Mt Etna, or Mongibello, type figs are especially productive and robust and go by many names, including: Hardy Chicago, Takoma Violet, Gino’s Black, Sal’s EL/GS, Maryland Berry, Marseilles Black, Zingarella, Rossi Dark, Keddie, Malta Black, Black Greek, Spanish Unknown, Dark Portuguese, Salem Dark, Black Bethlehem, Papa John, St Rita, Danny’s Delight, Hardy Hartford, Mount Etna Unknown…. The flavor is that of strawberry-grape punch. Mt Etna has one of the best most reliable flavors and is one of the most prolific fig varieties.
Either a single cultivar or a group of very closely related strains, the Mt Etna variety may be the most common type of fig grown in northern zones. This type of fig can be traced to Mt Etna, Sicily where it is known as Mongibello, beautiful mountain, presumably combining the Sicilian Mungibeddu with the Italian Montebello.
This fig can be traced to many countries and regions in the Mediterranean basin. Commercially, it has been traced back to being sold in the city of Marseilles, France and the region of Provence in the 1800s, and still is commonly known today as Black Marseilles.
Some of the Mt Etnas that are traded or sold under the many different names have been shown to be genetically slightly different from one another, while others seem synonymous. It is very difficult if not impossible to differentiate various strains of Mt Etna by eye or taste.
If planted outdoors and killed to the ground by severe cold over winter, Mt Etna is the variety most likely to ripen fruit on new growth in summer. Various forms of protection can help most fig cultivars avoid total top-kill. One simple method: in fall, press low limbs flat to the ground and cover with layers of leaves, wood chips, or dirt.
A bountiful fig with a wonderful grape-strawberry flavor, Mt Etna begins to ripen a couple weeks after the earliest cultivars, all things equal. Of any fig cultivar grown in ground in cold zones, robust Mt Etna seems best able to ripen fruit each year.