Information

Tough, Dry Figs: Why Your Ripe Figs Are Dry Inside

Tough, Dry Figs: Why Your Ripe Figs Are Dry Inside


By: Amy Grant

Fresh figs are high in sugar and naturally sweet when ripe. Dried figs are delicious in their own right, but they must be ripe first, prior to dehydrating for optimal flavor. Fresh picked fig tree fruit that is dry inside is definitely not desirable, however. If you have what appears to be ripe figs, but they are dry inside, what’s going on?

Reasons for Dry Fig Fruit

One of the more common reasons for tough, dry fig fruit may have to do with the weather. If you have had an especially long spell of excessive heat or drought, the quality of the fig fruit will be compromised, resulting in fig tree fruit that is dry inside. Of course, there isn’t much you can control about the weather, but you can make sure to irrigate more frequently and mulch around the tree with straw to aid in water retention and generally reduce environmental stress.

Another possible culprit, resulting in tough dry figs, may be a lack of nutrients. In order for the tree to produce sweet, juicy fruit, it must have water, sunlight, and soil nutrients to facilitate the production of glucose. While fig trees are fairly tolerant of soil makeup, it does need to be well drained and aerated. Amend the soil with compost or manure prior to planting a fig sapling and, thereafter, feed the tree with a liquid fertilizer.

Figs don’t always need to be fertilized, however. Fertilize your fig tree if there is less than 1 foot (30 cm.) of new growth in the course of a year. Look for fertilizers that are made for fruit trees or use a high phosphate and high potassium fertilizer to promote fruit set. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers; figs don’t need much nitrogen. Apply the fertilizer when the tree is dormant during the late fall, winter, and again in early spring.

Additional Reasons for Dry Fig Fruit

Lastly, another reason for seeing ripe figs that are dry inside may be that you are growing a “caprifig.” What is a caprifig? A caprifig is a wild male fig that is home to the fig wasp responsible for pollinating female fig trees. This is most likely the case if your fig tree is there by happenstance instead of a tree that you selected from known cuttings at a nursery. There is an easy fix if this is the case — simply plant a female fig near the male fig.

This article was last updated on

Read more about Fig Trees


Why Figs Break Open Before They Are Ripe

Related Articles

One of history’s favorite fruits, the common fig (Ficus carica) figures prominently in fables and ancient art, but also remains popular in modern times. Fresh, dried or processed into preserves, figs are one of the easiest fruits to grow at home. Premature cracking of fruit is a frustrating, mostly unavoidable problem, but proper placement of the tree in the landscape can help alleviate fruit splitting.


Fig trees produce two crops every year, but only one of them may be edible. The first crop, called the breba crop, occurs relatively early in the year on the previous year's growth. These fruits are frequently small, acidic and inferior in texture, but may be useful for preservation. The second crop occurs later in the year on the current year's growth and these figs should be edible. Caprifigs, a variation of the common fig that can be used to pollinate some varieties, produce no edible fruit in either crop.

The exact timing of the main crop depends on your climate and conditions. For example, growers in cooler coastal areas usually harvest their figs during October and November. For warmer and inland climates, the usual harvest time is between June and September. In some tropical locations, fig trees may bear some fruit throughout the year, with increased production in early summer and midwinter.


Common Problems for White Marseilles Fig

Pests

Several insects, such as spider mites and scale insects, can infest the White Marseilles Fig tree’s fruit. Spider mites are small insects that often reside on the fruit-bearing plants’ leaves’ undersides.

They often spin protective webs of silk and hide in them during the daytime.

Such insects feed on the White Marseilles Fig tree’s fruit nectar and cause significant damage to the plant’s leaves and vines.

Other problematic pests and animals include fruit flies and the Fig Mosaic virus they cause premature fruit drop. Another problem is birds, which can eat the fruit on the Fig trees planted outdoors.

To spot Spider mites before they cause harm, check your Fig tree’s leaves’ undersides. If your plant is already infected and you want to get rid of them, you can either use neem oil or an insecticidal spray. The latter also keeps other pests and insects away.

Fungal Diseases

Several fungi infect the White Marseilles Fig tree while some are treatable, others cause significant irreversible damage. The fungi can affect any part, including the leaves, fruits, and internal tissues.

Fungi commonly attack Fig trees when they are exposed to high moisture consistently or when there is an opening.

Some frequent fungal diseases include Fig rust, which causes the plant’s leaves to turn yellow or brown and drop in early fall or late summers.

Another fungal condition is Leaf Blight, this fungus attacks leaves and leads to the formation of spots that give the plant a yellow and water-soaked appearance.

Another one is the Pink Blight fungus, which affects the interior of overly mature figs and covers them with a pink or white velvety coating.

To treat each of these diseases, good sanitation must be practiced. Moreover, make frequent use of neem oil and immediately remove any diseased parts before they spread their infection to other sites.


Your garden froze, now what? Texas A&M experts answer your questions

A gardenia grows in a Bellaire garden before the freeze. Recent winter snow and freezing temperatures may mean that gardenia bushes won’t produce blooms this year.

Gardenia bushes show freeze damage on leaves from the recent winter storm.

Angel trumpet plants produce beautiful, trumpet-shaped blooms.

Margaret Bingham / Margaret Bingham Show More Show Less

Fig ivy, or climbing fig, is a beautiful clinging vine. Even if yours was damaged in the recent freeze, it will likely grow back from its roots in the ground.

Fig ivy is a great vine to grow up a brick or stucco home or a wood fence. Many were damaged in recent winter weather, but could easily bounce back from its base roots in the ground.

Gary Coronado, Staff / Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

Longtime Houston resident John Stokes asked about the damaged fig ivy vine runing up his brick home. Experts say that the damaged vines should be cut and removed in sections, then let the plant regrow from the base in the ground.

Fig ivy is a great vine to grow up a brick or stucco home or a wood fence. Many were damaged in recent winter weather, but could easily bounce back from its base roots in the ground.

Gary Coronado, Staff / Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

A scratch on the bark of a small branch on a Meyer lemon tree shows fresh, green flesh underneath, which shows the tree is still alive.

One reader wanted to know how much he should trim back his angel trumpet plant for best flowering.

Pedro Guevara holds a handful of blackberries in his stained hands. pphoto bob Owen

BOB OWEN, STAFF / SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

Fig ivy is shown growing up brick columns in the fencework outside this home in the Houston Heights.

Molly Glentzer / Houston Chronicle Show More Show Less

Long leaves of aspidistra contrast with the tiny foliage of fig ivy that wraps the pool and hot tub at this San Antonio home.

TOM REEL, STAFF / SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

Fall pecan crops shouldn’t be affected by our recent wintry weather.

GLORIA FERNIZ, Staff / SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS Show More Show Less

Fall pecan crops shouldn’t be affected by our recent wintry weather.

Farmer Russ Studebaker surveys a crop of Fire Zest peach trees for picking on Thursday, Apr. 20, 2017 in Stonewall, Texas. Winter pretty much stood Central Texas up this year, and the evidence will soon be showing in this summer's lackluster crop of Hill Country peaches. Lacking an adequate number of "chill hours," what is budding came out early, and the varieties that tend to be ready later in the season pretty much took the season off. "I'm just glad we have some peaches," longtime peach farmer Russ Studebaker said, estimating about a 30 percent crop. Peaches in general will be in high demand this year, as the cold weather that missed the Texas orchards hit the Georgia and Carolinas peach crops hard. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News)

Kin Man Hui, Staff / San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

Peach farmer Jamey Vogel picks peaches off of his trees at his family's farm near Stonewall, Texas. The family grows about 20 types of peaches and has been farming there since about 1953.

John Davenport, Staff / San Antonio Express-News Show More Show Less

I scratched the bark on my prolific Meyer lemon tree, and when I saw green flesh underneath, my heart soared. The leaves are brown, drooping and dropping, but I have hope.

I’m not an avid gardener, but I like to have a pretty yard. So when like-minded area residents started emailing with questions about one plant or another, I turned to experts for answers.

Two Texas A&M extension agents — Larry Stein, a horticulture professor, and Brandi Keller, who coordinates the Harris County master gardener program — answer our first batch of questions after the freeze.

If you have questions, send them, along with photos, and we’ll report answers in future Saturday gardening stories.

Q: I’ve lived in my home for 45 years and twice, after extensive freezes, have torn down all of the fig ivy. I’m getting older, so I’m wondering if I need to tear it all down again or whether it will fall off on its own? Will it resprout and re-grow from the base plants in the ground?

A: Fig ivy (Ficus pumila) is an evergreen vine that can grow aggressively on walls, fences, or flat on the ground, Keller says. As a clinging vine, its young stems produce roots and root hairs which produce a sticky substance that allows it to cling to cracks and surfaces. Older parts of the stem become woody and cling less.

A hard freeze may kill part of the vine or all of it back to the ground. Wait a few weeks to see where it sprouts, then remove in sections by cutting and clearing out as many stems as possible. Let it dry, then carefully scrape away roots. If the vines have died, they will not fall off on their own.

Q: The leaves on my gardenia bush are brown and withered, but when I scratch the bark underneath, it’s still green. Should I remove the dead leaves? What hope do I have that my bushes will live?

A: Gardenias are not cold hardy and temperatures below 20 degrees can kill part, or even all, of the plant that is above ground, Keller says. Damage may be visible now, with brown leaves, or it may show up later, such as deadening of the stems. The scratch test is a good indicator of live wood and gives us hope that all is not lost, but some damage may be yet to come. It is best to wait it out and see where new growth emerges, then prune from there. Don’t expect blooms this year.

In the meantime, prune broken branches and keep the soil moist, but not too wet. If the plant did not need fertilizer before the freeze, then it is not needed now. If it is applied, do so after sufficient regrowth. Many times, what freeze-damaged plants really need is our patience.

Q: Out in Washington County I fear that I’ve lost my peach crop, and I’m wondering how our wild blackberry bushes will fare?

A: A closer look at peach buds in the area shows that some look amazingly good, says Stein. If your trees were totally dormant, they may still set fruit. If the tree was pushing buds and blooms, then it is more likely that those buds and blooms are all dead. Variety will play a big role in which peach trees and stone fruit trees produce a crop.

As for wild blackberries, those plants were dormant, so you should still get a crop this year if the plant was healthy, Stein says. If you had a big crop last year, that may have an effect on this year’s crop. Simply put, when a plant has expended all its food reserves, a harsh cold spell can actually kill it because it doesn’t have sufficient stored carbohydrates to protect itself from the cold. I would be cautiously optimistic about your next blackberry crop, Stein says.

Q: How will the freeze and snow affect our spring wildflowers?

A: Yes, we will have wildflowers since most are still hunkered down as rosettes, Stein says. Any that were beginning to form bloom spikes would have frozen down a bit, but they will bounce back.

Q: My pecan trees won’t produce nuts until fall, but will this freeze affect that future crop?

A: Your pecan trees should be OK, Stein says. Again, if you had a big pecan crop last year, that may affect your potential crop more than the cold.


Grow Figs In The Northeast

5 Photos

As this fig begins to ripen the color changes from green to a purple-brown then when fully ripe this variety turns totally brown and begins to slightly shrivel, which is normal. COURTESY FIR0002/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, GNU FREE DOCUMENTATION LICENSE 1.2

These two fig trees are planted right up against the south face of the house. This spot warms up early in the season and the mortar and concrete from the house brickwork and foundation keep the soil pH above 6 and alkaline, which the figs need. ANDREW MESSINGER

This fig was wrapped in late fall with a light green tarp while the tree is surrounded by salt hay and leaves for insulation. Note the way the tarp is tied so it won’t blow off. The bucket on top keeps rain from getting inside the sarcophagus to limit moisture and winter rot. ANDREW MESSINGER

A hardy fig tree can grow up to ten feet tall but should be pruned back early in the season to around 8 feet. Most varieties will have green fruit during the summer that turn brown and soft when ripe. COURTESY KURT STUEBER GNU FREE DOCUMENTATION LICENSE 1.2

Figs can also be grown outdoors in containers then brought in at the end of the season. The tender varieties can fruit twice if brought in soon enough and not subjected to cold nights or frosts. COURTESY WILHELM ZIMMERLING PAR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC 4.0

As this fig begins to ripen the color changes from green to a purple-brown then when fully ripe this variety turns totally brown and begins to slightly shrivel, which is normal. COURTESY FIR0002/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, GNU FREE DOCUMENTATION LICENSE 1.2

These two fig trees are planted right up against the south face of the house. This spot warms up early in the season and the mortar and concrete from the house brickwork and foundation keep the soil pH above 6 and alkaline, which the figs need. ANDREW MESSINGER

This fig was wrapped in late fall with a light green tarp while the tree is surrounded by salt hay and leaves for insulation. Note the way the tarp is tied so it won’t blow off. The bucket on top keeps rain from getting inside the sarcophagus to limit moisture and winter rot. ANDREW MESSINGER

A hardy fig tree can grow up to ten feet tall but should be pruned back early in the season to around 8 feet. Most varieties will have green fruit during the summer that turn brown and soft when ripe. COURTESY KURT STUEBER GNU FREE DOCUMENTATION LICENSE 1.2

Figs can also be grown outdoors in containers then brought in at the end of the season. The tender varieties can fruit twice if brought in soon enough and not subjected to cold nights or frosts. COURTESY WILHELM ZIMMERLING PAR/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, CC 4.0

Hampton Gardener®

The number of unusual and exotic fruits that you can grow in our area is remarkable, and their names conjure images from a Persian fable: persimmons, kiwis, golden raspberries, figs and — with climate change accelerating — it won’t be long before citrus and even banana plants may overwinter in some local protected gardens.

Like golden raspberries, fresh figs represent rare gems among fall fruits. They are hard to find in supermarkets or even greengrocers, as they are mostly grown far away. They don’t travel well or store well unless they’re dried. But they are unrivaled as a sweet treat and should be considered by any gardener who values fruit and has a sweet tooth.

My first experience with figs was in my father’s garden on the North Shore, though he didn’t fit the traditional fig grower profile, having no Greek or Italian ancestry. It must have been the horticultural challenge that spiked his interest or his Italian gardener. Back then, in the mid-1950s the winter months were much colder. That, as well as wet soil in the winter, can doom these heat lovers.

Although not native to our area, figs have been grown around here since immigrants from Italy and Greece brought them to our shores centuries ago. And while some varieties can prove to be reliably hardy with protection, the most challenging aspect of growing them in these parts, and keeping their production up, is in keeping the plants strong and vigorous from year to year. With the right plants and a few noted horticultural practices, even that isn’t all that hard. You can also expand your fig collection by growing the less-hardy varieties in containers that can overwinter in a cool garage or maybe a garden shed.

Figs like poor soil, and we’re in luck. Planting them in a rich, organic soil that will hold lots of moisture is a death knell. In Greece, they’re grown on solid limestone hills, and they’re never fertilized. Our generally acid-to-neutral soils can be an issue, but when grown close to a home, where the soil is usually pretty poor, and on the south side, which is the warmest, the lime leaching from the cement and foundations walls can create an alkaline situation, which the figs adore. In other places, the pH of the soil should be kept above 6 for good production.

Proximity to the south side of a house satisfies the other requirement of this fruit: plenty of sun and warmth. The south side of a house will reflect heat onto whatever grows near it. Figs prefer dry heat, but they will tolerate our maritime humidity. Soils should not be amended with fertilizer but they will appreciate a small amount of organic matter (compost) worked into the sandy soil. A small (note small) bit of lime and some well-rotted manure or compost added around the tree each spring is all the fig will need as far as nutrients go. And don’t plant acid-loving shrubs like hollies, azaleas and rhodies near your fig as the soil requirements are directly opposite.

Depending on the variety and exposure, a fig tree in this area can grow from 6 to 10 feet tall, but it can be pruned back to 8 feet if necessary. They have soft, flat, lobed leaves that have a texture similar to that of a large magnolia leaf. The wood is soft, not unlike a lilac, and some gardeners have been able to grow them in tree-like forms or espaliered, growing in a symmetrical form flat against a southerly wall.

Most local garden centers carry one or two hardy varieties of figs and you can find a couple more online. Now is the time to order them, as shipping will start in April and planting should be done during May. Plants purchased locally may show up later than those that arrive by mail and should be chosen for their size and age as well as for the variety. Potted plants that are at least 2 years old are the best when purchased locally, and they should be planted as soon as garden centers have them.

Don’t expect fruit the first year and maybe not the second. In fact, it’s not an uncommon practice to remove any developing fruit the first and possibly the second year so the plant puts its energy into root and shoot formation and not the fruit. Depending on the variety, they will produce fruit once and possibly twice a year if the season is long and warm with crops coming in late summer and again the fall. Late-ripening varieties may not ripen until late October or November, running the risk that a cold snap or frost will damage the later crop.

Good varieties to look for are Celeste, White Marseilles, Eastern Brown Turkey (avoid California Brown Turkey), Osborne, Hardy Chicago and Brunswick, which is only hardy to 10 degrees.

The plant’s sensitivity to cold has earned it a reputation for being difficult, but there is another factor that can cause problems and that’s wet soil in the winter. For this reason, it’s worth reiterating that good drainage and poor soil is a blessing for figs. But even in a bad winter the plant is rarely, if ever killed. At worst it will just die back to the ground and much of the shoot system can be lost but new shoots usually emerge from below the ground (patience please) and only a year’s effort is lost. It’s usually a prolonged spell of 10 degrees or lower that will harm the plant, but after one or two warmer growing seasons the shoots will appear once again.

Sometimes, I’ve found that the reason for winter damage is not really the winter but an ill-informed gardener who has planted California Brown Turkey instead of Eastern Brown Turkey, which is the hardier of the two.

However, if you do encounter winterkill or dieback, a mass of new canes will emerge when the soil warms. These canes should be reduced to just the four or five strongest canes, thus allowing light and sun into the center as the plant fills out through the summer. Fewer, stronger canes encourage heavy fruiting while a lush mass of foliage can look unsightly and result in few fruits.

The fruit is formed where new foliage shows up, so each year, as the tree grows, this new growth is where you’ll spot the figs. This is another reason for periodic spring pruning. In the spring, before the leaves begin to grow, snip back branches that are too close together and snip off any frost damage. In the summer, pinch the tops of leaf clusters to encourage branching. The plants are self-pollinating, so if space is tight, you only need one.

If a fig is grown in an unprotected area it can either be grown in a pot and moved into an unheated garage for the winter or it can be wrapped with burlap and stuffed with straw or hay. Some wrap their figs with plastic, but clear plastic should be avoided as this allows for a greenhouse effect and excessive winter warming and moisture accumulation under the plastic. A lightweight green tarp might be a good option as is white plastic, which reflects the light and thus the heat. The covered plants are the fig sarcophagus that you often see in some yards in winter.

If you want to add different flavors, colors and textures to your fig collection, try some of the less-hardy varieties that you’ll take in during the colder months. Logee’s in Connecticut (logees.com) has about a half-dozen varieties, both hardy and tender, that ship in 4-inch pots. These can be planted in larger pots then moved into containers that can be moved inside for the colder months. There’s the yellow-skinned Ischia, which has a reddish fruit interior. The fruits are about 2 inches in diameter and can be eaten fresh or dried for use later in the year. And since you’ll be moving it indoors, if you continue to let it grow it may fruit twice. Also check out GE Neri and Letizia. Petite Negra has black fruits, and it will begin to bear when the plant is only a foot tall.

A number of options here, with the chance to extend the season by keeping the tender varieties on a porch or balcony then bringing them in late in September. Just remember not to coddle the hardy types and don’t assume that all is lost if they die back to the ground in a hard winter. With patience, they almost always come back. Keep growing.


Conclusion

The White Marseilles Fig tree is a magnificent plant that requires little maintenance. It has a fairly small size and so is manageable and easily harvested. It likes partial to full sun, moderate watering, little fertilizer, and bears delicious fruit that all can enjoy.

Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.

Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.


Watch the video: Why Are My Figs Dry Inside?