How to Know When a Fig Is Ripe and Ready to Pick

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Knowing when a fig is ripe

fig is ripe: negronne and dessert king
These figs are both ripe; skin color matters little in determining if a fig is ripe.

There’s nothing like a fresh ripe fig and there’s nothing like a fresh unripe fig.  Ripe delivers a juicy, succulent and melting gem to fawn over. Unripe tastes like a wasted opportunity: dry, starchy and flavorless.  It’s good to know the difference.

Here’s my photo guide to knowing when to pick your homegrown figs. Figs can be green, brown, golden, striped or purple. Ripeness has less to do with color and more with how they’re hanging. (Behave.) Varieties above are Negronne (a.k.a. Violette du Bordeaux) and Dessert King and photos below show Peter’s Honey Fig.

COPY CODE SNIPPET

How-To: Knowing the Right Time to Pick a Fig

Unripe Desert King fig not ready to pick

Fig 1(above) Not ripe: the fig is too firm and still perpendicular to the stem.

two unripe Desert King figs

Figs 2.  Getting riper: the fig gives a bit with touch, skin becomes more translucent, fruit starts to bend and plump up.

almost ripe desert king fig

Fig 3. Not ready yet, but a heavier softer fruit moves closer to the stem, skin shows wrinkling

very ripe desert king fig and ready to pick

Fig 4. Gravity wins and the fig is ripe and ready, no longer able to support its weight. Note the dewy skin and slight tear in the fruit; it can barely hold its sugary contents at this point.  (Time to grab the snips and go crazy!)

fig is ripe here

Fig 5. (Update) I spoke to too soon; this perfectly ripe fig cannot hold its nectar. If you don’t pick it now, the birds will not offer you a second chance.

Here’s my favorite fig recipe.

Tom’s Video: How to Tell If a Fig is Ripe and Ready to Pick

145 COMMENTS

  1. 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
    Claire

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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)

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

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

    • 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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 🙂

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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,

    Thanks

    • 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

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

    • 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!
      Tom

  19. 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?

  20. 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.

      • The figs on my tree now (Nov 1st) are about an inch & a half long, and green (though some are ripe). From previous years, they will shrivel and go black over the winter, and eventually fall off. Is it worth harvesting them now; are they “edible” when stewed? Or should I just check ’em in the compost bin?

      • Hi Robin, a man’s got to sleep sometime. 😉 I up now and ready to answer your question, I’d say you have two choices: 1) Welcome them to the compost bin or 2) make green (unripe) fig preserve. The preserve is quite good, as you basically candy the wee whole fig and then use it for cheese and charcuterie plates. Here’s a good recipe: http://www.giverecipe.com/unripe-fig-jam.html I have a heap of unripe figs, too, so I’ll be joining you in the preserves-making camp.

  21. 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!

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

    Sincerely,

    Nancy

  25. 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!

  26. 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!!!

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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

  30. 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!

  31. 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!

  32. 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!

    • 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!

  33. 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.

    • 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.

  34. 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

  35. 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!

  36. 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?

    • 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.

  37. 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

    • 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.

  38. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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!

    • 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.

  39. 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,
    Mike

    • 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

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

    • 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!

  43. 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!

    • 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!

      • 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.

  44. 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?

    • 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.

    • 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

  45. I have a small fig tree about the size of yours in the video.
    I don’t think its placed in a good spot, not enough sunlight, just north of a large Arizona ash tree. Last year during summer, ash tree gets its leaves back and doesn’t allow the tree to get enough sun. Right now, my fig tree has 2 figs on it, which I’m hoping will ripen (my ash tree above doesn’t have all its leaves yet).
    2 questions: Do you think I should move the fig tree to a sunnier spot?
    And if I leave it as is, since it gets less sun should I water less?
    I haven’t watered at all since its been raining like crazy here. Read your comment, they are water suckers.

    • Hi Melissa, if the Ash tree is south of the fig tree, I would think shade is playing a big factor. If you can give the fig tree full sun that’s one the best solution for an under-performing fig tree. I would only transplant the tree during dormancy in the late winter or early spring before leaves appear. Think of the sun as fuel. Less sun, less fuel to promote growth and fruiting for the tree. As for water, make sure you don’t waterlog the area, but wait between periods of drying out before watering again. Good luck!

  46. I moved to a place with 4 fig trees and dont know much about them is there a way to tell what kinda figs i have??? Thank tou

  47. I recently moved into a house with a fig bush in the yard. I have no idea what type of fig it is. It has long leaves with like 4 intentions in the leaves, it is loaded with figs but I have no idea when they ripen, what color they are, I know nothing about figs. Help

    • Carolyn, take a look at this post and the photos and then the video at the end. I show you how to tell when a fig, no matter what the color, is ripe. Generally speaking, the fruit is soft and gives to pressure, plus the birds will find the tree then. When the birds arrive, the figs are beginning to ripen. Good luck! And check with your neighbors, there has to be a fig lover in the ‘hood, who looks forward to that tree’s bounty, too.

  48. So, the problem I’ve been having us that June bugs (the really loud green bugs) are burrowing up into the over ripe ones I missed, and now I’m nervous about the hole at the bottom of the fig letting in little gnat like creatures. I’m ok with the birds, but how to avoid the bugs?

    • Danielle, once the fig is burrowed into by anything, its days are numbered and it begins to rot. Figs don’t ripen of the tree like some other fruits, so I suggest maybe covering the fruited branches with remay, which is a white garden fabric that lets light in and keeps bugs at bay. Good luck!

  49. Hi, I have a fig tree with lots of green fruit getting droopy and shrivelling. We are in Bristol (UK) and it’s got full sun. The figs are still white inside so I’ve just assumed they are lacking in something and not edible? Should all figs be pink/red inside?
    Thanks v much
    Laura

    • Hi Laura, figs colors are quite varied, but it sounds to me like yours are just not going to ripen up before autumn. I have some figs doing the same thing. Usually fig trees have two crops a breba and a main crop, oddly in climates like yours and mine (Pacific NW) the main crop rarely ripens, as our summer heat is just not enough to finish ripening them off.

  50. Hi Tom. I live in Labuan island part of Malaysia. I just started planting fig and am pleased to say they are happy to grow in this tropical part of the world too.

    • Hi Zita, that’s fascinating. I thought edible figs needed a chill period, that is a dormancy period where the leaves fall off due to cold and diminished sunlight. Well, how awesome is that; you get coconuts, bananas and figs. Cheers!

  51. Hi Tom,
    I live in NE Alabama and have quarter sized figs on my backyard tree in late September. How much longer, in you expert opinion, would you give them before they are ready to be picked?

    • Hi MW,
      Figs don’t ripen off the tree, so the figs would have to be soft and plump and hanging down off the stem before you can pick them and enjoy them at their best. They may not ripen in time or just need a couple more weeks, which you may still have before the first frost in your neck of the woods. Good luck.

  52. Hi Tom,
    October 3, 2015. While we are having a nice and fairly warm fall, I am happy to say that my green figs tree is still producing soft and juicy figs. These are just about a half size of the early crop. Vancouver, WA

    • Humza, you can usually fine fresh figs in grocery stores all year, imported during winter months, but the local ones if you’re in the western hemisphere show up usually July through October, depending on the variety.

  53. From a Kiwi.
    Tom, just a word of thanks.
    Thanks for all the time commenting and giving advice to folks who are obviously keen to harvest fruit from trees. Your time and knowledge is obviously so very much appreciated.

    Its so gratifying to know that there are people who still get excitement from growing fruit.
    I remember those times (as a kid), when I jumped a fence or dashed through a hedge and nicked a bit of fruit off someones tree.
    Sadly, for so many reasons, there arefewer kids able to do that now & just get their fruit from plastic bag from the supermarket.
    Where’s the lingering memories that bring smiles to ones face and heart in that ay?

    Figs were one fruit that a fence was polished smooth in us kids trying to get to it when the figs was ripe. Until now (now even in my 60’s), I have never known how to determine if the figs were ripe,….. but NOW, with YOUR help, I know what to look for.
    We now have a couple of fruiting 3 yr old trees, (tubbed) and now understand what to look for.
    I have no idea what variety they are but they seem to be doing very well in an alcove facing Nth to the southern hemisphere’s sun. We’ve fed it heaps of compost and regular doses of house hold food scraps, nipped out the tips several times (during both summer and winter)and so are now multi stemmed. Watering has at times not been “up to it” but have seemed to dealt with the stresses ok. The number of fruit that have set and presently sizing up, Im really happy with (so far)
    Anyway, MANY sincere thanks for your time and your sharing.
    BEST WISHES for the coming festive season.

    • Hi Kiwi Will, and how fine to receive your generous comment. Thank you very much, sir. I love hearing from fellow fruit lovers and garden growers, and learning how things are going in their neck of the woods. Enjoy your upcoming summer, things are chilling up quickly in my hemisphere. Let me know how the figs tasted!

  54. name of fig that produces twice a year, turn yellow when ready to pick then a week later turns red or purple. I live in Port Arthur, Texas on the Gulf Coast. I just planted this one last night, it’s about 3ft tall and healthy with 3 figs still on it. I believe it quit in September.
    Any information on this fig would be highly appreciated,

    Thanking in advance

    Van

  55. Hi Tom, I ran across your fig article today while researching a sycamore fig farmer. I will be writing a christian blog on Amos in the Old Testament who was a fig farmer. I was wondering if I could get permission to use one of your fig pictures in my blog -that is if you took the photo yourself. I will give photo credit to you. I am about to launch a new blog and it will be one of my first articles. Please let me know. Your photos are awesome!
    Patti Greene

  56. We bought our home last September and it has a large fig tree to the side of the driveway that we initially thought was dead. Much to our surprise, it is very much alive and producing a large number of buds! One trunk is dead and we’ll be removing it but the other trunk is beautiful! I have no idea the type of fig tree it is or how to care for it. I want to protect the buds from the wildlife (lots of little furry friends in the trees along with the birds….) and I want to know what to do with the figs once I harvest them if i’m able to. Do you have any advice for me? (I live in GA) Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Caiti, I’d cut out the dead trunk to the base where the new growth appears. When the figs arrive, simply pick and eat when they are ripe, or wrap in bacon and grill, or make jam out of it. Lots of fig recipes out there. Good luck!

  57. Thank You ! A very helpful and clear write-up. The description with pics. is perfect to understand when to pluck the figs.
    I have just growing one in a bag and there are many green fruits on it. Plant is about 1.5′ tall.

  58. Hi Tom,
    I found your post in a search having just taken on the care of a house with 4 fig trees. Our figs look the same as the green ones in your pictures, however, despite not being ready, they are mostly all over the drive! Is it normal to have so many fallers? The ones on the tree are not ready according to your guide, and yet, so many are dropping off. I love fig preserves and sauces and all sorts of yummy things figgy, but fear there will be none left to ripen at this rate! We are on the south coast of France near St Tropez. Thanks for any tips!

    • Usually a little later say in early July, but of course each area is different in ripening times. Take a look at my photos or video and see if the figs are soft and hanging down, if so, that’s a good sign that they are ripe. Pick one and see how it tastes. If it’s dry and flavorless, wait until the fig softens and the fruits sags on the tree.

  59. Hello from Lake Stevens WA! We bought a home in the end of December and much to my surprise we have a beautiful large fig tree on the back of our home. It has probably 25 figs on it… this posting was so helpful because I have had no clue when they would be ripe. Thank you so much! How easy is it to grow them from a smaller plant I would like to add one or two more trees to our yard where do you recommend getting them? Kathi

    • Hi Kathi, thanks for the thanks. 😉 As for buying a couple more fig trees, I’d say give your local nurseries a call or visit. It’s nice to try to support your local guys and gals first, and they usually know what varieties grows best in your region. I’d suggest Desert King as reliable producer. It’s a green fig, very flavorful and easy to grow. I’ve also had nice success with Negronne, or Violette du Bordeaux. Good luck and happy growing!

  60. Wow, so many comments, so little patience… On my part. Sorry if you’ve answered similar questions to mine already. I’ve put my negronne fig in the sunniest spot on my property. Unfortunately the sunniest spot will also be the coldest, windiest spot this winter. My tree is planted in a raised bed, but I want to replant it in a large pot (2’x2’x3′) this fall. Is this advisable?

    On the question of ants, I’ve heard wood ash sprinkled around the bottom of the tree will deter the ants. Any idea if this is true? I’m not using any chemical solution because I’m trying to make my yard insect friendly with the exception of loosing my figs. I’ve already lost my bitter oranges to squirrels that stole them, but I doubt ate them.

    • Hi Dan, Figs will perform okay in a pot but much better in the ground. You can transplant it in late fall when the leaves have been off for a while and before the ground freezes. I don’t know about wood ash deterring ants, but I sometime wrap the trunk in tree tape and then apply a little tanglefoot, and that keeps the ants off. Good luck!

  61. Hi Tom! Greetings from Morgan Hill! I’ve been watching the deer eat my figs, which is a fun fig activity in itself, for four years. I want some too, so I asked our local Martha Stewart (Lois Yunker) and she found this perfect tutorial! You’re a guru:). Thank you!

    Yummy scratches to Buddy,
    Debbie Finch

  62. Hi. Great informative site. I’ve been looking for ages to answer a question but not found the answer yet, maybe someone can help. I have a fig tree in my garden in the south of England, gets plenty of sun. It has grown to maybe 12 feet tall. When I bought my house (12 years ago) the previous owner described it as an inedible fig tree so I have always left the fruit alone. This seems a shame as the fruit are always plentiful and large. In fact as I write this I am tasting a fruit for the very first time. I haven’t seen many go totally purple/black but this is about half way from green to purple. Inside it is white turning to purple, almost red in the centre, quite moist and soft and slightly fibrous. Tastes quite like a something between a peach and a pear with subtle aroma and flavour but certainly very nice! Wish I had tried some years ago but hopefully won’t get an upset tummy later (if they are not edible!) Any way to know if they are safe as I would love to eat more !!

  63. I have 2 large fig trees , last year and this year it was loaded with figs! problem is they rarely rippen and if they do they are not sweet. What can I do to improve for next years

    • Sharon, you are not alone; my trees suffer from the same fate. Right now, even after a very warm and sunny summer, my main crop of figs sit unripe and undersized on the trees. The only answer I have to help ripen figs is to initially plant the trees against a south-facing wall where summer rays can concentrate the heat units a bit more. I have a couple fig trees in pots in my greenhouse and even that is a stretch in getting them to ripen. I wish I had an easier or better solution for you. And unfortunately, figs do not ripen off the tree.

  64. Hi Tom I live in UK I’ve had a fig tree since 8 years now it’s first time they’ve given fruite but it’s October and no chance of ripe fruite has the weather is getting wet ,so what shall I do to help early fruite next year.

    • Hi Yasmin, I have the same problem here in the Pacific Northwest, that is having the main fig crop ripen properly or at all. There’s not much you can really do other than move the fig tree to warmer spot that holds heat, say like a south facing wall, and under an eave so the fig remains dryer in the wet weather of early fall. Figs do have two crops (usually), so you may get an early crop, known as the breba crop, next year, say in June or July. Good Luck!

  65. Hi! I just moved here to North Las Vegas from HAWAII and have a fig tree in my back yard. I saw your video and read the tips to determine ripeness. It’s Dec 26 and according to the two seasons Dec is after the second season, but there are still a lot of figs growing on the tree. Will they eventually ripen? Or will they just fall off prematurely because of the cold weather? I really want to make fig newtons because we dont have fig trees in Hawaii! Thank you,
    Kehau

    • Hi Kehau, good question. In some warmer climates the figs go dormant and ripen when spring returns, but my experience in the Pacific NW is it rarely happens around here. For the most part those figs will drop in spring and new ones take their place and ripen in summer. So hold tight, you have a fig crop coming one way or the other this summer.

  66. hi Tom my name is Nicola i live in Toronto Canada .because of the low temperatures we have over here in winter time; i put my 5 feet fig tree in the basement of my house where with my surprise the plant start to put leaves and about 30 figs i just put some water every two weeks, further more this plant last summer had no figs at all can you tell me please how i should treat it from know on?

    • Hi Nicola, I’m scratching my head on this one, but here’s what I’d do. The fig tree is no longer dormant, so it is trying to produce food for growth and fruiting, which means it will continue to produce leaves. If at all possible, move it to a place with the brightest natural light in your house, or find someone with a greenhouse. Just as long as you keep it from freezing temperatures, the tree should be okay. You don’t want to encourage growth right now in the middle of winter, but you don’t want to starve the tree of light and water either, now that it’s awaken to what it thinks is spring. The tree will look pretty spindly most likely, but will rebound when placed outside after your last frost date or in a protected area. Next year keep it somewhere cold but not freezing like a garage. Good Luck!

  67. Really helpful photos to confirm what I thought but wasn’t sure about… thanks!

    There seems to be a lack of recipes/etc about desert king figs… which our tree is now producing some nice ones (Santa Cruz, CA)! The inner flesh is great… but do you eat the whole thing, like with some other figs? I guess maybe I’ll make fig jam, that seems to be the best option (other than just eating the inner flesh straight…)

    • Lisa, this is only a guess but it could a couple things, excessive humidity and/or the introduction of mold or bacteria by an insect entering the fig through the bottom hole. Because a fig is basically an inverted flower, that is the flower is on the inside where you find all the seeds. This provides a perfect environment for easy spoilage and fermentation, and again, it’s usually introduced by an insect like a beetle or tiny wasp.

  68. That makes perfect sense. I do have ants that seem to take them over before I can pick them. Someone told me to put dishwater on them but I am not certain that is a remedy for the ants. I did read the article about ripe vs not ripe. Went outside and picked one that fit the description of a ripe but still green one and it was not fermented, although it could have stayed on the stem a bit longer. I just don’t want to lose all of this bountiful harvest before I can use them. This is the most I have had since I planted it 4 years ago. There are over 100 figs that I need to use. Thank you for this site and your valuable advice. Do you have a good preserves recipe?

  69. First visit to your blog and I’m finding some interesting comments. I’ve got a question and so far nothing I can find fits/answers. My location is Northern Illinois so the tree gets buried and dug up each year. I went nuts with too large a root ball and wow what a process but it’s a VERY healthy tree.
    My tree was grown from a cutting about 16″…grew to 4 ft that year and of course produced small hard figs – nothing edible of course. 2nd year grew to 7 ft and we got 40 pretty good figs late Aug through mid October. This is the 3rd year (now a very healthy 9 ft wigh and almost as wide) and so far as of Sept 2 we’ve gotten 42 nice figs with many more developing every day- some quite large and plump. However, the figs aren’t as rich and sweet as last year. It isn’t that they’re poor tasting;they just aren’t that great. Any ideas as to why and what might be done??
    Thanks,
    Tom B.

    • Wow Tom, that’s a puzzler, especially if you’re picking them at the same degree of ripeness. I could be wrong, but are you sure you’re not picking them too early? The fig should be completely soft and hanging down fully on the tree, and the skin usually acquires a glossiness, at least with green figs. But it sounds like this isn’t your first rodeo, so the fruit is underperforming, but why? This is completely anecdotal and I don’t have facts to back it up, so here are some guesses. Some fruits I’m told lack flavor when watered too much during their growth spurts or early fruiting stages. I know vineyards where the growers withhold water to produce a higher sugar content in the grape and the same practice goes for tomatoes. While you don’t want to stress the tree too much, too cushy of a season may dilute the flavor of the fruit. Just a guess, but I’ll do some more sleuthing. Thanks for the visit! Tom

  70. Tom,
    Thanks so much for the quick answer. It could be that it was watered too much. After I got the 1000 lb (seriously) root ball up 4 ft and managed to suspend it in air I filled the pit with 3 pickup loads of compost. The compost was damp but not wet sothe pit was soaked with water to be sure it fiilled completely around and under the root ball. I thought the tree would sink some in the compost but it hasn’t so it’s a bit more mounded than I wanted. The top couple of inches of compost dry pretty quickly in the sun and the tree is sending out an incredible mass of roots MANY of which go through the compost and become exposed. They’re being covered with a mix of compost and peat moss which is still not damp.
    Now to your point. I’ve been watering the tree a LOT using a soaker hose over the whole 4’x16′ pit/enclosure (The enclosure (box) is elevated about 12″) and it gets fertilized too. This a VERY HAPPY, HEALTHY tree but perhaps too much water and excessive TLC are the cause. I pick them when they’re plump, hanging, and the skin is starting toshow stretch cracks. These are brown figs I think. They do turn black after I bring them in. The tree’s grandfather came from a cutting of a tree brought here from Sicily!!!
    Thank you,
    Tom B
    BTW we lived in Bellevue from ’73 to ’80!!

  71. Nashville Tennessee we have fig bushes That God planted. We have had great delicious figs most of the summer. Now they are sour tasting! Do you have any idea why they are like this? We are not happy putting them in the compost thank you!

    • Hi Dorothy, my guess is that in late autumn there’s just not enough daylight, and heat units to fully ripen the figs. So the figs sit half ripe, then sour or ferment in place on the branch until winter weather rots them fully. Here in the Pacific NW that’s what happens to our late fig crops; they look pretty good, but taste bland, or sour, or downright cottony. Nothing you can really do about. Nature is saying the show is over until next year. Hope this helps.

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