Planning to grow some figs at home?
If you don’t have the faintest idea about the different types of fig trees, we’ve got your back.
Not all figs are edible; some varieties of figs even require pollination to grow edible fruit.
Furthermore, not all fresh figs taste good, as some types require drying to produce the best flavor.
What are Figs?
Figs are soft, pear shaped fruits with thin skin and many seeds inside of them. They are sweet fruits you can eat when ripe or after drying.
Fig trees are one of the earliest fruit trees to be cultivated in human history. In fact, historical texts from various religions mention the fig tree in different stories.
The first fig plants are indigenous to an area that extends from northern India to Turkey.
But they can naturally grow in warm regions of most Mediterranean countries, where the fruit is called “the poor man’s food.”
What type of fruit is a fig?
A fig is a false fruit. The seeds and flowers grow together to form a single mass, generally called the fig fruit.
Figs have the scientific name Ficus carica, and they belong to the mulberry family Moraceae.
Like most species from the mulberry family, the fig plant exudes a milky latex when you break the leaves or stems.
In addition to this, many other plants in the mulberry family also share the fig plant’s characteristic multiple or false fruits.
Major Classifications of Figs
Although consumers classify figs based on color, plant science has four horticultural classifications that separate the types of fig trees.
Light- or Dark-Colored
Light-colored figs comprise the most common type of figs, although dark-colored ones are increasing in popularity.
Light-colored figs are converted into dried figs on an industrial scale because they preserve and taste much better after drying.
Examples of light-colored figs are the yellowish green Kadota figs and white Adriatic figs that have pale pink to red flesh.
On the other hand, dark-colored figs such as the purple Turkish and black mission figs have a high sugar content that makes them reliable for eating fresh when ripe.
To distinguish among the various types of fig trees, you can look at plant cultivation and propagation practices.
Caprifig trees only produce male flowers and inedible fruits that house the offspring of fig wasps.
Fig wasps carry the pollen from the caprifig to pollenate both edible and inedible figs in female trees.
A common fig tree is what you would want to plant in your backyard as a beginner.
It is called such because you can find it as the most privately owned fig trees. This is due to their ability to produce edible fruit without pollination from other trees.
Smyrna figs only develop with the presence of fertile seeds.
In other words, a Smyrna fig tree requires pollination; non-pollinated figs wither and fall from the tree.
The fertile seeds of Smyrna figs account for the exceptional nutty flavor of the fruit.
When people started growing it in California, they called it Calimyrna figs.
San Pedro Fig
San Pedro fig trees have the combined characteristics of both common and Smyrna fig trees.
San Pedro fig trees do not require pollination for the first fruits, but the second batch of fruits will require the pollen from other trees to mature.
12 Different Types of Figs
International propagation has paved the way for so many figs, now reaching around 800 named varieties.
Much of these types have confused terminology, as the same varieties are grown in different regions only to have other names.
Let’s go over twelve popular cultivars of figs you might stumble upon in the United States.
Adriatic figs are self-pollinating plants that bear thin-skinned, yellowish green fruits with sweet, red pulp.
The name suggests it originated from countries surrounding the Adriatic Sea.
Alma figs are widely-cultivated fig plants that produce medium size fruits.
They are usually rounded or pear shaped green fruits that ripen to yellow or brown.
Alma figs have very sweet amber or pink flesh.
Black Mission Fig
First introduced by Franciscan missionaries to San Diego in 1768, black mission figs have become very popular in the US.
It is a variety that bears so much fruit if planted in the right climate.
Mission figs have a strawberry-colored and sweet interior.
Brown Turkey Fig
Brown Turkish figs are prized for their fruit and foliage, producing fruits twice each year.
Although it is called the brown Turkey fig, it has pale or deep purple skin and red flesh.
Calimyrna figs are the US version of the Smyrna fig.
This cultivar surpassed the popularity of the black mission fig because of its nutty taste.
Also called sugar figs, Celeste figs taste exceptionally sweet.
Additionally, Celeste figs are considered one of the hardiest types, so you might want to consider this cultivar when planting in cooler climates.
Chicago Hardy Fig
Like the celeste fig, the Chicago fig is also a hardy cultivar.
A Chicago fig tree grows well even in containers, and it has a high yield of sweet mahogany fruits.
Desert King Fig
Desert King Figs are one of the best varieties to grow in the Northwest.
It can produce abundant yellowish green fruits that have a rich, sweet flavor in its strawberry-colored flesh.
The Kadota fig is the same as the Dottato fig of Italy.
Kadota fig trees are beautiful ornamental fruiting plants with a bold, branching structure during the winter season.
Kadota figs are also yellowish green, and they are sweet at the correct ripeness.
LSU Gold Fig
First released by Louisiana State University in 2001, the LSU Gold Fig is a delicious yellow fig with light red to pink flesh.
LSU Purple Fig
Available since 1991, the medium size, dark purple LSU fig has good resistance to foliage diseases.
The LSU purple fig can produce two crops each year.
The O’Rourke fig is a cross between a celeste fig and a caprifig, designed to be more productive in good quality fruit.
What is the best tasting fig?
Black mission figs are the most esteemed when it comes to taste.
They produce the sweetest fruits, and that is why it is a favorite among many crowds.
However, not all people are the same.
Some people choose the nuttier taste and larger size of the Calimyrna figs, while others prefer the milder flavor of brown Turkey figs.
What is the difference between mission figs and Turkish figs?
Mission figs are generally smaller and dark purple, sometimes almost black.
Turkey figs are bigger fruits with shades of pale purple or black on their mostly brown or green skin.
Mission figs have exquisite flavor, but you can have the same quality as Turkish figs with the exact ripeness.
As long as you have edible figs, you’ll have a fruit full of many health benefits, no matter which types of fig trees you come across.
Fresh figs contain significant amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. All types of figs have the same fiber that can keep your digestive health in check.
Not all fresh figs have the same exceptional sweet taste, as others are better consumed and prepared as dried figs.