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For those that don't know of this fig, you should remember it. It's probably the most well regarded variety in fig history. Black Madeira goes by many names and the origin is unclear, but what I do know is that it is found all over Europe and a very well respected grower in Portugal by the name of Lampo believed that the real name for this fig is Violetta. Or at least that is what he has called it in his country before the USDA imported it to the US and US hobbyists made it popular. Per the name you should expect that it comes from Madeira. Where exactly in Madeira? That is unclear. Just know that the origin is foggy, but the reputation of this fig is clear. It's one of the best and I believe it has immortalized itself in fig history that many growers will always respect for it's taste qualities.


And that's really what makes Black Madeira so special. It's one of the best tasting and almost like a right of passage all fig hobbyists must go through. Even if it's not a great choice for your particular climate. The flavor has acidic and complex berry tones combined with high sweetness from fig nectar pooling in the void & dripping from the eye. The berry flavor is intense and is among the most intense you can find in a fig. This is really what makes the flavor so special. It's all in the rich sweetness and berry flavor. I remember eating one of these that was caprified and grown in perfect California weather. I could not believe what I was eating. I would go to California again just to taste this fig grown in perfect conditions again.


It's only fair that something tasting so good is lacking in other areas. Unfortunately it's quite a late variety. Often taking longer than your standard 90 days to ripen after fruit set. This number is largely influenced by heat units. In the PNW or the UK, you will have a very hard time ripening this fig without a greenhouse. Even here in the Northeast if your tree is not mature and unfortunately reaching maturity can be a long process due to FMV.

This variety has historically been one of the least healthiest and most infected with fig mosaic virus. The USDA's collection at Wolfskill became heavily infected with FMV as time went on. Everyone wanted this variety and therefore it was quite the mission of some growers to find a source of Black Madeira that was mostly FMV free. One of which is from a hobbyist named KK. That's where the KK tag comes from when you see BM (KK). It's quite a long messy story, but in actuality the BM (KK) version of Black Madeira is no different than the USDA version.


Whether or not this is true does not matter to me personally because it is clear that the KK version is significantly more healthier than the USDA version. They may share the same exact genetics, but why choose a less healthy source when given the option. The good news is.. if you have the USDA version, your tree can very easily become as healthy as the KK source. Simply rejuvenation prune. If you're not familiar with rejuvenation pruning, I would highly recommend reading up on the topic on the blog.


So in my eyes, the argument is pointless. They are very likely the same and both can be made exactly the same with proper technique.


Another big downside and probably the biggest is its split resistance. This fig is one of the absolute worst. Growers have been scratching their head for years trying to stop this fig from splitting. My advice: you can't. The shape and the way the fig hangs as it swells is way off to produce high quality fruit reliably in a humid climate. It's so bad that you may only actually enjoy 10% of the actual production. So if the tree produced 50 figs in a season, I only realistically enjoy 5 of them here. As I said though.. it's a rite of passage and those figs will be damn good. We've talked a lot about the shape and the way these figs hang and how that dramatically affects the way it sheds water and therefore also how it absorbs water. The worst piece though is the eye of the figs are often pointed towards the sky when swelling. If rain hits the eye of the fig (like the majority of varieties), I can almost guarantee that it will split. That is where it is most sensitive.


One cool feature of this fig is that it often drips nectar from the eye. This can stop ants from entering, but attract other insects. Personally, I think it's a cool visual and a sign of a very sweet fig, but nothing more. The skin is tough and quite thick. Some really don't like that. I don't prefer it, but you can very easily peel this fig and that thick outer shell allows it to be handled without too much damage. For this reason, it would actually make a decent commercial fig. Wouldn't that be nice? To see Black Madeira figs sold in stores.

Without a doubt this is a fantastic variety. Well worth study, but without a dry and long season climate, you're going to have some heart breaking moments. Enjoy!

Black Madeira Fig Tree

  • Why choosing the right fig variety matters


    Choosing the right fig variety can make all the difference in so many positive or even negative ways. A variety that is well suited to your climate and taste preferences will ensure that your getting the fig experience that you deserve.


    It's heartbreaking when you put years of work into a tree to finally realize that it's just not suited to your location because it will rarely produce high quality figs and in some cases, may never produce fruit that's even edible!


    Fig varieties are very location specific because they're so highly subjected to their environment while they're ripening. Unlike many other fruits, the fig can be destroyed in its final ripening stage. It's a soft fruit that can absorb water into its skin causing cracking, splitting, mold & fermentation all because the inside of the fruit gets exposed to the outside elements of nature.


    An apple has a hard covering. A persimmon has a hard covering. Berries and other soft fleshed fruits are also susceptible to bad weather conditions, but they have a short window of time in which they're soft and ready to be picked. Figs can be soft hanging on the tree for 5, 10 or even 15 days!


    How to choose the right fig variety for your climate


    When choosing a fig variety, it's important to consider the climate in your area during the winter, summer and fall.


    • Some fig varieties are more tolerant of cold weather and others can be grown in climates that have mild summers because of their reliable breba production or their early main crop harvest period.

    • Others are better suited for humid climates because they don't need to hang as long on the tree and they have a skin that acts like a waterproof jacket. The water just slides right off.

    • Others are better suited to warmer climates and have the ability to taste incredible even in 100-110F temperatures.


    If you want fig variety recommendations, read through the description of each fig variety carefully, or better yet, don't be afraid to contact me. In your message, include your growing zone, location, annual rainfall, and how you want to grow them.


    To read more about choosing the right fig variety, click here:

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