Spotlight on Summer’s First Fig

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Negronne fig
Negronne, a.k.a. Violette du Bordeaux

Figs are delicious on just about every level. The tree looks tropical, the leaves are the preferred couture of modest statues everywhere, and the fruit is a sugary bon-bon that is comfortable in savory and sweet cuisine alike.

This is the first year that I’ve harvested a Negronne fig (a.k.a. Violette du Bordeaux fig) , and since the tree only produced one fig, you’ll understand why I’m giving it the star treatment on this august (and August) occasion. (Update: three more ripened in late September.)

 sliced negronne fig

I brought out the good china to savor the moment. After waiting three years, I can say after the first bite, it was worth the wait.  As for next year’s jam-like figs, only 364 days to go.

Growing tip: Since figs produce on last year’s growth, I will prune lightly and judiciously to ensure a bumper crop next year and for me anything above 20 would be a bumper crop in the cool clime of the Pacific Northwest. If you prune too heavily in the early years, you prune off the year-old fruit producing branches. In warm climates you may even get two crops of figs in one growing season.

18 COMMENTS

  1. YUM!!! Tommy, that fig looks so worth of you! Can I grow a fig tree here in the Sunshine (without Fay) State? If so, any tips?

  2. well, you’ve got to start somewhere: one fig this year; next year, enough for several tarts or a few jars of preserve. You’ll see… Once established figs grow fast and are very productive. I always had to race the squirrels, and although they feasted – so did I. This was on the East Coast. Are you, ahem, “blessed” with squirrels on your island in Pudget Sound?

  3. Oh yes, we have squirrels. I have a theory: misquided Seattleites rowed ashore under cloak of night and dumped a colony on Vashon. It’s now like a varmint Alcatraz around here.

  4. That fig sure looks mighty tasty!! I have 2 trees and it has given me a bumper crop year after year since we moved into this house. Maybe next year I’ll venture to try other things with it besides preserves and cakes.

  5. Hi Tom,

    Do you keep your figs outside year round, or do you drag them in over the winter? I would love to have a fig but not sure where I would put it in the house.

  6. Annette, figs are easily kept outside in the ground or in a pot in the Northwest, prudent pruning is needed for the latter option. In Seattle, we don’t have to bring in fig trees, and even some varieties are reputed to grow well as far north as Chicago.

    The is easiest fig to grow I’ve found is a green fig call Dessert King (oddly enough), though my favorites to eat are Violetta and Negronne. Full sun works best when considering a location.

  7. Celeste, figs are quite forgiving and if you prune the central lead down to the height you want when the tree is young, it encourages branched, shrub-like growth. My Negronne is only 6 feet tall and I had nice figs from it and a multi-branched trunk. I plan on keeping most of my fig trees less than 10 feet tall (which is quite a ‘tall’ order. 😉

    Another thing to remember is figs produce on last year’s growth, so be prudent with the shears for next year’s figs. Here’s some good info about growing figs from the North American Fruit Explorers: http://www.nafex.org/figs.htm .

  8. Tom, I should simply ask: what do you recommend for Seattle by way of a delicious, low-growing variety? I found several varieties at Molbaks that say they grow to 25′ tall and maybe any of these would work as long as I prune them. The spot in my garden is perfect for growing figs – I had a very healthy plant but the figs were white and insipid so I removed it and am looking for a suitable replacement.

  9. Negronne and Violetta are fine choices for the Seattle area as I’ve grown and harvested both. I thought they were both very flavorful and I’ve seen them both at nurseries locally, DIG nursery on Vashon and last year at West Seattle Nursery but in Seattle you may give a Swanson’s in Seattle a call too. And you just have to keep it trimmed to your desired height as they will all reach for the sky, a sky well over our heads and ladders if allowed.

  10. I just purchased three different fig trees from West Seattle Nursery this weekend – they had Negronne (best candidate for container planting according to the labels) and two purples, I can’t remember their names right now. $12.95 each! My neighbor has an older green fig tree on the south east corner of his lot (a LOT of sun) and it produces a huge abundance of giant almost pear sized figs. Btw, they are fairly easy to propagate. I’ve never propagated anything but rumors before and I still have one healthy one boppin along in a planter from my neighbor’s tree.

    I love to eat them raw like apples and my favorite prep is broiled or grilled with either a basalmic reduction or honey glaze with mascarpone whipped cream! Divine!!!!

  11. I look forward to trying that! And as for the green figs, they are likely Dessert King, a large productive green fig with a thick skin. They are a very good producer in the Northwest. I like them for canning.

  12. Leslie, mine has remained small (so far) at about six feet. Figs have soft wood and are easy to prune to the height you’d like. Don’t prune out too much as figs produce on last year’s growth. And no pollinator is needed.

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