At some point, I’ll get this ironic itemizing of figs into an expansive ebook, or at least a PDF, with photos, but for now here’s a draft excerpt (with links instead of photos) for anyone’s (hopeful) amusement. Some of the information inside the play here may be controversial but the details are to the best of my understanding at the moment: The Terrible Ten, The Dubious Dozen, Designer Figs By LSU, Twenty-One Too Many, and The Elusive Eleven.
Down & Dirty Secrets of Home Grown Figs
THE TERRIBLE TEN
- Celeste is an unbearable fig. Do not grow Celeste unless you live with floods, in which case consider moving. The Celeste tree is huge, the Celeste fig is tiny. Tasty but tiny, an itty-bitty sugar fig, one of the most popular figs in the US south. It grows on trees so dense with leaves it guzzles enormous amounts of water and can easily drop all fruit if thirsty. No fruit, no feast. Do you like endless leaves hiding minuscule fruit? Grow Celeste. Do you like abundant fruit you can actually see? Fruit that doesn’t throw a temper tantrum when it runs out of water? A tree that won’t cast all figs to the ground to never ripen? Or do you want to irrigate for all you’re worth and pay the bill that Celeste commands? Avant Celeste, le déluge. Great flavor and productivity may come with great – no – unbearable – demands. With enough water, you can grow little jewels. With too little, you get nothing. And Celeste will be most happy to give nothing to you at all, all the while flapping its big fuzzy leaves in your face. Enjoy!
- Marseilles Black is a horrible fig. This spiked grape punch fig is so fruity, delicious, and addictive that it will make you crave figs to the point of bankrupting your household. You’ll want to grow more and more. Ominously, Marseilles Black is the fig most often planted in ground from Boston to Baltimore. It’s infectious, hard to fight. This Mt Etna type fig is known by dozens of names, including Hardy Chicago, Black Greek, Dark Portuguese, Zingarella, Abruzzi, and so on, synonyms or often indistinguishable variations on the theme. Marseilles Black may be one of the few figs grown in every country in Europe, and in many beyond, and in every state in the US. It’s the easiest growing and most reliable and one of the most flavorful of all figs. That’s why it is so dangerous. It will hook you on figs. Do not grow Marseilles Black unless you are prepared to pour the remainder of your life’s work into growing and eating figs. You will risk dying broke, fig-drunk, destroyed by figs. Want some good advice? Flee your figs.
- Brooklyn White is a deadly fig. This old-timey yellowish-greenish fig, also known as Naples White, can look like it took one punch too many from the sun when ripe, its yellow skin partially burnt, leathery, sometimes torn, with a flattened nose, amorphous. Brooklyn White will break your heart waiting for it to ripen in the weeks after the earliest ripening dark figs have come in. Brooklyn White is much bigger and brighter than the early figs and very succulent, oozing berry, honey, and sugar that crusts chewy around the eye. A unbearable fever of anticipation may kill you before this fig ripens. Beware Brooklyn White. This is a fig that slays without mercy.
- Ronde de Bordeaux is the worst fig. Because it is too perfect. This is why everyone hates Ronde de Bordeaux. And properly so. This round red fig can transform maddeningly over a week or more into an ornate blackened fruit, a tapestry of cracked skin with scrumptious strawberry pulp. Ronde de Bordeaux is easily among the first fig temptations to ripen each season. Its long slender lobed leaves taunt you with their elegant lines. Its productivity overwhelms. The powerfully-built spherical shape of the fruit will tease you with gleaming curves that ripen brazenly through striking stages of green, red, black. A knockout fig like Ronde de Bordeaux is not for the weak of heart. It will have you in thrall. Stay away from Ronde. It is the worst. The absolute worst.
- Long Yellow fig will blind you. Avoid looking directly at this big gold orb. You will temporarily, possibly permanently, be blinded to any other fig. The only cure is to eat it. The quenching agave-flavored juice in the pulp of this fig will momentarily return you to your senses, only to cause you to stare where you should not. Beware looking directly at this fig of the sun. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s spherical, it’s blazing yellow. Its pulp is pure like ethereal agave. Long Yellow is too good to be true. It will burn you, make you gaze at it until you are blind, lacking sight and sense for any other fig or even fruit. Delicate of skin, juicy of pulp. Big and round. Save your eyes, your mind while you still can. Turn your back upon Long Yellow for the good of everyone you know, and be saved from the light.
- Black Madeira is an atrocious fig. Many would say the most atrocious. Black Madeira, aka Figo Preto, is too intense of flavor, too silky smooth of skin, too strong and flowing of form, unspeakably delicious, endlessly captivating. Black Madeira figs ripen in look and strength as sable vases, like polished black steel, easily able to withstand both heat and frost. The flavor is liquid dynamite, extremely dangerous. No one needs such volatility on a plate. Best to clear it off as quickly as possible. Many fig growers proclaim Black Madeira to be the most appealing, the most premier, the most irresistible, the Queen of figs, the most powerful and threatening of all. Fortunately for those who would save themselves from the lethal might of Black Madeira, it ripens late in the growing season, sometimes too late to produce in cold regions. Unfortunately, Figo Preto, a virtual synonym of Black Madeira, ripens weeks earlier, producing fruit in most areas. So then how to escape the grip of this greatest of all figs? Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, ultimately you will submit like a serf and pay tribute to your queen, Preto Madeira.
- Sucrette fig is false advertising. Oh, Sucrette! How pristine, how sweet! How pure sugar sweet, it clearly wants you to think. While Celeste, one of the staple figs in the US south, may have earned its nickname Sugar fig, Sucrette claims for its formal name the French word for Sweetener, or Sweetie. There’s no flavor in sweet except sweet, so how good can Sucrette be, if simply sweet as it pretends to be? Good try, Sucrette. Not only does Sucrette have plenty of actual flavors, it will knock you back with its potent thick gel. Its flavor is complex and creamy. Sucrette is no simple sugar fig despite its suggestive name, more like a cross between cake and cream, slathered in honey. No one fig should be named simplistically Sugar or Sweet. Especially one that doesn’t taste much or at all sheer sugary sweet. The name Sucrette is sheer propaganda. It deceives you into thinking Sucrette is far more simple than it really is. In fact, Sucrette’s lineage falls between two supreme figs, even as premier figs go: Black Madeira and Col de Dame. Sucrette is a covert, super-supreme, premier fig by nature. Don’t let the fake news of its name fool you into thinking otherwise. Sucrette would have people believe it should be allowed to grow quietly away from the spotlight of ficus fame, rather than be gobbled down, eaten alive, digested with extreme gusto and endless satisfaction. We’re onto you, Sucrette. Fool me once, shame on Sucrette. Fool me twice, shame on all figs! Sucrette is long overdue for a name change. I propose LCDLA fig: La Crème De La Crème.
- Planera is the fig to avoid at all costs. Incredibly, Planera is like Sucrette only bigger, better, more shapely, more colorful, and even more stunningly flavorful and melting in mouth. This fig is a sizable swirled mighty big marble of yum, as if stuffed with the slobber of berries, honey, cream, and sugar. Planera is dense of pulp, with cracking dazzling artwork for skin, jagged cuts, swirls of blues and yellows, chewy and crusted near the eye with sugar. This fig is the whole feast – the dessert, the main course, the appetizer, the side buffet, and the after dinner drink. Maybe once a decade a person should eat this fig. It would be remembered for at least that long, or forever. Imbibing this beauty more often would be fatal attraction. Planera is a drug fruit, better than a ball of fried ice cream growing and glinting beneath the melting sun. Planera is a timebomb of a bombshell, a fig you might absentmindedly sell souls for in the midst of consuming. Wicked, wicked, nasty fruit, this one. See Planera and go the other way, or be possessed and devoured by the very bad news of this fig.
- San Miro Piro is the most smug fig in the universe. It must be admitted that this enormous yellow-drunk and gaudy fig produces one of the most impressive breba crop fruits. Maybe the best. But there’s a reason why San Miro Piro should not be so smug about its precious early season sun-glinted glory of flavor, size, and look. It’s not a main crop fig, the most flavorful kind. It’s a mere breba fig! Only in warm growing zones like parts of California where the fig wasp survives and pollinates, will San Miro Piro ripen main crop figs, as its second crop. Across most of the US though, far outside of fig wasp terrain, San Miro Piro ripens breba crop only. Oddly, San Miro Piro main crop figs are said to be not as good as the earlier breba crop. Better and bigger breba it is said than even that of Desert King, with fruit that equals the daunting size and color of Long Yellow, with pulp almost as creamy as that of maybe the most purely creamy main crop fig of all, Osborn Prolific, and first ripening before any main crop. Breba crop figs are generally inferior to main crop figs, except, as it turns out, with San Miro Piro. Possibly this is why San Miro Piro seems so smug in big golden glow. The other annoying thing about San Miro Piro is that no one appears to know what its name means, or even what language it is. Spanish, Italian, Serbian? A mistake? Misspelling? Is San Miro Piro even of this world? Who knows? Who cares? San Miro Piro isn’t saying. Doubtful it would if it could. San Miro Piro remains smug and silent as death. As with so many bad figs, best to get rid of this one by downing it without delay.
- Grantham’s Royal is the most ignoble fig of all. For presuming to act so noble. Figs are the opposite of aristocratic, all pretense aside. Figs are not powerful and rich. Figs do not rule over anyone. Figs are lords of no manor. Figs sit on no throne, live in no palace. No matter that plenty of figs have been cultivated on palace grounds, there’s no accounting for human taste, even among the royals, especially among the royals. The fig known as Grantham’s Royal is also known as Dauphine. For ridiculous reasons, the “Dauphine” was the wife of the heir apparent to the throne of France, back in the days of Kings, Queens, royalty, and such foolishness. Grantham’s Royal fig is no more a Dauphine than it is a dolphin. In reality, Grantham’s Royal is a mere breba fig, like San Miro Piro. Cropping on last year’s wood rather than on the new limbs of main crop figs, breba figs ripen only one limited crop, outside of the warm regions of the fig wasp. Grantham’s Royal is big, broad, and symmetrical, productive and caramel-sugary, purple-maroon of color, an elite breba fig, possibly the most elite, but that doesn’t make it royal. Except perhaps in color. Any fig that claims to be royal might do well to remember the guillotine. Hey, let’s have a super rich family of figs rule over us! No thanks. So who doesn’t feel free to take a knife to Grantham’s Royal, to serve it up ripe to friends and family? You shouldn’t kill people of course, but figs are fruits not people, and figs are not even royalty, even if they like to act like they are. Figs are merely food. Extremely suspect food at that. Carve away, I say.