Figs in the Garden: A Global Passion

Nearly 700 eye-catching and historic fig cultivars grow across the world, and some gardeners are investing everything in the fig cultivars of tomorrow.

| Fall 2018

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    One fig collector in Thailand predicts a commercial industry will soon crop up there, which will be based on research into the delectable fruit started in the country 30 years ago.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/agneskantaruk
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    Native Thai figs fill with insects when they soften, which is why Thai cusine figs are cooked while they're still hard and starchy.
    Photo by Getty Images/Marholev
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    The 'Janice Seedless Kadota' fig is bright green with a lovely pink interior.
    Photo by www.RareSeeds.com
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    The bright red interior of the 'Panache Striped Tiger' fig has a very fine flavor.
    Photo by www.RareSeeds.com
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    The 'White Marseilles' fig was a French favorite of Thomas Jefferson.
    Photo by www.RareSeeds.com
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    Unusual 'Brown Turkey' figs were one of three cultivars introduced to the first Royal Agricultural Station in Thailand.
    Photo by www.RareSeeds.com
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    'Black Mission' figs self-pollinate, which means they produce fruit without the presence of Mediterranean fig wasps.
    Photo by Dreamstime/Ingrid Heczko
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    The Californian 'Conadria' fig was introduced to Thailand around 1973.
    Photo by Dreamstime/Viroj Suttisima
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    'Martinenca Rimada' figs are bright and brilliantly striped.
    Photo by Dreamstime/Kobkik
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    The large 'Strawberry Teardrop' cultivar has a unique shape.
    Photo by Lindsay Gasik
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    Harvey Correia shows off a collection of fresh figs.
    Photo by Lindsay Gasik
  • oranut-naowakate
    Oranut Naowakate stands in the midst of her more than 300 fig cultivars.
    Photo by Lindsay Gasik

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“Fig people are crazy,” says Harvey Correia as he fills my cupped hands with fragile figs that are so ripe several ooze honey-colored liquid from the eye on their fat bottoms. I can’t tell if Correia considers himself a fig person, but he’s been talking figs for more than an hour. I’ve just been eating them — the large, plump, green ‘Strawberry Teardrop;’ the nearly black ‘Col de Dame Noir’ with its sparkling, nearly purple jam interior; the striped ‘Martinenca Rimada’ with pale seeds swimming in sweet magenta flesh; the green-and-bubble-gum-pink ‘Janice Seedless Kadota’ — ripping them in half with sticky fingers and slurping. 

“Here’s one named for an island of France,” he says, plopping another into my palm. “And this one is ‘Rob’s Genovese Nero.’ I don’t care if the tractor hits it. But this one,” he says pointing to another, “this one is the ‘Black Madeira.’ That’s the money tree, wanted so badly in Thailand and Malaysia.”

According to Correia, a ‘Black Madeira’ tree has sold on the Thai black market for 250,000 Thai baht, the equivalent of almost $8,000, in a country where the average monthly wage is estimated at about $450.

“It’s amazing what people will do,” he says, describing offers he’s received from international fans of his YouTube channel, Figaholics, and his 5,700-follower-strong Facebook page.



He describes fig people who keep their collections in their garage, wheeling the pots into the sunshine every day. “I mean, I can understand wanting to keep a few of the really good ones around, but do you really need 200?” he asks.

I glance ironically at his tidy rows of more than 350 thick-leaved cultivars and lick my lips, which are starting to burn from enzymes in the fig skin. But when Correia hands me another, a green-gold ‘Sierra,’ I tear it apart with gusto.






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