The Pomegranate is one of the most ancient fruit that is cultivated today. It is native to the Middle East and central Asia. It is considered a sub tropical fruit; however it is widely adaptable to many climates.
The Spanish explorers brought the Pomegranates to the Caribbean and it adapted well to tropical climate. In the United States it grows well in California and other warm parts of the country zone 8 and warmer. Here in our garden I have evaluated several varieties of Pomegranates but only a few had survived the harsh winters in ground. I’m currently growing two varieties successfully, and one has been fruiting annually. It is an ongoing process of evaluating different varieties for cold hardiness.
Among the best candidates of Pomegranates varieties for cold climate are those collected from Central Asian countries, such as Salavatski, Kazakhe, and several others.
Salavatski variety did not only survive the past 5 winters unprotected, but it also has been setting a crop of delicious pomegranates. There are several other varieties I have been evaluating. You can visit our store for the available pomegranate varieties we currently have.
Salavatski has very delicious flavor with the right balance of sweetness and acidity.
Here's a method that has been practiced for hundred of years to hasten the ripening of figs. I have done this with success and the figs were about 1-2 weeks earlier than normal. A few fig growers benefit with this process which allows them to sell their fresh figs 2 weeks ahead of normal fig season.
First I chose a fig that is almost full size, and took a a cotton and soaked it with Olive oil. I rubbed a little of the olive oil on the fig. I only did this on one fig to compare the results. This is the breba crop (the first crop) of the Vista variety.
2 days later, the fig that had the oil was looking larger and darker.
6 days after the fig has been rubbed with oil it is now ready to be picked. Make sure when rubbing oil you're only applying it very lightly. This can be done on the breba or the main crop, but make sure that the timing is done on figs that are not yet developed attainable size. Once the figs are about 2-3 weeks away from being fully ripe. This is done in in the heat of the summer, rubbing oil in fall or when the weather is cool will not have the same results.
Certain class of figs is referred to as a Smyrna type. It requires pollination by the fig wasp. The process of pollinating the figs is referred to as "Caprification". The fig wasp can only be found in the Mediterranean region, but in early 1900's it was imported to California from Turkey.
Here's the common method used in Syria.
In the middle of June, the people Kefranbel, Syria work on pollinating their fig trees. They do so by picking the male figs and hook them on a string and later hang them on fig trees that require pollination.
The locals buy the male figs (aka Capri fig) from merchants that bring their male figs from a different town, since the local capri fig ripens late.
Here's the Capri figs for sale at the town market. You can see small insects emerging from the figs, these are the fig wasps.
After purchasing a quantity of the Capri figs they are carried over to the fig orchards to begin the process. The whole family is gathered to help.
A metal string is inserted into the figs, about 8 figs to a string.
Later the string figs are taken to be hung on the tree branches to start the method of pollinating the figs.
The male stringed figs are then thrown on the tree, aiming towards the middle or the top of the tree is ideal.
The male figs remain hung on the tree for 3-5 days as the wasps continue to emerge and pollinate the figs.
The pollinated figs continue to grow developing a large size.
Within the next two months the pollinated figs are ready to be picked. Pollinated figs are of known to be of excellent quality. Too many stringed male figs on the tree can cause spoilage, too little and the unpollinated figs of the smyrna type will drop without maturing.
Fig trees are subtropical trees, but they can grow successfully in cold climate if protected in winter. There are several methods to protecting the fig tree, Some growers bury the tree, some wrap it with different materials. If the tree is only a year or two old, it’s safer to bend the tree to the ground and cover it with mulch or other material, however as the tree matures it’s harder to bend down.This is a method that has worked for me successfully.
The planting location is very important in cold regions. Choose a spot that gets enough sun and close to a wall or a structure. The tree benefits from the warmth of the wall in winter, and it is less exposed to frigid wind. An ideal spot is a south facing wall.
Wrap the tree in mid November or anytime after the tree has been exposed to freeze and has lost its leaves. Wrapping it too early, you run the risk of mold.
This is a good time to prune the tree so it is easier to wrap. Select 3-4 trunks and prune all others. This allows enough sun to get to the fruit the following growing season.
Next tie the branches together.
To avoid mice damage during winter, I add a container filled with Moth balls. I used to get severe mice damage before I started using the moth balls, it really works. Place at least 2 to 3 containers, you can use plastic yogurt containers and puncture several holes.
Next, wrap the tree with an old piece of carpet. You can use even a bigger carpet that can cover the entire tree.
Finally wrap the entire tree with a tarp. It’s important not to use a black or a clear plastic, in order to avoid heat build up on a sunny day. You can find different colors at any hardware store. The tarp usually has tiny holes that allows the heat to escape in winter. Some growers leave the top open and place a pot in top of it to allow the heat to escape, it’s up to you.
After wrapping it with the tarp, tie it together.
It is important not to keep the wrapping material on when the weather warms up in spring. The best time to unwrap it is when temperatures stay above 25°F which is usually done in end of March in Pennsylvania. When you unwrap the fig tree in spring you may notice some of the tips are brown, those can be pruned off due to winter damage.
Make fig preserve with your unripe figs. It is easy and delicious. Pick the unripe figs that have developed a decent size and discard the smaller ones. The unripe figs have a white sap that can irritate the skin, so handle with care.
- 2 pounds unripe figs
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Cloves
- 1/2 Lemon
- Pick the unripe figs that are almost full size but still hard. Cut the stems, (If you wish you may also peel the skin off.) Place in a pot, cover it with water and boil them for 5 minutes.
- After they have been boiling for 5 minutes, drain the water and add new water and boil again. After 5 minutes, drain the water again.
- Now you will notice that the figs are soft. Add enough water to cover the figs in the pot, then add the equal amount of sugar. So for every cup of water 1 cup of sugar.
- Allow to boil for 15 minutes, then add a little bit of Cloves. Then allow the syrup to thicken then add the juice of half lemon. Let it cool, then place it in a jar.
Many researchers claim that the Middle East is the origin of Ficus Carica the common fig. Archeologists have discovered remains of fig trees in cultivation in Jordan valley tracing back to 4000 BC. There are hundreds of varieties in that region that deserves a lot of attention; the local agricultural departments have paid little attention to evaluate the different types of figs from that area.
Fig is considered to be one the oldest fruit trees in the Mediterranean zone. A famous fig breeder and researcher named Ira Condit mentioned that Syria and Anatolia are the natural habitats of the fig tree and from there it was transferred to North Africa, Spain, Mexico, Chile, Peru and California (Mueot laal ., 1960). It was also transported to South America via France and to Mesopotamia, Iran and India from Anatolia (Condit, 1947; Condit, 1955).
the fig fruit was well known by ancient Egyptians. It was called Tun” which could
be the origin of Arabic "Teen”. In Hebrew, it is called "Feg” which later led to the English word Fig” and French Figue”. The Latin scientific name is Ficus. Ancient findings related to the fig tree dates back to 5000 BC in Egyptian
archeological sites. Relics and traces of fig cultivation were also found in Palmyra in
Syria and Babylon in Iraq.”
Many of the varieties of the Middle East were given descriptive names based on the shape, color or flavor. For example the variety named Byadi which comes from the word Abyad for white, it can be found in different areas of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan and many varieties were given that name although they're not genetically the same.
Living in the USA it's hard to collect all these varieties and evaluate them; however I have collected many varieties from the Middle East that originally made it to this country with immigrants years ago. Especially Syria, Lebanon, and some other mid eastern countries like Jordan, Palestine/Israel, Egypt. My Main focus is the Syrian and Lebanese varieties, due to the lack of attention given by these countries to evaluate and have selected known varieties.
Here are some of the known varieties of the different Middle Eastern countries:
Jordan: 'Khudeiri', 'Baiady', 'Safari', 'Nehemiy', 'Sbai', 'Kharroubi', 'Malktenia'.
Iraq: 'Black Diali'
Egypt: Barshoumi, 'Kahramany', 'Aboudi', 'Assouany', 'Koummassi', 'Adassi', 'Abiad', 'Sultani', "Hava".
Yemen: 'Saudi', 'Rouhi'.
Tunisia: 'Thamar¡', 'Deri', 'Black Birchi',"Zidi".
Morroco: 'Bioudi', 'El-Quoti.Lezregs', 'Boussbatti Hamra', 'Hafer Jemel', 'El Quoti Lebied", "Fargouch ElJamal"
'Fassi', 'Aboucherchaou', 'Hafer el Baeol', 'Sebi', and other cultivars.
Syria: Green yellow varieties: 'Khudeiri', 'Sultani', 'Khani', 'Halabi', 'Sefraouli', 'Esseli', 'Anzuki', 'Boukrati', Birtati, Sumacki, Shtawi, "Asfar", Shami.
- Brown-red varieties: 'Zeibily-Sammaki', 'Afani', 'Shincheri'.
- Black-violet varieties: 'Oubeidi', 'Habachi', 'Zamouhi', 'Assouad', Zaraki, Shiblawi,
Lebanon: Shtawi, Souadi, Boukrati, Bouadi, and several others.
Some of these varieties may require pollination to set fruit crop. Pollinating these figs can only be done by a special fig wasp.
I will be releasing some of the Mid eastern varieties to the public once I know they are successful in our area.
Here's some photos and info on some of the varieties I have that fruited.
Barada: A tasty fig, medium size with light green skin. Has a nice honey flavor. Comes from the historic Christian village of Sidnaya outside of Damascus
Byadi: Excellent tasty fig with light green skin, comes from the village of Mishtayeh in Syria. It has been grown in Bethlehem, pa for several years and produces a decent crop. The tree develops a strong straight trunk, suitable for training as a standard.
Jordanian: very vigorous and early producer of dark figs. The pulp is usually yellow with red in the center. I kept a tree in the greenhouse and kept producing all year round. Very sweet and flavorful. Has not been tested yet for hardiness. It may split in heavy rain conditions.
Lebanese Red: Excellent tasting fig, produces two heavy crops a year. Has been grown in the ground in Pennsylvania and did well. Behaves well in the rainy condition and doesn't split.
Shtawi: This is a variety grown in Koura, Lebanon. Shtawi comes from the word Shitaa' in Arabic which means winter. It ripens very late, usually in November into Christmas. Not suitable to grow in cool summers, and areas with cold winter unless grown in greenhouse. Very good taste and very productive.
Matta: Excellent tasting green fig with a closed eye. It produces well in our area. Originally from Syria.
Salem Dark: I selected this Syrian fig for its vigor and hardiness in zone 6. It bears a heavy crop. It's an unknown variety from Syria; I call it Salem dark after the person who grows it.
Syrian 6: a numbered variety from a collection of unknown figs from Syria. This tree fruited for the first time. The unique skin color and the interior is excellent tasting.
Syrian 8: Excellent honey flavor. A numbered variety collected originally from Amar, Syria.
Rimaley: collected from Mishtayeh, Syria. Its a long fig with red interior. Known to be early in the village where it was collected, however it has been ripening end of August in my garden. Very tasty fig.
Rimaley: collected from Mishtayeh, Syria. It's a long fig with red interior. Known to be early in the village where it was collected, however it has been ripening end of August in my garden. Very tasty fig.”
There are many other varieties from the Middle East that are under evaluation in our garden at Trees of Joy. For more info please check out the variety list on Trees of joy variety list
Fig trees bear an abundant crop starting mid August into fall, but many varieties also provide the grower with a bonus crop early in summer, this crop is called Breba. Breba (from the Spanish word Breva) is the fig produced on previous year’s wood. The breba crop varies from one variety to the other, some varieties produce a heavy crop of brebas, some only a few, and will only produce the main crop.
The shape of the breba crop is not always identical to the main crop, I have seen yellow skinned fig variety producing a red skin brebas, round fig variety producing long brebas, and varieties with medium size figs producing very large figs.
There’s a group of figs known as San Pedro, the varieties in that group will produce a large crop of breba, while the main crop requires pollination by specific wasp for a fruit set. One of the most popular varieties in this group is Desert King. It is well known in the cool regions of the Pacific Northwest region of USA where the summer heat is not enough for main crop of most fig varieties, so a breba crop is the only crop that can ripen.
Breba figs of certain varieties don’t always develop the rich flavor that the main crop has; therefore some growers discard the brebas before they ripen to encourage growth of the main crop. However, the flavor varies from one variety to another.
Among the best varieties for brebas in my garden are Desert King, Brooklyn White, Breva de Galicia, Matta, Byadi, Lebanese White, and Naples white. There are several other varieties that are known to produce good reliable crop of breba that I’m still evaluating in my garden. Varieties such as Celeste will drop the breba crop prematurely.
Red Lebanese Brebas
Brooklyn White breba
Naples White brebas vs. main crop
Fig trees growing in cold climate don’t reliably produce a breba crop due to main stems freezing when temperatures drop below 15°F. However container grown fig trees that were stored in a mild cold spot during the cold months will bear a breba and a main crop reliably. Pruning in spring should be avoided if breba crop is desired. Instead certain branches selectively in order to encourage main crop and a breba crop the following season.
I visited the UC Davis fig orchard in Davis, California in Summer of 2010. I took some notes along with photos of varieties I've sampled while there. Figs behave differently in different climates. Also with the help of the fig wasp which is present at the UC Davis orchard some of these varieties will not bear fruit if grown in different part of the USA.
The new cold hardiness zone has been updated. You can check what zone you live in based on your zip code here.