Growing figs outside of their native Mediterranean climate provides some challenges. However, properly attended, hundreds of cultivars of figs can grow and ripen fruit in growing zones even colder than zone 5 and in zones warmer than 7 which are more like their native environment.
Ripe figs are tender and sweet, with a jelly or jam like consistency across a broad spectrum of flavors, sizes, shapes, and colors (of both skin and pulp). Sizable crops can be harvested in many different growing zones, especially if the most robust cultivars are selected for the colder zones. Such cultivars have the following traits: early ripening times, dependable flavor, reliable crops.
Such robust figs earn the name we give them – mountain figs – having demonstrated their vitality in short growing seasons. While most cultivars of figs can be raised and ripened in short growing seasons if grown in a pot of at least a foot in diameter and stored in a garage or basement during winter, the most early ripening, flavorful, and productive cultivars perform best.
A baker’s dozen top Mountain Fig cultivars could include: Mt Etna, Ronde de Bordeaux, Brooklyn White, Florea, Longue d’Aout, Marseilles, Violette de Bordeaux, and the LSU cultivars: Improved Celeste, O’Rourke, Tiger, Purple, Gold, and Scott’s Black. These cultivars cover the flavor and color spectrum and can be prolific producers with great flavor in short growing seasons. Violette de Bordeaux and Scott’s Black pack perhaps the most intense flavors of this group, and are also the latest ripening.
Add a couple of odd or especially fun figs like the clownish looking Violet Sepor and the very bright tangerine-like Mary Lane, both very flavorful, and that’s a fabulous 15 Mountain Figs. Adding Long Yellow for its big size, brightness, and delicate flavor, plus Black Madeira for its premier intense flavor, and Paradiso for flavor intensity as well provides an excellent 18 that show the tremendous bounty that figs can offer to dooryard growers.