81 responses

  1. Colloquial Cook
    August 14, 2009

    Beautiful figs :-) Clearly your figtree is very cooperative, lucky you. If you get as far as making Christine’s dry/frsh fig jam, please share your impressions! Can I add your blog to my blogroll? Je t’embrasse

  2. Tom
    August 14, 2009

    Hi Claire, but of course — thanks for the kinds words and fig recipe tip. So glad I found your site!

  3. Randy
    August 16, 2009

    Great post — although I was expecting to see little fig newtons growing right before my eyes…I really enjoyed catching up this week.
    All the best…Randy

  4. Tom
    August 16, 2009

    Randy, fig newton trees are really difficult to grow in this area; just when they are ready to harvest the rains come and you have one soggy cookie.

  5. Milena
    August 31, 2009

    Can you tell me what variety of fig you have in the photograph for this tip.

  6. Tom
    August 31, 2009

    Milena, it’s a Peter’s Honey fig in the photos above. (I’ll update the post, thanks!)

  7. Libby White
    January 24, 2010

    Thank you for your descriptive photo essay. I was wondering about my figs. Now I will know when to pick them (prefferably before the birds do)

  8. tom | tall clover farm
    January 24, 2010

    And Libby if it looks like the birds are zeroing in on the figs, cut up pieces of foil and tent the top of the figs around the stem and that seems to deter them, and there’s always bird netting, too. Good luck.

  9. Suzie
    August 2, 2010

    I’d like to discourage you from using bird netting unless you are in a colder climate. We’ve lost two western coachwhips this year in ours and are taking it all down – it traps beneficial snakes and kills them very slowly.

  10. Tom
    August 2, 2010

    Susie, thanks for bringing that to light. I don’t use bird netting, so I guess I shouldn’t recommend it. Thanks for the heads-up.

  11. amy russell
    September 17, 2010

    i was wondering if there was a way to help the figs make it to the final stage to pick through the last wet rainy period. My figs are very nice sized and now the rains are closing in…Do the need some kind of cover or whatever?

  12. Tom
    September 17, 2010

    Hi Amy, there’s not much you can do at this point. Figs are a little tougher than cherries and tomatoes which usually have skin splitting with heavy rains, but ripening all boils down to a little more sunshine and a little more warmth to get them to that state. Unfortunately, figs don’t ripen off the tree. Pretty much what you pick is what you get, even days later. Keep your fingers crossed for a clearing trend and few weeks of sun.

  13. Melissa Glass
    April 20, 2011

    I live in Arizona… How long does it usually take to ripen? What time of year? Your blog was very helpful… Thanks :)

    • Tom
      April 21, 2011

      Hi Melissa, my figs ripen between August and September. I suspect they would ripen earlier in Arizona, most likely June or July, but they are water hogs, just in case conservation is a consideration in your area. Full service nurseries and local ag extension offices are good sources for what varieties will do well in your climate. GardenWeb.com is also a good place to do a search for “Arizona fig growing” and see what gardeners in your area are doing. Good Luck and thanks for visiting!

  14. Dwayne
    April 22, 2011

    Dude! Thanks for the photo guide. I have been so confused on the fig growing and ripening process so this hits the mark for me. Thanks for the info!

    • Tom
      April 22, 2011

      Good to hear Dwayne — happy growing!

  15. Catherine C
    May 10, 2011

    I just read something about putting olive oil on the bottom of the fig to hasten ripening. Which picture above is the right time? I am a bit impatient – I brought back a cutting from my uncle’s farm in Italy 5 years ago and this is the first year the fruit actually looks like it will ripen. BTW I like in Phoenix, AZ so it doesn’t freeze in the winter. And yes it is well watered.

  16. Catherine C
    May 10, 2011

    Hi Tom – just saw your answer to Melissa so I now know when. Still want to know about the olive oil.

  17. Tom
    May 11, 2011

    Catherine, I don’t know anything about the olive oil solution. Wow, those crazy ancients could teach us a thing or two. My suggestion is to just wait for them ripen naturally since you live in AZ where the sun actually shines.

    If you wish to proceed with the olive oil technique, I did find this info: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/july02/2.htm

    Good luck!

  18. Fishtail Cottage
    June 19, 2011

    Thanks so much for linking up to Cottage Flora Thursday’s! Thanks for all the great info. about the figs! xoxo, tracie

  19. Tewrobert
    June 30, 2011

    I am in South Alabama and I have just got done picking probably less than a 4th of the figs on my tree. Still a lot to pick but some are still plain green and sticking upright..I wanted to beat the Birds to them but I sure dont want to kill any birds either so I guess its gonna be early bird gets the worm ( aka Fig )
    I will be doing a bunch of cuttings this year, I only did about a half doxen and gave them to my neighbors but I am stocking up for the next year :)
    Now I gotta figure out how to make some fig jam etc :)

  20. Tom
    June 30, 2011

    Tewrobert, fig jam is pretty easy, just figs, sugar and lemon juice and reduce with a simmer until thick — tah, dah – done!

    As for the birds, try covering the trees with a row cover fabric, or sections of tree. It’s a white gauze-like fabric that neither birds nor snakes get stuck in, and it’s opaque too. That might help you get a few more figs.
    Tom recently posted..Garden Tour…or Where the Grass Was Greener My Profile

  21. barbara doss
    July 19, 2011

    How do I know when my sundried figs are ready to be stored without mildewing

  22. Tom
    July 19, 2011

    Hi Barbara, most commercial dried figs have preservatives. For homemade dried figs, I’d just vacuum pack or freeze them in a zip lock bag to keep them longer. They are ready when no ooze or dripping juices, but are moist and tacky to the touch.
    Tom recently posted..MacGyver Mom Takes On Mutant Alien DeerMy Profile

  23. Fishtail Cottage
    July 22, 2011

    Always love coming by to see your posts…so informative! Thanks for linking up to Cottage Flora Thursday’s! xoxo, tracie
    Fishtail Cottage recently posted..Welcome to Cottage Flora Thursday’s #28My Profile

  24. Joseph in Vegas
    July 30, 2011

    These comments were very informative. I have one young fig tree and it had about 8 purple figs that the birds were starting to peck. I panicked and picked them yesterday but I don’t know if they are ripe. I will try one today. I do still have about 10 green figs and I will take your advice and wait until they hang on the tree before picking and hopefully beat the birds to the punch. Thanks!

  25. Teresa
    August 1, 2011

    Thanks so much for the pictures of ripening Desert King figs! It was perfect for an inexperienced gardener and proud brand-new (just picked it up today!) Desert King fig tree owner. My baby has two figs on it already!

    • Tom
      August 4, 2011

      Go Teresa, Desert King is a great choice for an easy to grow, not to fussy fig tree! Enjoy.

  26. Bill
    August 25, 2011

    Tom, do figs only grow off the main stem?That’s the way mine grow and I have only four figs. My tree is about 3 feet tall (5 years old) I keep it in a large planter
    and bring it out of the weather in the early winter. Any ideas about growing bigger would help. I live in southwestern Michigan 5 miles east of Lake Michigan,


    • Tom
      August 27, 2011

      Bill figs usually produce their biggest crop on the fig wood of last season’s growth. In your climate that may be killed in the winter and leave you with few figs. My grandfather in Indiana would wrap his fig tree with burlap and fill the base with dried leaves during the winter. What I would recommend is planting another variety, Chicago Hardy fig. It’s suppose to produce ripe figs on new growth. So if it dies to the ground, the new growth of the current season will still produce figs. Here’s link to a forum thread about that variety: http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/fig/msg0209133413555.html
      Good Luck! Tom

  27. Mary Harrison
    September 1, 2011

    Do I prune my fig tree and if yes, when?

  28. Tom
    September 1, 2011

    Hi Mary, figs are a little tricky when pruning because next year’s figs are on this years growth. The good news is figs are easy to prune and usually don’t need a ton of maintenance.

    So here’s what I’d do
    1. Prune out any dead branches
    2. Prune out any cross branching, to create openness
    3. Tip prune any top, crazy long branches to encourage multiply branching
    4. And prune height if you wish to maintain a certain vertical height.

    I would wait until the trees are leafless and dormant in late fall, winter or early spring before budding out. Good luck!
    Tom recently posted..Preserving Tips: How to Thicken JamMy Profile

  29. Howie
    September 4, 2011

    How do I keep the ants off of the figs without using pesticides? If I wait until they are fully ripe, the ants find their way to the nectar and I lose the figs. I live on Long Island , New York. Thanks for the great pictures.

    • Tom
      September 4, 2011

      Hi Howie, Here’s how I deal with ants on figs and other fruit trees without using pesticides.

      I use a product called tanglefoot, a super gooey substance that ants and other crawling insects can’t walk over without getting stuck. So far they have not learned how to build stick bridges. ;-)

      How to apply
      1. Get an old paper bag, cut into strips and wrap one 4-inch strip around the trunk and tape in place. Spread tanglefoot on it covering the surface.
      2. Don’t put it directly on the tree trunk, makes a mess and I found the bark gets sunburned, blistered and damaged on hot days.
      3. Make sure your ants can’t get to the tree from another route, like branches from another tree.
      That should keep them off.
      Good luck!

  30. Harold
    September 5, 2011

    Thank you for sharing this, I do have a question though, what do I do with figs that aren’t rip? I don’t have a fig tree therefore I buy them at my local market but they only have them unripe,Green on the outside and white inside and they are milky and sticky when cut open. Is there any way to still get them ripe and sweet?

  31. Tom
    September 6, 2011

    Harold, figs don’t ripen off the tree, unfortunately. So any figs picked firm or unripe will not ripen at home. A fig should really be soft; while it may not look its best, it will taste so much better.

  32. Chiot’s Run
    September 13, 2011

    Thanks so much for this information photo series about figs. This is the first year my fig tree is producing and I figured I had a few ripe figs but wanted to make sure so as not to waste and of the precious few fruit I have. Great info, much appreciated!

  33. vancouver island
    September 16, 2011

    after halfhour surfing with my question “can figs be too ripe”, your photos and text gave me a very satisfying answer. Thank you! Mine are the same kind as yours and drooping and dripping just like that. It’s my tree’s second year in my yard, and my first real crop……12 figs

  34. Tom
    September 16, 2011

    Congrats VI on the bumper crop. And really figs can’t be too ripe, but it becomes a textural issue for some eaters. I like them really ripe for fresh eating and a little less ripe for salads, or broiling with bacon and goat cheese.

  35. Nancy
    September 18, 2011

    I, too, had a bumper crop this year! I have had my tree (bush) for three years now and wouldn’t give up hope.

    I am now the proud owner of two (2) unripe (according to your information) figs which I trust will ripen before I have to bring the plant in the house to avoid the frost!!!!!!

    Maybe next year I’ll get a Super Bumper Crop?

    Thanks for the info and I’ll keep the recipes until my crop improves!



  36. Australia!!
    September 20, 2011

    I have a super huge fig tree and i want to know about it’s sap, Is it poisonous if ingested? (to animals and humans) and can it poison through skin? i have had the sap on my hands before and it didn’t irritate my skin, but it did my family’s, Why is that?
    Good picture guide by the way, very informative!

  37. Tom
    September 20, 2011

    Australia, I don’t know about the sap if ingested, but I have read where it can cause skin rash and irritations in some folk: http://www.katu.com/news/local/62682802.html

    So no chewing on fig stems, would be my advice.

    October 7, 2011

    Hi!I just move my fig tree inside house and there is few figs on the tree,but they are very hard to touch,any chance they are going to ripe(Salt lake City-Utah)-thank you!!!

  39. Tom
    October 7, 2011

    Hi Zeke, You could give it a try and place it in a sunny window or by a sunny sliding glass door and give the figs a couple weeks to ripen and see what happens, but I doubt they will ripen this late in the season. This time of year, the tree wants to go dormant. So if the leaves drop, that’s okay, just place it somewhere cold but where it won’t be subjected to extreme cold temperatures. Place it back out in the sun when the temps. rise above freezing in the spring.

  40. kathleen
    October 24, 2011

    Thanks so much! My mother-in-law purchased a fig tree for me and I wasn’t sure when to pick the figs. It’s full of figs this year–2 years after she purchased it for me. I want to make sure I harvest my “crop” at just the right time! Thanks again.

  41. Lucy
    February 9, 2012

    Hi from Mornington Peninsula, Vic, Australia.
    Your Fig photos are the BEST I’ve seen online! You must have heaps of patience :) My brown turkey is nearly ready. I talk to it eeveryday. Can I send you a photo? Thanks again, Lucy

  42. Rivkah
    June 23, 2012

    I’m so glad I found this page! Last fall I moved next to wonderful neighbors who have two huge fig trees and many of the figs are now ripe! I did not know how to tell ripe from unripe, but was a pretty good guesser, based on your pics.

    A brand new seven tray dehydrator was given to me and today I am going to pick figs and start the drying process. My twenty month old grandson will love this! The trees have been grown organically, too.

    Thank you!

  43. Kari
    July 8, 2012

    Like the person above this post, I just moved into a house with 2 fig trees out back. Had never eaten one before today. Didn’t know how to tell they were ripe or not, but thanks to you, I know! Good post. And I found a new fruit I like!

  44. Sonja
    September 1, 2012

    We just moved to a house in Seattle with a fig tree in the backyard. SO GLAD to get tips and information so we can harvest. We have A LOT of fruit on the tree & all the sun lately can only be good for it. Thank you for your posting!

    • Tom
      September 2, 2012

      Welcome to Seattle Sonja! Nothing better than a backyard with a loaded fig tree. You’ve got your fig cake, your fig jam, figs stuffed with goat cheese wrapped in bacon…and the list goes on and on. Thanks for visiting!

  45. Serene
    April 2, 2013

    I’m so grateful to have found such great info regarding figs. I expect to harvest my very first figs this season and this is just what I needed. Now I will know just when to harvest. Thanks so much.
    Serene recently posted..Spring…"the memorial of His abundant kindness.."My Profile

    • Tom
      April 2, 2013

      Glad to help Serene, I’m going to post a video on picking ripe figs, just a little behind in doing so. Hopefully in the next week or so.

  46. Rita Clarke
    June 6, 2013

    Unlike very small figs of years past, my fig trees/bushes are putting out the most gorgeous fat figs this year – I have no idea why the difference. Anyway, the BlueJays are getting to them before they have a chance to get near ripened. Anything I can do to get there before the birds? I’ve just read that you can’t pick figs BEFORE they ripen because they won’t ripen OFF the stem. I’m hoping to have a few for myself this year. Thanks. Rita

  47. Cristina
    August 6, 2013

    Thank you for sharing about how to tell if/when a fig is ripe. So helpful for my two fig trees! Pinning. :)

  48. Betty
    August 28, 2013

    So glad I found your informative and entertaining explanation! I have a small tree that was only cultivated less than 2 years ago. When I got it, it was basically a 10 inch stick. I never expected fruit so soon but I now have about a half dozen that suddenly appeared a few days ago. I’ll be bookmarking this post and hope to make your recipe as well!
    Betty recently posted..Brush with celebrityMy Profile

  49. Charles Bird
    October 5, 2013

    I live 90 miles north of Seattle and my figs fruit abundantly in August but they never ripen. Maybe I need a better variety. Any suggestions?

    • Tom
      October 7, 2013

      Charles, the one variety that always ripens for me no matter how bad the weather is, is Desert King, which is readily available in most northwest fruit nurseries, including Cloud Mountain which is north of Seattle in Everson.

  50. Christine
    October 20, 2013

    Well phooie. I’m babysitting my next door neighbors place and being an old Italian fellow, he has several fig trees. He told me to go ahead and have at them while he is gone for the month of October (yep, to Italy) I don’t know a thing about figs and thought well, while I’m over here I’ll pluck a few and then jump on the internet to see when these babies are ready. Those I picked are sadly, not ready. I live out on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, tons of rain most of the time, more rain that usual this year. These guys are still not ripe. Is there anything at all I can do with these figs or should I just say forget it? I hope the trees give something this year, it’s been a wild year for all things garden, at least for me. My thorn-less blackberries got hammered with rain right when they were coming in, consequently I’m going from 100 gallons of the beauties down to just 8 so far this year, huge, huge loss for me. I’d hate to see that happen with these 5 fig trees too. :-( They are just not ripe and here we are so late into October. Depressing. Quite tickled I found your blog though!! <3
    Christine recently posted..Creative Every Day – Permission to PlayMy Profile

    • Tom
      October 20, 2013

      Hi Christine, Welcome and thanks for your fun comment, though I am sorry to hear about the blackberry loss and the unripe figs. I’m sorry to say, it is very unlikely that your friend’s figs will ripen now. Mine are hanging on the tree mocking me as unripe and rotting ornaments. You need to have your friend travel in mid-summer when the first crop, the breba crop of figs comes in. You’re bound to harvest those. The second crop or main crop as the oddly call it, rarely ripens in the Pacfic Northwest. I have a couple figs in my greenhouse and even there, the second fruiting doesn’t ripen to an edible state.

  51. Arlene
    November 4, 2013

    I have a wonderful recipe for fresh fig cake and this is the first year that I’ve harvested enough figs to make five cakes for the freezer. Each cake takes 2 cups of fresh, mashed figs, 2 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup shortening; 4 eggs; 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour mixed with 1 tsp. each cinnamon, allspice, and baking soda; and 1 tsp vanilla; 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 cup chopped pecans. Mix all well.. I use 1/4 cup softened butter and 1/2 cup Crisco for the shortening. Mix well and bake at 350 degrees for 45 min in a well greased Bundt pan. No icing is needed but a thin icing can be used if desired.

    • Tom
      November 4, 2013

      Oh Arlene, a woman after my own heart. Fig cake…just saying it makes me lick my lips. What a great recipe to try. I can see the post now, Arlene’s Awesome Fig Cake! Thanks again, and congratulations on the hefty fig harvest.

      • Arlene
        November 11, 2013

        Tom, I’ve used the same recipe but substituted brandied cherries for the figs. Last season I had so many cherries that I made cherry liquor. After straining the liquor, I couldn’t bring myself to discard the pitted cherries so I put them in the freezer. That was in 2012. This summer, I didn’t make liquor – just pies and froze fresh cherries. I pulled out those “brandied” cherries and made the cake – actually four all total. Talk about heavenly. I will never throw out those cherries again!

  52. Angela
    December 28, 2013

    I was wondering if you could email me. Im trying to figure out what kind of fig tree i have. sweetpealove69@gmail.com that way i could send you a photo of it.

    • Tom
      December 28, 2013

      Angela, do you have both a photo of the fruit and the leaf. It’s difficult to identify figs without a photo of the leaf, the fruit, and the fruit cut in half to expose the interior. I could give it a try though.

  53. Mike Roberts
    April 17, 2014

    Kia Ora, We are in New Zealand (North of Wellington) and have just found out that we have a very productive fig tree on our property. We had no idea what to do with the fruit (i.e. when to pick) until I Googled your site. Thank you very much for taking the time to put this together. I’m REALLY looking forward to fig ice cream!
    Warmest regards,

    • Tom
      April 18, 2014

      Welcome Mike, and thanks for the kind comments. How wonderful to meet a fellow fig lover from half way around the world, and in beautiful New Zealand at that. Fig ice cream, I like the way you think. Here are two of my favorite fig recipes: Fig and Ginger Jam; and Figs in a Blanket. Thanks again Mike! Cheers, Tom

  54. marcus wallett
    June 3, 2014

    Thanks for the information. I’ve got some of the green fig variety growing here in the east of England, and am looking forward to sampling them in future.

  55. Yvette
    June 11, 2014

    Tom, you sure know your figs! And I must say that you have a very cute fig voice…

  56. Sue
    August 4, 2014

    Awesome … Thanks so much, just got my first three fruit starting to drop a little and thought I would check online for advice about when to pick and your site was right at the top and answered my question.

  57. Carol
    August 22, 2014

    Hi, I live in The Netherlands where we have some similar weather as you! Today, I just picked my first fig and it was delish! Took 3 more off the tree then checked your site for really when to pick them… A little backwards. Hopefully they’ll be fine. They are nice and soft! I have no idea what sort they are, though. Should I cover the tree in the winter? Mine is in the ground.

    • Tom
      August 22, 2014

      Hi Carol, Brava! Your first ripe fig! About covering the tree, is it newly planted? If so, you may wish to pack it at least the lower half in leaves and wrap it in burlap to protect the root crown of the tree. Do you know what you lowest temperatures are? It may freeze to the ground and send up shots in summer, but it’s hard to ripen figs that late in the season, at least where I live. Good luck!

  58. Patricia Reihing
    September 5, 2014

    Thank you for this! Exactly what I needed to learn! I planted a fig tree last year and this year, the tree is covered in figs! They seem to be at a standstill in growing/ripening. Waiting for the signs that they are ready to be picked! Your pics were most helpful!

    • Pat Martin
      September 9, 2014

      Thanks, Tom & all! I’m from SE England, 51°N, but we have the Gulf Stream – weather drier than Vancouver (nearest I’ve been to Seattle) & maybe a bit colder, but gardens look similar.
      I bought a tiny fig plant from France – no idea of variety. It’s against a south wall. Although wrapped, I never managed to keep the “peas” over winter, but this year (mild) I have a dozen “spring” figs, about 6″ circumference, but horizontal & hard. By your photos I think you stripped the leaves around the fruit, so I have.
      Winter here can arrive any time – tomorrow or November – & I wondered if anyone has tried putting the unripe fruit in blown-up plastic bags, like mini-greenhouses, to help them ripen?
      Good eating to us all. Wish me luck – as I send to you all!

      • Tom
        September 28, 2014

        Hi Pat, In this part of the world, I’ve never had the immature fruit winter over to produce ripe figs the following spring and summer. My figs will usually look pretty bad if still on the tree and then fall off in spring making way for the new crop, the breba or first crop, which is then followed by the main crop; and that unfortunately is the one that then teases us with little figs that never ripen in our climate. So you’ll likely just get one viable fruiting off of last years growth, and those “peas” will appear after the breba crop is picked. Now unfortunately, figs do not ripen off of the tree. They’ll soften a bit, but that’s more about rotting than increasing sugar content and ripening further. I like your spirit, keep it up and who knows next year you may be swimming in figs. I just bought a fig tree that hails from Normandy, called the Dauphine. I have in my greenhouse for the first year, as it needs some encouragement and attention. Thanks for this fine visit and fig talk.

  59. Suzann
    September 28, 2014

    I bought a Black Mission Fig tree. This is the first year it has produced after planting it two years ago. I have a lot of figs but they are green. I was told they would be large and black. They are small and green. I know some are ready for harvest because the necks are drooping. Did I get another variety of fig tree and not Black Mission?

    • Tom
      September 28, 2014

      Suzann, it sounds like the tree was marked incorrectly. I have a mission fig in the greenhouse and it stays green until the ripening begins and then changes color to a rich purple black and then droops down when fully ripe.

    • Pat Martin
      September 28, 2014

      28/09 – many thanks for the reply. I’m afraid you’re right: the figs (over a dozen which are bigger than most bought ripe ones) are looking wonderful – but bright green, horizontal, & like solid wood! I has just started to bend over a bit, but the days are dropping from the mid 20°Cs into the teens, and we are past the equinox. Loads of new growth, but very few “peas”, I think I shall have to prune fairly hard, wrap the remainder in straw, with a plastic raincoat over the top (not all round) & pray for a mind winter. Up here we might get just a touch of frost right through winter- or I have known -20°C once – and bitter East winds. Never say die! But, we are usually milder than the Netherlands, so fingers crossed.

      I do love your blog! Good gardening, Pat

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