I planted 2 fig trees that gave me a good number of fruits this year - Black Jack and Violette de Bourdeaux. I got these 2 because they were sold as dwarfs and at the time of planting, I didn’t know that I could just prune any size tree to keep it small. IMO the Violette is way better tasting than the BlackJack. The fruit is sweeter, has a complex fig flavor, but are smaller than Black Jack which has huge fruit but is kind of watery and flavorless in comparison (I haven’t watered it since the hottest summer days of July).
I need to relocate the Black Jack and was thinking of finding a better-tasting fig variety. I’m in zone 10a without the summer heat (coastal SF bay area) and the Black Jack needs to be relocated because it’s not getting enough afternoon sun and so the fruit is ripening slowly (many of the fruits never ripen). What are some other fig options that I should consider, given that I prefer Violette de Bourdeaux to Black Jack?
There are a lot of the berry-type flavored figs. In the community, I believe Black Madeira, Figo Preto, Smiths, and Cravins Craving are all highly rated berry figs (and are priced accordingly!) The fig varieties have been divided up several different flavor groups. @Richard has helped record this. Unfortunately, where I am I do not have the ability to call up his online spreadsheet.
You have a couple of options, you can leave the Black Jack in place and graft better figs onto it, or acquire a different variety and plant them, either in the ground or in pots. Figs do very well in pots.
There are a number of different ways to get some of the better varieties. Local and online nurseries are a decent source. Avoid eBay as there are a lot of unscrupulous sellers there. Figbid.com is a good site which actively polices the sellers. You can also find members of this forum as well as people on OurFigs who will give/sell/trade cuttings and whole plants. The premium (ie hyped up) fig varieties can be expensive. If you decide to root fig cuttings, then I recommend starting with cheaper, more common figs, like your VdB. Some of the more expensive varieties are harder to root, thus keeping them less common.
I always have a couple of fig cuttings that I’m trying to root. First it’s good practice, but I also enjoy giving fig trees away to friends and family - spreading the addiction one tree at a time.
In the category of dark, blackberry-ish flavored figs the Violette de Bordeaux is hard to beat. You have a winner there.
A plethora of other flavors awaits you – outside the black jack / brown turkeys that are so boring in your climate. I’m hesitant to recommend one – perhaps @Calron can help, or knows Bay area fig growers with your weather.
Keep in mind that some varieties do not produce well after heavy pruning, there’s not a lot of agreement about which ones either, unfortunately. And if you are buying, wherever you are buying from, look for someone who has their own fruit and leaf pictures as well as realistic and original descriptions.
Of course! But I’m too cheap to spend a lot of money on figs. I’ll happily trade for a variety I do not have, or purchase a relatively inexpensive cutting. Local CRFG scion exchanges are a great way to find something new.
A neighbor down the street is into figs, but interestingly enough has never heard of VdB. In a week or so we’ll swap 'tour’s of each other’s backyard. I have an extra nice-sized VdB tree I’ll gift him (and maybe a fig or two if there are still some on my tree). If he reciprocates, awesome. If not, I’ll still have the pleasure of passing on a new variety to someone else.
How long has Black Jack been in the ground? Most figs develop better quality and flavor as the trees get some years on them. Not sure what you have for space either, that can always be a huge limiting factor. There is however something to be said for big mild flavored almost juicy figs, they are just plain refreshing. I wouldn’t want a fig like that to be my only fig, but it is nice to have as part of the assortment, and as you mentioned…you can keep it smaller with pruning and devote more space to another. OR, if it is healthy and grows well you can graft over the limbs to other varieties and maybe keep one or two limbs as the original.
It’s been in the ground for just over 3 years. I’ve gotten fruit 3 times from it and the fruit is a little less watery this year than last year but I attributed that to watering the tree less than last year.
I would recommend Smith as a top-quality variety which should ripen well for you and a Hardy Chicago type (there are many which are pretty similar)- both of thise are quite resistant to splitting in rain and have nice flavor
I live in coastal Ventura, in the fog zone, so my figs also don’t get much heat. I’m growing dozens of varieties, mostly all grafted on to a couple of top-worked trees.
I’d second JesseS recommendation of Smith. It is currently my overall best variety. Nothing beats it for flavor (for my tastes, in my climate), not even varieties like Black Madeira or Italian-258, and it produces abundantly and early enough to enjoy delicious fruit for months. It is, without a doubt the top fig I would recommend for you.
Verte and Strawberry Verte (of which the fruit are pretty much indistinguishable to me) are also in my top tier. Wonderful flavor and ripen reliably without much heat.
A couple of comments:
Understand that your lack of heat will really affect which varieties will work well for you compared to someone who lives in warmer climes.
Caprificiation (pollination by the fig wasp) also changes flavors (for the better). I don’t have the fig wasp in my yard (apparently it doesn’t do well in coastal areas, I’ve read). Many (most?) growers in CA have the wasp, and their lists of top varieties reflect the difference the wasp makes, e.g., the Figaholics descriptions mentioned.
Good luck. I started with a simple question like yours, which led me down the road of fig mania…
Certain areas in CA have the wasp. I’m in SD and only a couple of local neighborhoods have it, mostly centered on streams. SD itself is too dry to support wild figs away from a water source. The wasp is more common above LA (although there are reputedly a few spots in LA.)
as i recall, black jack is just a brown turkey n will never be great.
i’d toss it.
lots of mount etnas would give you great taste n they are cheap.
most are berry, but dominicks is a very nice peach in some locations.
All figs on fig trees as far as I know get better with the age of the tree for a while.
I know very little about what varieties do well in your climate yet If I lived in a climate like yours, and if I was just starting out during this time of my life i’d try ‘Sultane’, I’d try 'Colonel Littman’s Black Cross’, maybe even GM # 142 would be good for you, that is a lot like Smith for me.