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Title: Fig Culture - Edible Figs: Their Culture and Curing. Fig Culture in the United States.
Author: Eisen, Gustav, Earle, Franklin Sumner
Language: English
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                    U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.

                         DIVISION OF POMOLOGY.

                              FIG CULTURE.


                            By GUSTAV EISEN,

          Curator in Biology, California Academy of Sciences,
                          San Francisco, Cal.

                    FIG CULTURE IN THE GULF STATES.

                           By FRANK S. EARLE,

        Horticulturist, Alabama Experiment Station, Auburn, Ala.

                             1862      1889
                             AGRICULTURE IS
                             AND COMMERCE]

                      GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.


                         LETTER OF TRANSMITTAL.

                            U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE,

                                           DIVISION OF POMOLOGY,

                              _Washington, D. C., January 30, 1897._

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith, and to recommend for
publication as a bulletin of this division, articles on “Edible figs:
their culture and curing,” by Dr. Gustav Eisen, of San Francisco, Cal.,
and “Fig culture in the Gulf States,” by Frank S. Earle, of Auburn, Ala.

The climatic conditions of the sections of the United States in which
figs can be successfully grown are so widely different that it has been
deemed advisable to publish these papers as one bulletin, in order that
a comprehensive presentation of the subject may be within reach of those
interested in this industry.

                                           S. B. HEIGES, _Pomologist_.


        _Secretary of Agriculture_.



  EDIBLE FIGS: THEIR CULTURE AND CURING. (By Gustav Eisen.)         5
    Nature and structure of the flowers and fruit of the fig        5
    Classification of varieties of edible figs                      6
    Varieties of figs found useful in California                    7
    Caprification                                                  10
    Climate suitable for fig culture                               10
    Figs for drying                                                10
    Figs for table use                                             11
    Figs for preserving, canning, and home consumption             11
    Soil                                                           11
    Propagation                                                    12
      Seedlings                                                    13
      Budding and grafting                                         13
    Planting                                                       14
    Double trees                                                   14
    Standard trees                                                 15
    Pruning                                                        15
    Drying and curing                                              16
    Picking                                                        16
    Sulphuring                                                     17
    Dipping fresh figs                                             17
    Drying on trays                                                18
    Degree of dryness                                              19
    Sweating and equalizing                                        19
    Artificial drying                                              19
    Packing                                                        20
      Dipping                                                      20
      Assorting                                                    20
      Pulling                                                      20
      Packing                                                      21
      Pressing                                                     21
  FIG CULTURE IN THE GULF STATES. (By Frank S. Earle.)             23
    Propagation                                                    23
    Soil and location                                              24
    Cultivation and fertilization                                  25
    Insect enemies and diseases                                    26
      Fig-tree borer                                               26
      Fig-leaf mite                                                27
      Root knot                                                    27
      Fig-leaf rust                                                27
      Fig Cercospora                                               27
      Die back                                                     28
      Root rot                                                     28
    Varieties                                                      28
      List of figs recommended by American Pomological Society     29
    Uses                                                           29
    Marketing fresh figs                                           30
    Canning factories                                              31


                              FIG CULTURE.

                            By GUSTAV EISEN.

The edible figs cultivated in the United States both for eating fresh
and for drying all belong to one species, _Ficus carica_. Of this
species there are now described about 400 varieties which are
sufficiently distinct to be considered by the student and the practical
horticulturist. The intending planter should study the character of the
varieties more closely than has hitherto been customary in this country,
though his safest plan is, of course, to plant in quantity only such
varieties as have proved valuable in his own locality, or where soil and
climate are similar.


Before we consider these different varieties, a few remarks on the
nature and structure of the fruit are necessary. The fig which we eat is
really a receptacle, on the surface of which are situated the numerous
flowers. But as this surface is concave, or curved inwardly, like the
hollow of a closed hand, the flowers can not be seen except when the fig
is cut. Then it becomes apparent that the chamber formed by the curved
receptacle communicates with the outside by means of the “eye” at its
apex. In some varieties the “eye” is almost closed, opening only when
the fig has reached a certain age; in others it is so large that a pea
could easily pass through. The flowers are always more or less fleshy,
are generally imperfect, and do not much resemble the bright flowers of
other fruit trees and plants in our gardens. There are four distinct
kinds of fig flowers, but these are not always found in a single fig, in
fact they are rarely all found together. They are designated as follows:

_Male flowers._—These possess four pollen-producing stamens. They are
found only in the wild or “caprifig,” the ancestor of our cultivated
figs, and in a very few varieties of edible figs.

_Female flowers._—These possess a single style, stigma, and ovary, and
when fertilized, produce seeds. Owing to the absence of male flowers, or
the failure of the male and female flowers in the same fig to mature at
the same time, they rarely produce fertile seeds unless fertilized by
pollen carried by insects.

_Gall flowers._—These are degenerate female flowers which do not produce
seeds, the abortive ovary serving only for the habitation and breeding
place of a very small wasp, the _Blastophaga_, which is used in
caprification. The gall flowers are found only in the original wild fig.

_Mule flowers._—These are imperfect female flowers, incapable of
producing seeds or of affording a breeding place for the wasp. These
flowers are found to the exclusion of all others in most of our
cultivated figs.

Because of these differences in the flowers the numerous varieties of
edible figs may be divided into tribes or subspecies. These are as


_Caprifigs_ (_goat figs or wild figs_).—These figs grow wild in southern
Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia, and have been recently
introduced into California. They bear all the kinds of flowers except
the _mule_ flowers, and as they are the only figs bearing _male_ flowers
they are essential in all fig districts where mature and fertile seeds
are of importance, or in other words, where caprification is necessary.

_Smyrna figs._—These are grown only in the Smyrna district of Asia
Minor. They have only female flowers, and neither these latter nor the
receptacle on which they grow will come to any maturity without
caprification or pollination. So-called Smyrna figs, which have been
bought of nurserymen, have generally proved spurious, as, unlike the
true Smyrna figs, they mature their fruit without pollination. Of late
years true Smyrna figs have been planted in California, but they have
failed to ripen fruit except when artificially pollinated. These will
not produce ripe fruit in commercial quantities until caprification can
be practiced, and neither these nor the caprifig should be planted at
the present time, except for experimental purposes.

_Common edible figs._—These are the common varieties of our orchards,
which bear fruit and mature it with regularity without pollination or
caprification. They bear two crops a year, the “early figs” or “brebas,”
and the later or “summer figs.” Of this tribe alone there are some 400
varieties described more or less perfectly, and probably as many more
undescribed and unknown.

_San Pedro figs._—This tribe contains only a few dozen varieties, some
of which are cultivated in California, and also in Florida and other
Southern States. They are characterized by maturing only the first crop
or “brebas.” The second crop always drops before reaching maturity. The
cause of this is that the first crop contains only “mule flowers,” like
those of the common figs, while the second contains only “female
flowers,” like those of the Smyrna figs.

The San Pedro tribe of fig varieties is specially valuable on account of
the large size and early maturity of the “brebas” or first crop. They
should, therefore, be planted only in places where it is desirable to
grow large, early figs, for marketing fresh. They do not succeed
everywhere, as they require a warm and early spring climate.

In tropical countries there are numerous varieties of other species of
figs growing wild. Many of them are edible, but all are less palatable
than our edible fig, and with the exception of the Sycomore fig, _Ficus
sycomorus_, of Africa, are of no economic importance except as food for

For this purpose, however, they are very useful, and the Sycomore fig
should be introduced into the Southern States, where it would probably
thrive in frost-free localities.


The existing confusion regarding the names of the varieties of the fig
is largely due to incomplete descriptions. The following points are of
importance in every fig description, and should always be noted: Size,
form, neck, stalk, ribs, eye, color of skin, color of pulp, seeds,
quality, growth, and leaf. In order to simplify descriptions, these
points should always be mentioned in the same order. It is also of great
importance to note whether the first crop alone matures fruit, and
whether the two crops differ materially in any of the above-mentioned

Of the 400 or more described varieties of figs, comparatively few have
been tested in the United States. Most of those tested are French or
hot-house varieties, very few southern or Mediterranean figs having been
introduced, though many of the latter are worthy of testing in this

A few of the varieties that have been found most useful in California
are described:

ADRIATIC.—Size medium, roundish; neck medium, stalk short; ribs obscure;
eye open, with red iris; skin very thin, greenish in the shade,
yellowish in the sun; pulp bright strawberry red or with violet streaks
in the meat; varies in quality according to location.

This has been found very useful in California, but is not of fine flavor
when dried. It requires rich soil, with considerable moisture and a very
large percentage of lime. This variety is _not_ identical with that
known in Italy as Adriatic.

ANGELIQUE (syn. _Angelica_).—Medium, pyriform; ribs prominent, yellowish
white; pulp white with rose-colored center; leaves five-lobed. A very
good variety in some of the coast valleys.

ATHENES (syn. _Marseillaise_).—Small, roundish or turbinate, with
indistinct ribs, depressed at apex, skin rough; color whitish yellow,
pulp red, opaline; very sweet and one of the best drying figs both in
France and California.

BOURJASSOTTE, BLACK (syn. _Barnissotte, Black_).—Medium, broader than
long, flattened at apex, with no neck and an uneven cheek; ribs
distinct, even; eye small, sunk, closed; skin waxy, black with violet
blush; bloom clear blue, wanting at apex; meat pink, pulp blood-red. A
most excellent fig for table. It requires rich, moist soil.

BOURJASSOTTE, WHITE (syn. _Barnissotte, White_).—A fig related to the
former, but larger; eye large, sunk; skin waxy, green; pulp bright red.
A very fine fig. Tree very large.

BROWN TURKEY.—Large, turbinate, pyriform, with hardly distinct neck;
stalk short; apex flattened; ribs few, slightly elevated; eye medium,
slightly open, scales large; skin smooth, greenish to violet-brown in
sun, with darker ribs; pulp dark, rosy red, quality good, and tree a
good bearer. Brunswick is frequently confounded with this fig.

BRUNSWICK.—Very large, pyriform, with swollen cheeks, one of which is
larger than the other; apex very obtuse; neck and stalk very short; ribs
distinct, but not much elevated; eye medium, open; skin pale amber with
violet tint; pulp amber. An early, large fig, but with no flavor. Very
common; requires rich, moist soil.

CELESTE, BLUE (syn. _Violette_).—Small, ovate, turbinate; ribs few, but
distinct, especially near apex; eye raised, rough; color dark, violet
amber, without reddish blush; bloom confined to the neck; skin thin;
pulp deep rose; meat amber; sweet, but lacking in flavor.

DOTTATO.—Medium ovate, pyriform; neck well set; stalk very short or
none; ribs low; skin smooth; eye medium; skin thin, yellowish green;
meat white; pulp yellowish amber, sometimes with violet flush. One of
the best figs for drying; tree a strong grower, requiring moist, rich
soil. Lately introduced into California.

DRAP D’OR.—Large, pyriform, with very low neck and stalk; ribs elevated;
apex obtuse and concave; color light, violet, reddish amber, not dark;
pulp rosy red. A fig of very fine quality, especially useful for
confections and crystallizing; not identical with Brunswick.

DU ROI.—Above medium; round, pyriform; stalk very short; eye large or
variable, with scales standing out; skin smooth, pale bluish green; pulp
amber, with rosy streaks and exceedingly minute seeds. Related to
Marseillaise and Athenes, and one of the very best figs in California
for drying.

EARLY VIOLET.—Small to very small, round, turbinate; neck distinct but
short; stalk medium to long; ribs distinct, elevated, skin rough;
violet-brown, with thin, pearl-colored bloom; pulp red. This variety
bears almost continuously and is preferable to the Ischias and Celeste.

GENOA, WHITE.—Above medium, pyriform; neck small; stalk short; ribs
indistinct; skin downy; eye very small; skin pale olive-green; pulp pale
rose. One of the better figs, quite distinct from Marseillaise.

GENTILE.—Very large; ovate pyriform; neck short but distinct; stalk very
short; skin uneven, with ridges; eye very large, open, with projecting
scales; color greenish yellow spotted with white; pulp amber, streaked
with rose; seeds few but very large. Only the first crop of this variety
ripens. It is of the San Pedro tribe. One of the best early figs.

GROSSE GRISE BIFÈRE.—Medium, ovate pyriform; neck very short, stalk
short; ribs distinct; eye small; skin downy, dark violet amber, pale
olive in shade; the bloom is separated by a distinct line from the apex;
pulp deep red. A tender, good fig.

ISCHIA, BLACK.—Small; neck short; stalk medium; skin smooth; color dark,
violet black, greenish around the apex; neck dark; eye medium, open;
bloom thin, dark blue; pulp red. Of fair quality but small size.

ISCHIA, WHITE.—Size below medium, round, with small neck; stalk very
short; eye open; skin smooth, bluish green with brown flush; pulp rosy
red. Common in California, but hardly worthy of cultivation in that

MAGDALEN.—Below medium; round; ribs distinct, rough, disappearing around
the eye; stalk longer than the fig; eye open, large; skin greenish
yellow; pulp amber white. A very delicious fig, superior to the Ischias
and Celeste; not synonymous with Angelique.

MARSEILLAISE, LONG.—Large, longer than wide; skin thick with brownish
shade; pulp dull red. Requires moist soils. A fair fig which dries well;
not related to either Black or White Marseillaise.

MARSEILLAISE, WHITE.—Medium ovate, pyriform; neck short; stalk medium;
ribs numerous and distinct; apex flattened; eye large, open; skin downy,
pale yellowish green, mottled with white; pulp amber, with a few large
seeds. One of the best figs for drying. Requires sandy, rich soil.

MISSION, BLACK.—Medium to large, turbinate; neck long; stalk short; ribs
distinct; eye prominent, open; skin rough, deep mahogany violet, with a
red flush; pulp not fine, red, but not bright or brownish amber; sweet
but not high-flavored; common in the Southern States, California, and
Mexico. The oldest fig in this country.

MONACO BIANCO (syn. _White Monaco_).—Large, rounded, turbinate,
flattened; neck small but very distinct; ribs numerous; eye very open;
skin dark, bluish green with thin bloom; pulp dark-red rose; a most
excellent fig for table; one of the best in California.

PASTILIÈRE.—Large, 3 inches by 1½; elongated, pyriform with long neck;
stalk short; eye closed, surrounded by an elevated iris; skin rough,
hairy, with blue bloom; pulp red. Fine for preserves.

RONDE NOIRE.—Large, round, but irregular; neck distinct, short; eye
small; skin smooth, waxy, dark violet brown; pulp amber. Greatly to be
recommended as a table fig. It is not related to Black Ischia or Osborn

SAN PEDRO, BLACK.—Very large, elongated ovate, with no stalk, but with
well set neck; skin smooth, violet black with green neck; pulp red,
coppery, tinted violet. For table use. The largest fig known. It is not
related to the following variety:

SAN PEDRO, WHITE (syn. _Brebas_).—Very large, round, flattened at apex;
stalk and neck short; eye open; skin thick, tender, of a bright yellow
color or greenish in the shade, without bloom; pulp amber. A remarkable
and handsome fig. Only the first crop matures without caprification.
Suited only for table use. Requires moist, rich soil.

VERDAL, ROUND.—Below medium, round pyriform, without stalk or neck; skin
smooth, waxy, bluish green; eye closed; pulp dark, blood red. A small
fig, but valuable for canning and preserves; better than the Ischias or
Celeste. It does well in the Santa Clara Valley, but is inferior in the
interior of the State.


This process must be practiced wherever the Smyrna figs are grown, for
without it they will not mature either seeds or figs. The flowers of the
Smyrna figs are all pistillate and require pollination, which in the
case of these varieties can be effected on a large scale only through
caprification. The process consists in the suspension of wild caprifigs,
which possess staminate and gall flowers, in the Smyrna fig trees, when
the pistils in the blossoms of the latter are in a receptive condition.
A minute wasp, the _Blastophaga_, breeds in the caprifig in large
numbers, and on leaving it crawls into the Smyrna fig, covered with the
pollen of the caprifig. This pollen, transferred by contact from the
body of the wasp to the receptive stigmas of the flowers in the Smyrna
figs, effects the fertilization of the ovules of those flowers and
causes them to form seeds and mature the fruit of which they are a part.
These seeds impart a nutty aroma and flavor to the fig when dried, and
give it a marked superiority to our common figs. Caprification is not
yet practiced in the United States, the wasp not existing here, though
both it and some of the Smyrna figs have been brought to this country
several times. The first importation of Smyrna fig trees was made by
Gulian P. Rixford, about 1880, when three varieties of Smyrna figs and a
single caprifig tree were introduced.


A native of a semitropical climate, the fig requires a similar climate
to attain perfection. Many horticultural varieties, however, have
originated in temperate regions, and these can be grown with profit in a
climate much colder than that of the habitat of the wild fig. Figs, in
fact, may be grown in all regions where peaches and apricots succeed
without protection, and if given winter protection they can be
profitably grown in such regions near large cities which furnish a
market for the fresh fruit at profitable prices.

In considering the suitability of the climate of a region for fig
culture, the purpose for which the figs are to be grown must be first

Figs may be grown for drying, for canning and preserving, for sale in
the fresh state, or for general home consumption. As the conditions and
treatment necessary to produce fruit suited to these different uses vary
considerably, each subject will be discussed separately.

                            FIGS FOR DRYING.

The best dried figs are produced in warm countries, such as the
Mediterranean region of Europe, Asia Minor, Upper and Lower California,
but especially in Asia Minor, in the valleys near Smyrna. The conditions
of climate there are as follows: The days are moderately warm, the
temperature seldom exceeding 90° F. These conditions prevail during the
summer, while the figs are growing and ripening. The winter is seldom
frosty. The winter climate, however, is of less importance, provided it
is not cold enough to injure the young figs or the tips of the branches.
Such frosts will not injure the second crop, which is used for drying,
but it is a great drawback to the wild fig and to the fig insects, which
are necessary to the maturing of the fruit of certain varieties of
drying figs. The summer climate is almost rainless, while in winter
there are abundant rains. The air in summer is not a dry, desert air,
however, but carries considerable moisture. The moisture of the air is
an important point, as in a very dry air the figs do not develop high
flavor, but are “flat” in taste. During the drying season there should
be little or no rain.

                          FIGS FOR TABLE USE.

Figs are grown for the table as far north as Paris, in France, and in
the south of England.

They may be similarly grown in most of the Middle States of the United
States. In England figs are grown against walls as dwarf trees or
shrubs, and the trees are covered with mats during the winter. In the
vicinity of Paris the trees are dwarfed and grown as “suckers,” which
are bent to the ground in winter and covered with several feet of soil.
Only certain varieties are suitable for this culture, which, however, is
very profitable. The figs produced are all “first crop” figs, and are as
a rule of superior quality.


Except in the most favored localities in the Southern States and
California, these are the uses to which American-grown figs must be
devoted. To produce fruit suitable for these purposes, freedom from
fogs, from summer rains, and from spring frosts is essential. If there
is a choice of locality, a warm southern or eastern exposure is to be
preferred. The soil should be well drained, never swampy, and the
locality should not be exposed to heavy winds. Elevated bottom lands or
benches along creeks are the most favorable localities for figs. Large
plains, swampy places, or exposed hillsides are all unfavorable. The
nearer the conditions approach those of the Smyrna region the better.
Rains during the fruiting season are frequently injurious to figs,
causing them to crack and sour. Still, the fruit may be profitably grown
where moderate summer rains occur.


All varieties of figs do not require the same kind of soil. Most of
them, however, must have a warm, moist, but not wet soil. A very few
varieties thrive in a poor, gravelly soil, but most kinds require a
deep, rich loam, containing a considerable percentage of lime, in order
to produce superior figs. A moderate proportion of gravel tends to keep
the soil warm and is desirable, but the soil must be rich.


The fig tree is easily propagated by the methods commonly practiced with
fruit trees. It may be budded or grafted, but is most readily grown from
cuttings. These may be planted where the trees are to stand or rooted in
the nursery rows and transplanted later to the orchard site. Which
method is advisable for any particular site depends upon the conditions
there. If the soil and climatic conditions of the proposed location are
favorable to the uninterrupted growth of cuttings, it is better and
cheaper to plant them directly in the field. If there is any doubt on
these points, or if the proper care and attention can not be given them,
the better plan is to plant trees with good roots and well-formed heads,
grown under favorable conditions by a nurseryman. The best time for
making cuttings is after the leaves have fallen, when the fig tree is
comparatively dormant. Cuttings may be made of either one year or two
year old wood. If the cuttings are to be planted where they can remain,
2-year-old wood is preferable, as longer cuttings can be secured, but if
they are to be planted in nursery, yearling wood is best. In either case
the wood when freshly cut should disclose a moist surface, covered with
small, whitish, milky drops. If dry when cut, it should be discarded.
The length of the cutting must be regulated by the condition of the
soil. If this is moist and likely to remain so the cuttings may be 12 to
18 inches long. If the surface soil is dry, the cutting should be
sufficiently long to have its lower end in moist soil. On very dry soils
this may require a cutting 3 or 4 feet in length, though such long
cuttings are rarely needed, and in no case except when they are to be
planted directly in the orchard. In making the cuttings care should be
observed that the lower cut be made just below a joint or node and the
upper one just above a joint. The best cutting is one which terminates
in a bud and has a smooth, clean cut just below a joint at its base. No
matter what the length of the cutting, it should always be planted so
deeply that but one joint protrudes above the surface of the soil. This
will prevent the drying out of the cutting by the action of sun and
wind. It is better to have the top bud covered with earth than to leave
a high stump projecting above the surface.

Fig trees may be grown from single eyes or short tips, in boxes filled
with moist sand, set in frames and covered with cloth to keep the soil
moist and cool. These will make fine trees in time, but they generally
require to be a year older than those grown from large cuttings before
they are suitable for planting in orchard. Great care should be
exercised in removing fig cuttings or plants from one place to another.
They dry out readily and a few moments’ exposure to the sun or hot, dry
wind will seriously damage them. They should never be allowed to become
dry, and should be wrapped in wet sacks or cloths as soon as taken from
the trees or from the propagating bed. Cuttings partially dry may be
revived by soaking in water, but fig roots once dry are dead and
incapable of restoration to life.


Seedling figs are easily grown from seeds of imported Smyrna figs. These
Smyrna figs always possess germinable seeds, as they have been
pollinated. It is quite safe to say that any seedling fig so far
recorded in this country has originated from seeds of Smyrna figs
imported from Asia Minor. The seeds of our common figs are mere shells
without germs, and will of course fail to grow. The percentage of trees
producing fruit of high quality among seedlings grown from Smyrna figs
is very small, however, and a commercial orchard planted with such
seedlings would be a failure. The grower may now and then produce a
variety which will repay his efforts, and such variety can be propagated
for general planting.

                         BUDDING AND GRAFTING.

The fig may be propagated by shield budding, provided the work is done
at the proper time. That time is winter, when the tree is as near
dormant as it can be found. Budding is rarely resorted to, however, as
it is an uncertain method when done by persons without skill. Grafting
the fig is successfully practiced in California by a method invented by
Mr. John Rock. It is the only method of fig grafting that has proved
reliable, practical, and of real value there. By means of it, new
varieties are brought into heavy bearing within three years after
grafting on old trees. In addition to this saving of time, the usual
advantages resulting from grafting, such as better and stronger stock,
more vigorous growth, etc., may also be attained.

The best time for grafting the fig is autumn or winter, when the sap is
most sluggish. Late spring grafting is less successful. The best scions
are made of 2-year-old wood. The sloping end of the scion must be
wedge-shape, tapering from front to back as well as from the top of the
cut to the bottom. But one surface of the wedge should show the pith,
and this surface should face toward the center of the stock when the
scion is set. Incipient fruit buds should be cut away without injuring
the scion. The scion should be so placed that the broad side of the
wedge will be outside and the narrow edge toward the center of the

For the stock, any limb from 2 to 4 inches in diameter may be used. This
should be cut off squarely at the point to be grafted. A downward cut
should then be made with a chisel, in such a way that it shall be
tangential to the circular stub. It must not pass through the pith of
the stub. The cut should run somewhat obliquely downward and outward, in
order that the stock may not be split. The scion, which is about 3 or 4
inches long, must, when inserted, form an angle with the long diameter
[pith] of the stock branch on which it is grafted.

It is best to place two scions on each branch grafted. These should be
on opposite sides of the stub and they should lean slightly toward each
other. The exposed surfaces of the stock and scion should then be
heavily waxed and the scions should be held in place by binding with
cord or other material. It is best to place a large number of scions on
one tree. Four or five branches may be cut off and grafted, but one or
two should be left uncut for a year to draw the sap. A large stake
should be driven into the ground near each branch grafted, and when the
scions have started the new growth should be secured to the stakes to
prevent them from breaking off. The trunk and main limbs of the fig tree
should be covered with bundles of straw to prevent sunburn. The
after-treatment of the new growth is similar to that required in the
grafting of other fruit trees. The new growth is strong and rapid and
the connection with the stock perfect. Ninety per cent of the grafts may
be readily made to grow.


The proper distance to be given fig trees in the orchard depends upon
the size and habit of the variety to be planted. The smaller kinds
require 25 feet; the larger ones should be 50 feet apart in every
direction. Sometimes other fruit trees are planted between the figs and
allowed to remain until the latter become so large that they require the
entire space. The fig tree requires an abundance of air and sunshine to
mature its fruit, and it is therefore absolutely necessary that the
trees be so arranged that they shall not shade one another. After the
distance is decided, the laying out and planting require the same
general skill, labor, and methods used in planting other permanent
orchards. A few points in planting are peculiar to the fig, however, and
require special consideration.

                             DOUBLE TREES.

Trees may be set singly, as standards, in the way commonly practiced
with other fruit trees, or they may be set “double”—that is, two trees
planted together in one hole and allowed to remain. The latter method
has not heretofore been advocated in this country but is worthy of
thorough trial. The method consists in planting two long cuttings, about
12 inches apart, in the same hole, allowing them to protrude from the
ground a few inches. Both are allowed to grow and the two are treated as
a single tree with two stems or standards. The object sought is to
produce two distinct stems or trunks, in order that the splitting down
of branches may be prevented. In this way trees with low, sloping
branches, having their main trunks leaning outward, will be formed and
it will be impossible for the trunks, the main branches, or the smaller
ones to split down. Branches split only when they point upward or stand
straight out—never when they slope downward from the trunk.

                            STANDARD TREES.

These may be planted in the usual way, but great care must be taken in
shading the roots while the trees are being planted. After they are set,
the trunks should be shaded by wrapping them with paper bags or other
material, as a sun-burnt tree will never regain its health or bear
profitably. Standard trees should only be set for ornament or shade, and
even for these purposes the double trees are preferable. The fig tree
naturally branches near the ground, and the only way to successfully
imitate this habit in cultivation is to plant by the double-tree method.


The pruning of the fig varies according to the age of the trees and the
purpose for which pruning is done. While other fruit trees require
yearly, and generally heavy, pruning to insure fruit of good quality,
the object in pruning the fig is simply, or at least principally, to
keep the tree healthy and give air and light to the fruit. The most
important rule to be observed in pruning the fig is that no branch shall
be cut off squarely or be cut back so as to leave a stump. This is
almost surely fatal to the future welfare of the tree and to the quality
and quantity of its fruit. When it becomes necessary to remove a
1-year-old limb the cut should be made at least as far down as the next
fork below, and it should be close to a joint in the fork. There should
be nothing left but a scar to show that a limb has been cut away. There
must be no stump left. The fig tree may require to have its branches
thinned out, but it must not be headed back except to correct
unsymmetrical growth. In dense trees branches which cross should be
removed entirely and in such a way as to give the tree a rounded,
dome-like outline, with the lower branches nearly touching the ground.
In pruning recently planted trees the object in view is, of course,
entirely different, as fruit can not be expected for several years to
come. The object of this early pruning is to shape the tree. When two
cuttings are set together little pruning is required, as they will
generally shape themselves and form two main trunks diverging from each
other, but when a single tree is planted it is best to cut back the stem
to within a foot of the soil and let it branch from that point. The only
case in which it is proper to have a tall standard is when it is
desirable to grow trees for shade and pleasure and where the quality of
the fruit and its quantity are of but secondary importance. If recently
planted fig trees show any tendency toward drying out, the main limbs or
the whole trunk should at once be cut back to live green wood.

                           DRYING AND CURING.

The drying and curing of figs must necessarily differ in different
countries, under different conditions, and for different purposes. For
home consumption little skill and care are required to produce a
palatable and useful article of diet, while figs intended for shipment
must be more carefully dried, cured, and packed in order to command a
fair price in competition with the imported article.

The fig is mature and ready to dry only when it has attained its proper
size and is palatable for eating fresh. When the crop has reached this
stage it may be gathered and dried for home consumption, but in order to
produce a superior article the figs must be as sweet as possible and
very pulpy. Too often do we find figs in the market consisting of
nothing but skin and empty seeds, without sweetness, flavor, or pulp.
Figs do not ripen all at one time, and the trees must be gone over
daily, in order that only the ripest shall be gathered. Before being
picked the fig should be soft to the touch; it should be wrinkled, and
should hang downward. Some kinds when ripe show white seams or cracks in
the flesh. This is generally a sign of complete maturity. Figs will not
ripen after picking and never become sweeter than when cut from the
tree. Similarly, figs which have once attained their full maturity do
not improve and should be dried at once. If allowed to hang longer on
the tree they may quickly rot, sour, or mold, and soon become unfit for
use. In order to compete with the best imported figs, our figs intended
for drying should be very sweet; in fact, the sweeter the better. When
freshly cut they should contain 35 per cent of sugar and when dried
about 55 per cent. For home consumption they do not need to be so sweet
as this, for any palatable figs are useful when carefully dried.


Figs to be dried should never be shaken from the trees, for if bruised
and injured they will sour during the drying and become unfit for use. A
few figs spoiled in this way will check or prevent the sale of a box of
fruit that is in other respects good. Pulling the figs from the trees
will also injure them in a similar way. The ripe figs should therefore
be cut from the tree with a knife or shears and carefully placed in
boxes or trays. Of course, many half-dried figs that drop from the trees
may be utilized, but they should first be examined to determine whether
they are in good condition, and they must be freed from soil and sand.
Our figs do not, as a rule, drop at perfect maturity, but either before
or after it. Only the Smyrna figs drop when fully ripe.

For the higher growing varieties a convenient instrument called the “fig
cutter” may be used. It consists of a forked stick across which has been
nailed a strip of tin plate. Below this is a small bag kept open by a
wire. With this “cutter” the higher figs may be reached by running the
fork up under the fig, severing it from the branch and causing it to
drop into the bag below.


Of late years sulphuring figs before drying has become a very common
practice among growers. It consists in exposing fresh fruit to the fumes
of burning sulphur in air-tight tray holders of varying sizes. The
sulphur fumes cause the figs to become semitransparent when dried, and
to present an attractive appearance to the buyer. But nothing is more
deceptive, for this very handsome appearance hides a more than worthless
interior, not only detestable to the taste but also injurious to the
health of the consumer. Few persons will buy such fruit a second time.
Besides giving a semitransparent appearance to the fruit, the sulphuring
prevents fermentation of the figs while drying. This, of course, is of
value, and in fact is the only advantage in the process. A short and
light sulphuring may therefore be admissible with varieties which
otherwise would not dry and cure without souring.

For convenience, the box in which the figs are to be sulphured should
not be more than 5 feet high nor more than 7 or 8 feet wide. This will
admit two trays abreast. The trays slide on a rack or on a cleat nailed
to the sides of the box, and need not be farther apart than just
sufficient to clear each other when charged with a single layer of figs.
The door must be air-tight, in order that the sulphur fumes may not
escape. Two feet of space should be left between the bottom tray and the
sulphur pan. The latter, a heavy piece of sheet iron, is heated, but not
to redness, and placed on noncombustible supports in the bottom of the
box. Two handfuls of sulphur are thrown upon this iron and when it is
burning the doors are tightly closed. Exposure to the sulphur fumes for
fifteen minutes is sufficient to prevent fermentation during the drying
process and leave the figs with a minimum of sour taste. If sulphured
longer they become too acid. After removal from the box the figs should
be immediately exposed to the sun. Black figs should never be sulphured.

                          DIPPING FRESH FIGS.

Instead of being sulphured to improve their color and soften their
skins, figs may be dipped into a hot solution of salt or saltpeter, or
even lye. Unless, however, they are immersed for a long time this
dipping will rarely prevent fermentation, though it will prove
advantageous in other ways. Figs with a rough and tough skin are
especially benefited, the principal effect of the dipping being to
soften the skin. But this dipping should be practiced only on figs of
inferior quality, the best grades not being improved either by dipping
or sulphuring.

In dipping, the figs should first be placed in a perforated bucket and
rinsed in cold water, to free them from dust. They should then be
transferred to a kettle containing boiling lye, made of 1 pound of
potash to 10 gallons of water. An immersion of from one-fourth minute to
one minute suffices; the time being regulated according to the size of
the figs and the pliability and thickness of the skin. Boiling salt
water may be substituted for the lye water for the dipping of some figs,
different varieties requiring different solutions to secure the desired
result. After dipping, the figs are dried without rinsing. If salt or
saltpeter is used instead of lye, 1½ pounds of either to 50 gallons of
water is a proper quantity. Lye is generally used, but the writer
prefers salt or saltpeter, either of which gives good results as regards
pliability of skin, while the salty taste generally improves the flavor.

                            DRYING ON TRAYS.

For convenience in handling, wooden or paper trays are commonly used for
drying figs in the Western States. By their use the fruit can easily be
stacked and sheltered in wet weather. The trays are of various sizes,
but a small size, such as 2½ feet by 3½ feet, or 3½ feet by 4 feet, is
preferable, as when filled with fruit it can easily be handled by one
man, while a larger size requires two men. The drying ground should be a
clean space outside the orchard, where the trays may be exposed to the
uninterrupted rays of the sun. The figs require all the sunshine
obtainable, and the drying ground must therefore be free from the shade
of trees or buildings. The drying floor may consist simply of beds of
soil elevated a foot above the general level. A drying floor 4 feet wide
may be raised 8 inches additionally along one side. The slope toward the
sun thus given will insure greater heat. Trays may be placed on strips
of wood or scantlings supported by low sawhorses. The sawhorses should
be long enough to support two rows of trays abreast. Three scantlings or
strips will be required for each pair of sawhorses. They should be of
even lengths, as long as obtainable, and the middle one should be larger
than the outside ones; 2 by 4 inches for the middle one and 2 by 3
inches for the side scantlings will be found convenient sizes. The figs
should be placed singly on the tray, with their eyes all toward one
side, and this side of the tray should be slightly raised in order to
prevent the contents of very juicy figs from running out during the
process of drying. The raising of the trays is the most easily
accomplished by placing the 2 by 4 inch supporting strip in the middle
of the sawhorses and the 2 by 3 inch strips on either side. Immediately
after sulphuring, if that is practiced, or after dipping, the fruit
should be spread and the trays distributed on the racks where they will
have the full benefit of the hottest sun. This distribution of the trays
should be finished before noon each day to secure the best color of the
dried product.

The figs must be turned twice a day at first and once a day in the later
stages of drying. The turning requires much work and expense, as it can
be done well only by hand labor. An inferior product may be turned by
placing an empty tray face downward upon a filled one and inverting
them, leaving the fruit on the new tray. To produce the best grade of
dried fruit, the figs should not touch one another on the trays during
the process of drying. During the turning, all inferior figs, such as
those that ferment and puff up, should be culled out and used for
vinegar. Figs which show a slight froth at the eye are turning sour and
should be removed.

Covering the figs must not be neglected, if a choice article of dried
fruit is to be produced. If white figs are left out over night
uncovered, they will be discolored. Rain and dew are very damaging and
the fruit should be protected from them. This is best accomplished, in
California, by stacking the trays one on top of another when rain is
expected. The top and sides of the stacks should then be protected with
empty trays. If permanent drying beds of gravel and cement are made, a
mechanical device for covering the trays with a horizontal canvas
curtain can be used, and in this way they can easily be covered every

                           DEGREE OF DRYNESS.

It is very important that drying cease when the figs have reached the
proper stage for packing. They must on no account be overdried nor
should they be removed from the trays too soon. The proper degree of
dryness can be detected by pressing the figs between the thumb and
finger. They should be soft and pliable, with the contents distinctly
pulpy, and when squeezed the fig should not resume its former shape, but
remain pressed. It should be plastic, not elastic nor dry. Underdried
figs will spoil in packing, while overdried ones are hard, leathery, and
worthless as food or delicacy. The trays must be gone over every day and
the properly dried figs taken off, the spoiled ones being removed at the
same time. The time required for drying varies from four to sixteen
days. Drying within six or seven days yields the best quality of

                        SWEATING AND EQUALIZING.

Dried figs are greatly benefited by being sweated or equalized as
regards moisture. This is accomplished by placing them in sweat boxes
holding 75 pounds or more. The boxes are stacked up one across another
in such a way as to insure a free circulation of air. This is to prevent
the sour fermentation, which would spoil the figs. The room where the
sweat boxes are stored should be closed and the walls should preferably
be of brick. Daily examination of the contents of the boxes should be
made, so that any inclination of the fruit to ferment and heat may be
detected. In a few days an improvement in the texture of the figs will
be noticed, the overdried ones having attracted moisture from those that
were underdried and all having become more pliable.

                           ARTIFICIAL DRYING.

Where figs can not be dried in the open air, evaporators or driers,
heated artificially, may be used to advantage, just as in the drying and
curing of raisins. Large driers are expensive and are beyond the reach
of many growers, but small driers, holding a ton of fruit, may be built
cheaply. It may be safely stated, however, that localities where
artificial drying is necessary are not suited to the most profitable
production of commercial figs, as any extra handling will greatly
increase the cost of the product. Where a very superior article is
produced the occasional use of the drier may be profitable, in order to
save a crop that would otherwise be injured by inclement weather.


The method of packing dried figs and the kind of package used should
vary according to the quality of the finished product. They should be
packed in order to prevent drying out, as well as to make them present
an attractive appearance. It pays to pack the best grades well, for good
packing always enhances the value of fruit.


The first step in packing is the dipping of the dried fruit, and this
must be done whether the figs are packed cheaply or expensively. The
dipping, which must be done just before packing, causes the figs to
become soft and pliable, equalizes moisture, and improves the skin and
its color. Perforated buckets holding 5 gallons of dried figs are
suitable vessels for holding the figs during the dipping. A kettle
arranged for heating water and large enough to permit the immersion of
the bucket of figs should be provided. In this kettle sea water or brine
made of one-fourth pound of coarse salt to a gallon of water should be
heated to the boiling point. The bucket of figs should then be immersed
in this boiling brine for a few seconds and emptied on to wire screens
to drain. While draining, the figs should be covered with a cloth or
otherwise kept dark. The fruit should be packed on the same day that it
is dipped. The best grade of white figs, or very soft figs of any grade,
should only be dipped in _cold_ salt water, just before packing. The
salt water is never washed off, and the salt that remains does not in
the least injure the figs, but, on the contrary, improves their quality.


The inferior figs which were removed from the trays during the drying
process should be assorted into at least two sizes for packing. A yet
lower grade which can not be profitably packed may be sold in sacks. The
largest Smyrna figs weigh, when dried, about 23 grams [355 grains, or
about four-fifths of an ounce avoirdupois], while the average French and
Italian figs weigh each about 8 grams [123.45 grains, or a little more
than one-fourth of an ounce avoirdupois].


The best grades of figs should be pulled or flattened before packing.
This pulling consists first in squeezing the fig with the hand to soften
it, and then flattening it so as to shape it into a disk in which the
eye and stalk are nearly in the center of the flat sides, as may be
observed in packages of figs imported from Smyrna. The object of this
pulling is to have the figs present as fine a surface as possible when
they are pressed and packed, this method enabling the packer to hide the
eye and stalk ends effectually. For inferior brands it will suffice to
simply flatten the figs in such a way that the eye and stalk are at
opposite extremities of the fruit when pressed. In pulling and handling
the figs, the hands of the worker should always be moistened with salt
water to prevent them from becoming sticky with sirup and thus soiling
the figs.


The packing should be regulated according to the size and quality of the
figs. The size of the boxes will therefore vary, but they may be made to
contain 5, 10, or 20 pounds each. In Smyrna the figs are packed in the
shape of bars, and this method should be followed for all the better
grades. In order to pack quickly in bar fashion, the writer several
years ago invented a “bar-packing device” or “guide.” This guide
consists of a frame of two or three parallel strips of tin or zinc
connected at opposite ends by two similar strips. The guide, which is
really a metal box without top or bottom, fits exactly into the packing
box flush against two of the sides, but is slightly higher than the
depth of the box in order that it may be pulled out after filling. The
guide is placed in an empty fig box, thus dividing it into three or more
compartments. The figs are then placed in rows in each compartment with
the eyes downward, each fig slightly overlapping the other, in the way
shingles are laid on a roof, just sufficiently to hide the stalks. The
compartments in the guide should be slightly narrower, or at most no
wider than the figs, so that when pressure is applied the figs will
flatten and fill them. The object of the guide is to keep the fig bars
separate. After the box is full a slight pressure is applied, which
squeezes the figs against the sides of the guide, and when the latter is
withdrawn leaves the bars intact without large air holes between the
figs or bars.


The raisin presses used in California are suitable for pressing figs.
There is no better machine for this purpose made anywhere. A follower of
wood covered with zinc is first placed in each compartment on the figs
and a slight pressure applied in the press. The pressure must be strong
enough to bring the figs to the level of the box. The guide is then
lifted out, while the fingers of the packer press firmly on the follower
to hold the figs in place. Instead of having a guide in which the bars
are connected at the ends, the box may be grooved on the inside and a
single strip of zinc or tin dropped down, thus dividing the box into two
or more compartments as may be necessary. The strips are more easily
removed than the more complicated guide. Before the box is nailed up,
small leaves of the sweet bay (_Laurus nobilis_) should be inserted
between the figs on the surface, and over the whole should be spread a
sheet of waxed paper. Instead of the sweet bay leaves, other native
laurel leaves may be used, provided they are aromatic, have the
distinctive laurel flavor, and are not otherwise objectionable.

It can not be too strongly urged that American-grown figs be packed and
sold under their proper labels and not designated “Smyrna” figs. Careful
selection of varieties, skill in growing and curing, and careful, honest
packing will in time procure a large market for our figs.

In all the Mediterranean countries the fresh as well as the dried fig is
a common article of diet, both nourishing and wholesome, and it is only
a question of time when its value will be generally recognized in this


                    FIG CULTURE IN THE GULF STATES.
                           By FRANK S. EARLE.

The fig is a domestic fruit of prime importance in all the Gulf and
South Atlantic States; throughout this region it is a common dooryard
tree. Its broad, rich foliage is one of the first things to catch the
eye of the Northern visitor and assure him that he is really in the

Toward its northern limit the tree is sometimes injured by unusually
severe winters, but unless killed to the ground it never fails to
produce heavy annual crops. Even severe winter-killing is usually but a
temporary loss, as the roots send up vigorous sprouts that bear the
following year.

Although the fig is so widely distributed and so universally esteemed
for household uses, it is only recently that any attempt has been made
in the territory under consideration to utilize it as a commercial
product. In the search throughout the South for possible money crops,
other than cotton, it is beginning to attract attention, and in this
connection a brief statement of our present knowledge as to the growth
and possible uses of the fig may be of service.


The fig roots easily from cuttings and is usually propagated in this
way. Short pieces or even large branches of well-matured wood, cut from
the tree at any time during the winter and simply thrust into the soil,
will usually take root and make a strong growth the following summer.
The well-matured wood is best for making cuttings. One of the most
desirable methods is to cut a section bearing a short but thrifty
lateral branch from a good-sized limb. The section taken should be 6 or
8 inches long and be entirely buried in the ground, leaving the end of
the side branch projecting to form the tree. This is not at all
essential, as a straight cutting will usually root and grow readily, but
it is desirable, as the buried cross section holds the cutting firmly in
the ground and its bulk prevents it from drying out easily. In the coast
region cuttings are often planted in August with good results. In this
case the leaves should be removed. It is advisable to plant the cutting
where the tree is to stand, as fig roots are easily injured by
transplanting. Little is gained in growth by planting rooted trees, but
when such are used both roots and tops should be heavily pruned when
planted, to secure a satisfactory growth.

Sometimes it is advisable to plant the cuttings in the nursery and to
keep them there for three years before removing them to their permanent
location, as winter protection can be more easily given them. After the
trunk of the fig is three years old it is much less easily injured by
cold. This practice would seem to be of doubtful value, since young figs
are more often injured by late frosts after growth has started in the
spring than by the greater cold of midwinter when they are dormant. Figs
can be grafted without difficulty, but it is seldom done in the south.

                           SOIL AND LOCATION.

The fig will grow in almost any location, but it attains its highest
development on a rich, moist, but well-drained soil, that contains
abundant humus.

A plentiful supply of lime, phosphoric acid, and potash is also needed,
and if not contained in the soil must be supplied by fertilization. The
best conditions for fig growth are found in the bottoms and hammocks
rather than in the sandy uplands, though many fine specimens can be
found in either location. In planting for home use it is advisable to
plant the trees near the house and about the farm buildings, for they
always thrive in such locations, while many failures have been made in
attempting to establish them under orchard conditions, especially in the
light soils of the “piney woods” region. It is not easy to account for
these failures, since the old dooryard trees are so universally healthy
and thrifty, though growing without care or attention. Several causes
can be cited that may contribute to the result, but all seem
insufficient to account fully for the facts observed. There must be some
undetected factor that contributes to the almost universal superiority
of dooryard over orchard-grown fig trees in the Gulf States.

One of the most obvious difficulties in establishing a fig orchard
arises from the fact that the young trees are tender and easily injured
by the cold. Figs start very early in the season, and the frequently
occurring spring frosts often catch them in quite vigorous growth. This
does no great harm to old trees; though the young leaves are killed,
they soon push out again, and as the principal crop of fruit is borne on
the new wood the crop is not much injured. With young trees, however, it
is different, as the tissues of the trunk are softer. Fine, thrifty
trees of one or two years’ growth are killed to the ground by a slight
freeze after their spring growth has started. They may start again from
the root, but their vitality is injured and they do not seem to fully
recover. Such trees at 3 or 4 years old are often no larger than after
the first summer’s growth. Young trees also suffer much more severely
than old ones from extreme cold in winter, even when entirely dormant.
It would appear that the shelter afforded by buildings and yard fences
may sufficiently protect young trees from damage, when in an open space
they would be severely injured. Then, if from a dozen cuttings stuck
down in such out-of-the-way places only two or three grow, they are seen
and remembered, while the failures are forgotten, whereas an orchard row
showing a stand of only one-fourth is very unsatisfactory. The dooryard
tree usually gets the benefit of ashes and house-slops, and perhaps the
wash from the barnyard. These sources of fertility are all beneficial,
for the fig is a gross feeder. Its roots are never broken by the plow,
which is another great advantage, for the fig has a shallow rooting
habit and does not thrive when its feeding roots are disturbed.

In the light soils of the South it is extremely difficult to keep plows
and cultivators from running so deep as to do serious injury to fig
trees, and the proper cultivation or treatment of a fig orchard is
therefore a serious question. Many growers advise against plowing after
the first year, but the tree will not thrive if choked with grass and
weeds. To keep a large orchard clean with a hoe is no small undertaking.
Some advocate heavy mulching to keep down weeds, and that is doubtless
often advisable, but the hard, clean-swept southern dooryard seems to
suit the root habit of the fig better than any system of cultivation yet
devised. Another point to be considered is that the fig suffers severely
from root knot when planted in the fields where vegetables or cowpeas
have been grown, as the nematodes causing this trouble multiply in the
roots of all such crops.

In planting a fig orchard care should be taken to select new land that
is known to be free from these pests.

The fig has a spreading habit of growth and when old requires
considerable room. As the cuttings cost but little, it is well to plant
rather closely, with the expectation of thinning out the trees when
necessary. With 200 trees to the acre the earlier crops would be double
those obtained from a planting of half that number, though doubtless 100
full-grown trees would sufficiently occupy the land. Twelve by 16 is a
suitable distance for the trees when young. Removing alternate rows when
needed would leave the permanent planting 16 by 24 feet. It is best to
plant two or three cuttings at each place, to be sure of a stand. All
but the most vigorous can be cut out if more than one starts to grow.


Unquestionably figs should be thoroughly cultivated during the first
season. This is necessary to give them a good start, and as the young
trees make their largest growth after midsummer it is important to
continue the cultivation late in the season. Unless the soil is quite
rich some fertilizer should be used, as the future of the tree depends
largely on its vigor during the first season. An excessive use of stable
manure or other nitrogenous fertilizer should be avoided, as the
tendency of these is to induce a soft, succulent growth too easily
injured by the winter. The “piny-woods” soils are deficient in
phosphoric acid, and this should be a prominent ingredient of all
fertilizers used in regions where these predominate.

It is not advisable to attempt to cultivate any vegetable crop among fig
trees, on account of the danger of increasing root knot, and because
such crops are likely to interfere with cultivation at the time when it
may be most needed.

The best subsequent treatment for a fig orchard is, to a certain extent,
an open question. It is probable that in most locations the best results
will be obtained by mulching heavily near the tree with any available
material that will hold moisture and keep down the weeds. Pine straw,
marsh grass, or planer shavings answer the purpose. The dust from old
charcoal pits is sometimes used, and on the coast a mulch of oyster
shells is often seen. The slowly decomposing shells probably act to some
extent as a fertilizer, since the fig is known to thrive best in strong
lime soils. The middle of the rows can be kept clean by a shallow
plowing and harrowing without disturbing the mulch and without injury to
the roots protected by it. Winter protection of some kind should
certainly be provided during the first two or three years, at least to
the extent of mounding the dirt or mulch high about the base of the tree
in the fall. Protecting the tops with old gunny sacks or pine branches
will often prove of great advantage.

Pruning is seldom practiced, except so far as may be necessary to
properly shape the young tree, and this is better done in summer by
pinching. In case of a freeze, all injured wood should be promptly cut
away. It is said that the size of the fruit can be greatly increased by
judicious pruning, but, as before stated, it is seldom done.

Figs come into bearing very early. A thrifty growing cutting will often
set some fruit the first season, but this seldom matures. When the tree
does not winterkill, a little fruit may be expected the second season,
and by the third the crop should be of some importance.

                      INSECT ENEMIES AND DISEASES.

The fig is usually spoken of as being comparatively free from insect
enemies, and the literature of its diseases, of which there are a
number, is scanty. It is probably true that in most localities it is
less frequently injured from these causes than are other fruit trees.

Among the diseases reported from the South the one causing most
widespread injury is doubtless root knot.

                            FIG-TREE BORER.

A longicorn beetle, _Ptychodes vittatus_, has caused considerable injury
at some points in Louisiana and Mississippi by burrowing into the trunk
and larger branches. In reply to inquiries regarding this insect,
Director W. C. Stubbs, of the Louisiana Experiment Station, says:

    The damage done in Louisiana is to a large extent conjectural.
    In our groves we have lost several trees temporarily, all being
    bored into by this borer. They, however, start up again quickly
    from the roots and soon replace the injured trees. We have had
    no remedy against this invasion except to dig it out while very
    young with a penknife. We have tried various insecticides
    without any apparent results.

                             FIG-LEAF MITE.

A browning and subsequent premature falling of the leaves, caused by the
work of a minute mite, is reported as rather common in Florida by Mr. H.
J. Webber, of the Subtropical Laboratory. It has not been studied.

Mr. Ellison A. Smith, jr., botanist and entomologist of South Carolina
Experiment Station, has published a list[1] of insects observed feeding
on ripe figs, but he does not mention any that injure the tree.

Footnote 1:

  South Carolina Experiment Station, Annual Report, 1889, pp. 105, 106.
  The list is as follows: Allorhina nitida (L.), Ptychodes trilineatus,
  Lybithea bachmanni (Kirth), Apatura celtidis (Bd. Sec.), Grapta
  interrogationis (F.), Pyrameis atalanta (L.).

                               ROOT KNOT.

This disease is caused by a microscopic nematode or true worm,
_Heterodera radicola_,[2] that infests the soft fibrous roots causing
small galls or swellings. When present in sufficient numbers it causes
the death of the roots and the consequent starvation and death of the
tree. It is by no means confined to the fig, but attacks the roots of
many other fruit and ornamental trees and shrubs and is especially
injurious to many garden vegetables and farm crops.[3] This pest thrives
best in moist sandy soils, and is troublesome throughout the entire
coast region.

No effective remedy is known when a tree is once infested, hence the
necessity for planting on land known to be free from the pest, and the
importance of not growing vegetables between the trees that will act as
a nurse crop for the disease.

Neal recommends thorough drainage of the land and the application of
tobacco dust mixed with unleached ashes or lime as the most promising
remedial measures. He advises against the excessive use of ammoniacal
manures as producing a soft, succulent root growth favorable to the
growth of the nematode. (See Bulletin No. 20, previously cited.)

Footnote 2:

  G. F. Atkinson, “A preliminary report upon the life history and
  metamorphoses of a root-gall nematode (_Heterodera radicola_ (Greeff)
  Müll.) and the injuries caused by it upon roots of various
  plants.”—Alabama Agr. Exp. Sta. Bul. No. 9.

Footnote 3:

  J. C. Neal, in an account of the root-knot disease (Dept. Agr., Div.
  Ent., Bul. No. 20) gives a list of over 60 species of plants known to
  be infested by it.

                             FIG-LEAF RUST.

Brown spots frequently appear on the foliage during the summer, and, if
numerous, cause the leaves to fall prematurely. These spots are caused
by a true rust fungus, _Uredo fici_ Cast. It occurs quite frequently
widely, and abundantly, but as it usually does not develop enough to be
noticeable until after the crop is ripe, it seems to do but little harm.
No attempt has been made to find a remedy.

                            FIG CERCOSPORA.

A somewhat similar injury to the leaves is known in Europe, caused by an
entirely different fungus, _Cercospora bolleana_ (Thum) Sacc. It had not
been observed in this country until the summer of 1895, when it was
found abundantly in Mississippi by S. M. Tracy. A _cercospora_, probably
the same species, is also reported from Florida by H. J. Webber. It
probably occurs quite commonly, but has been overlooked, its injuries
being confounded with those caused by the _Uredo_.

                               DIE BACK.

A dying of the young shoots in the fall and early winter is sometimes
noticed. This occurs before they can have been injured by severe cold
and its cause is not known. It usually occurs in feeble trees, those
injured by previous winter killing or perhaps those suffering from root
knot. A similar trouble is noted by A. F. Barron, of Chiswick, England,
(The Garden, June 20, 1891, p. 577). He finds it occurring in trees
grown in pots, and says it is there seldom noticed in trees growing out
of doors.

                               ROOT ROT.

The fungus _Ozonium auricomum_ Lk., which causes a root rot of cotton
and of many other plants and trees, has been reported upon the fig,[4]
but the extent of damage caused by it is not known. Several other
species of fungi are known to occur on the fig, but none of them can be
classed as disease-producing organisms.

Footnote 4:

  Farlow and Seymour, A Provisional Host-Index of the Fungi of the
  United States, Part 3, p. 183.


Much confusion exists in the naming of fig varieties. They were first
introduced by the early French and Spanish settlers, and there have been
more or less frequent importations since. Trees from these various
sources have been known under many local names, and it is probable that
there are now many more names recorded than we have varieties in
cultivation. On the other hand, distinct varieties are often met with
that can not be named from published descriptions. In Louisiana and
Mississippi it is safe to say that nine-tenths of all the figs grown are
of the Celeste variety. This is sometimes written Celestial, but among
growers it is uniformly known as Celeste. The tree is hardy and very
fruitful. The fruit is small, but it is one of the best in quality. When
ripe it is a light yellowish brown, tinged with violet. The flesh is
light red, delicate in texture, and very sweet and rich. A number of
other varieties occur, but they are known under local names, such as
“black fig” or “Spanish fig.” More attention has been paid to
nomenclature and to the planting of different varieties in other parts
of the South, but the Celeste is the favorite in nearly all localities.

Some interesting papers on figs were read at the meeting of the American
Pomological Society, held in Florida in 1889, and in the published
proceedings of the meeting the following 18 varieties are catalogued
among the fruits recommended by the society.

      _List of figs recommended by American Pomological Society._

Alicante; Angelique—synonym, _Jaune Hative_; Brunswick; Blue Genoa;
Black Ischia; Brown Smyrna; Celeste; Green Ischia—synonyms, _White
Ischia_, _Green Italian_; Lemon; Violet, Long; Violet, Round; Nerii;
Pregussata; White Adriatic; White Marseillaise; White Genoa; Superfine
de la Sausaye; Turkey—synonym, _Brown Turkey_.

On comparing this list with 11 others furnished by nurserymen and
writers on the fig, and taken at random from Texas, Louisiana, Georgia,
and Florida sources, we find 14 of these names occurring more or less
frequently. Four are not mentioned at all, while 13 additional names
appear, making a total of 31 varieties in the 12 lists. Celeste and
Brown Turkey lead, being mentioned 11 times each; Adriatic, Lemon, and
Brunswick come next, each occurring 8 times. White Marseillaise is
mentioned 7 times; White Genoa and Green Ischia, 6 times; Black Ischia,
5 times; and San Pedro, which is not in the American Pomological
Society’s list, occurs 4 times. We may perhaps conclude that these 10
varieties are the most generally grown in the South, but some of them
are to be considered as nurserymen’s recent introductions from
California, rather than as varieties in general use. They are
characterized in the Pomological Society’s list as follows:

       Variety.      │   Season.    │   Color.   │Quality. │   Size.
 Brunswick           │Early         │Violet      │First    │Very large.
 Black Ischia        │Medium        │Black       │  do     │Medium.
 Celestial [Celeste] │Early         │Pale violet │  do     │Small.
 Green Ischia        │  do          │Green       │  do     │Medium.
 Lemon               │  do          │Yellow      │  do     │  Do.
 White Adriatic      │              │            │         │
 White Marseillaise  │Medium        │White       │Second   │Medium.
 White Genoa         │  do          │  do        │  do     │Large.
 Turkey              │Early to late │Brown       │First    │  Do.
 San Pedro           │Not mentioned │            │         │

Other lists agree in describing both White Adriatic and San Pedro as
very large white figs of the best quality and very desirable where they
succeed, but as being tender and nonfruitful in many locations. Celeste,
Brown Turkey, and Brunswick are more uniformly commended for hardiness,
fruitfulness, and general utility than any others.[5]

Footnote 5:

  The canning factories greatly prefer the Celeste, paying one-fourth
  more for them than for larger, coarser kinds.


At present figs are mostly used for household purposes, comparatively
few being prepared for market. They are eaten fresh from the tree or are
served on the table with sugar and cream. They can also be stewed and
made into puddings and pies, and when canned or preserved they make an
acceptable table delicacy throughout the year. On first tasting fresh
figs many people are disappointed and think they will not care for them,
but on further acquaintance nearly everyone learns to like them. If
picked at all green the fig exudes a milky, acrid juice that has a rank,
disagreeable flavor. When fully ripe this disappears, and in learning to
eat figs one should choose only the ripest specimens. The beginner will
find eating them at the table with plenty of sugar and cream a pleasant
introduction. It is needless to commend this method to those who are
acquainted with it.

For canning, figs should be picked when still firm enough to hold their
shape. To secure the best results they require the use of more sugar
than do some other fruits. If undersweetened they seem tasteless and
lacking in quality. The amount of sugar used and the method of procedure
vary greatly in different households. A pound of sugar to 3 or 4 pounds
of fruit would probably suit most tastes, though some prefer the regular
“pound for pound” preserve. Ginger root or orange peel is sometimes
added to give variety of flavoring, and figs are often made into sweet
pickles by adding spices and vinegar. Figs are sometimes peeled before
canning, and this is considered to increase their delicacy of flavor.
More frequently, however, they are cooked unpeeled and with the stems
on, just as they come from the tree. They hold their shape better and
look more attractive when treated in this way, and the difference in
flavor, if any, is very slight.

Figs are occasionally dried for household use, but as they ripen at the
South during the season of frequent summer showers, this is so
troublesome that it is not often attempted. A nice product could
doubtless be made by use of fruit evaporators, but these are seldom used
far South.

In speaking of home uses for the fig, its value as food for pigs and
chickens should not be forgotten. Both are very fond of them, and on
many places the waste figs form an important item of their midsummer
diet. In fact, no cheaper food can be grown for them.

                         MARKETING FRESH FIGS.

Ripe figs are very perishable. To be marketed successfully they must be
handled with great care. It is best to pick them in the morning, while
still cool. They should be taken from the tree with the stem
attached—great care being exercised not to bruise them in handling—and
placed in small, shallow baskets, in which they are to be marketed. In
large packages their weight will bruise them badly. The ordinary quart
strawberry basket crate is a suitable package for marketing figs. They
will carry better, however, in flat trays, holding but a single layer.
This form of package is especially desirable for the larger varieties.
Figs should hang on the tree until quite ripe and develop their full
sweetness and flavor, but in this condition they are soft and perishable
and must be consumed at once. For marketing at a distance it is
necessary to pick them while still quite firm. This is unfortunate, for
though they will soften and become quite edible, they will lack the fine
quality of tree-ripened fruit. This fact will always be an obstacle to
the successful introduction of the fresh fig into distant markets. When
picked in right condition the fruit will keep from twenty-four to
thirty-six hours at the ordinary temperature and may be shipped short
distances by express. Figs ripen in midsummer when the weather is
hottest, and this is one reason why they are so difficult to handle.
Like other fruits they will keep longer at lower temperatures. They do
well under refrigeration, and by using refrigerator cars it is quite
possible to put them on the more distant Northern markets in good
condition. This has been done experimentally in connection with other
fruit shipments, but it is not often attempted. Fresh figs are not known
or appreciated in Northern markets, and consequently the demand is too
limited to encourage shipments. It seems doubtful if the distant
shipment of fresh figs will ever become a profitable business. The fruit
is more perishable than any other that is generally marketed. It can be
handled only by the most careful and experienced persons, and even then
it is not in a condition to show its best quality. Ripening in
midsummer, when the Northern markets are crowded with many well-known
fruits, and not being specially attractive to the eye, fresh figs would
at best gain favor slowly. The fact that many people do not care for
them at the first would be another obstacle in the way of their
popularity. Moreover, the fig is a tedious crop to handle, when in
proper condition for market. It is necessary to pick the trees over
carefully every day during the season, or much fruit will be overripe.
With large trees, this involves much labor; the acrid juice of the
immature figs eats into the fingers of the pickers and packers, while
rainy weather occasions heavy loss by the cracking of the fruit, which
renders it unfit for market.

Notwithstanding these drawbacks, a limited demand would undoubtedly be
created if the fig were placed regularly on the market, for many people
are very fond of this fruit. It is quite possible that in sections
especially adapted to fig culture, and favored with rapid refrigerator
transportation, the shipment may become a business of importance. When a
regular home market can be found, even at moderate prices, no crop is
more profitable, as the trees bear regularly and abundantly. The only
hope for such a home market, except in the immediate neighborhood of
large cities, is in increased use by canners.

                           CANNING FACTORIES.

Everyone likes canned figs. The taste does not have to be educated, as
is often the case with the fresh fruit. The factories at Biloxi, Miss.,
and at New Orleans, La., appreciate this fact, and for several years
have been putting increasing quantities of the canned product on the
market. Up to the panic of 1893 the demand for these goods was very
active, and the canners paid as high as 4 cents per pound for the fresh
figs and could not get enough to fill their orders. Since then the
demand for all luxuries has fallen off and factories have curtailed
their packing, but have not materially reduced the price of the product,
which has always been very high. There seems to be no reason, aside from
the larger quantity of sugar required, why figs should not be grown and
canned as cheaply as peaches. If this were done the demand would soon be
very large. It is in this direction, if at all, that there seems to be
an opening for the building up of the fig industry in the South.

The processes used by the factories in canning figs differ somewhat from
household methods. They also differ among themselves. Each factory has
worked out a plan of its own, the details of which are regarded to some
extent as trade secrets. In one factory, whose product has been much
admired, the process consists in boiling the fruit at first in a very
light sirup, allowing it to cool, and then transferring it with
successive heatings and coolings to sirups of gradually increasing
density. The whole process requires nearly two days. In the finished
product the fig, while holding its shape perfectly, has become partially
transparent, and as the final sirup is clear and free from sediment the
fruit is very attractive.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Fig Culture - Edible Figs: Their Culture and Curing. Fig Culture in the United States." ***

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