Figs – A southern summertime favorite

Published 12:16 am Saturday, July 23, 2022

Figs are a southern favorite fruit tree, especially in the Gulf Coast states. They are easy to care for, mostly problem-free, and of course the fruit is delicious. Fruit is usually harvested from July into August so hopefully you’re enjoying some now. If not, consider planting one this fall or winter so you can have your own producing in a few years.

The most common variety historically is ‘Celeste’ (single quotes for cultivar / variety names) and this is probably what your parents and grandparents had. It’s a small brown fig, very cold-hardy, and very sweet. It makes a sturdy tree; my grandparents sent us kids climbing into the higher branches to retrieve the ripe fruit. (Also, my sister tried to hide up there from my grandparents’ discipline but she had to come down eventually. Ha ha!)

Dr. Ed O’Rourke led a fig-breeding program in the mid-20th century at LSU, mostly based on ‘Celeste.’ One variety, named ‘O’Rourke’ by later professors, is nearly identical to ‘Celeste’, a little bigger, and can bear a second “breba” crop in a season.

‘LSU Gold’ and ‘LSU Purple’ have been poplar releases from the breeding program. The purple one is a beautiful dark purple though the gold one is really more yellow, of course. Both are large figs so it’s easy to fill a bucket and make lots of preserves. ‘LSU Gold’ is very visible to birds, even more so than other cultivars. Also, yellow figs frustrate me sometimes because it’s hard to tell when they’re ripe.

‘Champagne’ is my personal favorite. It’s a yellow fig barely bigger than ‘Celeste’ but one of our sweetest. A great feature is that when it’s ripe it gets little black spots on the fruit, reminiscent of bubbles in a champagne glass. It makes a big tree with swooping branches like an old live oak.

Jason Stagg with our Hammond Research Station has a good YouTube video with more information on LSU varieties. Search for his name or “LSU figs.”

 

If you want to know more about gardening, landscaping, or anything else horticultural, contact the St. John & St. James Parishes Horticulture Extension Agent André Brock at abrock@agcenter.lsu.edu. Also, the LSU Ag Center’s website can be accessed at www.lsuagcenter.com with lots of user-friendly information, including this article.