Figs come in hundreds of different varieties and an interesting array of names – from the Rattlesnake Island Fig to the Violette de Beaurdoux – but only a few of those are grown and sold on a commercial scale. Figs also are divided into four main types – Common Figs, Smyrna Figs, Caprifigs, and San Pedro Figs.
The most popular commercial fig variety, Mission Figs, or Black Mission Figs, originated in the Mediterranean region. They may have been first cultivated in Spain, because they first appeared in California when Franciscan Missionaries brought them from that country. In fact, Mission figs were once also called Franiscana Figs. The Missionaries are the source of this fig’s name – the Mission.
The Calimyrna is one of California’s most esteemed fig varieties. As the name suggests, it is a Smyrna-type fig, which means it needs pollination from the symbiotic Blastophaga wasp to mature into a ripe fig with a superior sweet and nutty flavor. If they remain in their un-pollinated state, they do not ripen and are called “caprifigs”.
Tena’s are refreshing and very sweet in flavor. Their inside is a white to light pink color and the skin is a greenish-yellow. It is well-suited for hot, dry climates like that of the Central Valley. Tena’s are very productive and hardy trees and are resistant to many types of defects common to figs. Another fig variety bred and introduced by Dr. Ira Condit, Tenas are good for both fresh and dried use.
The Conadria fig was bred by California fig pioneer, Dr. Ira Condit. It was bred from an Adriatic fig, hence the name “Con-adria”. It is a yellow-green fig with an interior that ranges from light red to amber. It has a mild and sweet flavor which makes it perfect for eating as a snack or adding to salads, confections and other dishes. Figs ripen in June on and often again in August.
The Sierra fig is a sweet and mild variety with a soft, almost creamy interior. It has a yellow-green exterior skin. The Sierra was introduced by University of California Cooperative Extension (Kearney) breeders in 2005 to be used by growers in the Central Valley. Growers have found that the Sierra does well in fresh and dried applications. Sierras are Common-type figs.