbohydrates and photosynthesis.
A simpler way to understand fig size in relation to tree growth is: that larger leaves usually mean larger fruits.
If growers can maximize the growth area and reduce the number of fruits on their trees, the existing fruits will likely grow larger.
Ultimately, the balance of energy within the tree plays a crucial role in determining fig size.