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  • Help a newbie: How to tell when a fig is ripe?

    I'm getting my first real fig harvest this year. I had just two figs last year on young plants, but have far more coming in now. If it makes a difference, I have two types of figs currently:
    • Violetta de Bordeaux (VdB)
    • Marsailles Black vs (MBvs)
    The VdB figs are currently about 50% reddish-brown. The MBvs are currently 100% green. Both are supposed to be reddish-brown when ripe.

    How do you judge when figs are at peak ripeness to harvest? When the color changes to entirely reddish-brown? By firmness of the fig? Something else?

    Thanks in advance.
    Zone: 6A

  • #2
    the color is sometimes irrelevant as some variations based on sun/environment etc. I my short experience, the more saggy, soft and wrinkled they are the better.
    but the birds/squirrels/chipmonks all know this too!
    Ike
    bergen county NJ 6b
    Wish list: oh lets face it Ill take any variety I dont have!!

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    • #3
      If you get only a few figs, then you can check them daily. For most figs, it makes big difference of fully ripe or not.

      When figs start to drop to the stem, we call this "the hanging man". It is ready. But it is even better if you wait a couple of days for the skin to shrink a bit. But do not wait too long, or you risk other creatures getting it first...

      If you get many figs from many trees, then you do not have the time to check them daily. Then the "hanging man" would work.
      Princeton, New Jersey, 6B
      flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/red-sun/albums
      My FigBid: https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=RedSun

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      • #4
        Drooping stem, soft to the touch, in many varieties slightly shriveled, constitutes full ripeness. As you pick and taste you’ll get a feel for each variety. Some varieties are a bit better or at least different but just as good a day short of fully ripe, IMO. (VdB and LSU champagne are the two examples I’ve tasted)
        Mike, MA Zone 6a
        wishlist: Angelito!
        A good tree clearing service for central Massachusetts...

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        • #5
          I find the skin develops a silky feel to it and is no longer firm. It will be sagging down limply and depending on the variety, may show small cracks or a drop of honey at the eye. A ripe fig will easily fall into your hand when touched so be ready to catch it. They splatter easily when they fall.
          7B Southern NJ

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          • #6
            Drooping, soft, a wrinkly neck, and possibly cracks in the skin. Even then, I may wait another day or two. In my first year with fruit I picked all too early and was often disappointed.

            Given that you are in the same zone as me, where are you located that you already have figs coloring? Did you give them a head start?
            “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
            – Source Unknown
            MA 5b/6a

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            • coliva
              coliva commented
              Editing a comment
              I'm in Indiana. I picked too early last year which is why I started this thread. No, I didn't start them early. I stored them in an attached garage over the winter, but the VdB has some that are turning. The MBvs has far more figs, but they are all green.
              Last edited by coliva; 07-24-2021, 06:39 AM.

            • don_sanders
              don_sanders commented
              Editing a comment
              Probably breba on the VDB I’m guessing. Most of my VDB breba have already ripened too.

          • #7
            What I am curious about is spoiling. Which varieties are known to spoil? I am only familiar with figs that can be left on the tree until they fall off. Harvey is always complaining about spoiled figs.
            [Figs] -- Eastern Missouri -- Zone 6

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            • #8
              I do not want to wait until fig skin to have any crack. That is too late. Cracked figs attract insects and sour so easily.

              I picked some breba figs yesterday. I wish I've picked them one day sooner. When figs are soft to the touch, and very slight wrinkle, time to harvest. I do not wait until they crack. Then they can rot and get ruined.
              Princeton, New Jersey, 6B
              flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/red-sun/albums
              My FigBid: https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=RedSun

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              • #9
                Originally posted by davej View Post
                What I am curious about is spoiling. Which varieties are known to spoil? I am only familiar with figs that can be left on the tree until they fall off. Harvey is always complaining about spoiled figs.
                One of the figs I picked started to rot. Just a dark green spot. But I know that is the rot. Good to eat, but flavor certainly starts to sour.

                So I won't wait too late.
                Princeton, New Jersey, 6B
                flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/red-sun/albums
                My FigBid: https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=RedSun

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                • #10
                  Hmmm, so it sounds like theres alot of differant ways to think you have it perfectly picked only to be off by a few days-LOL.. right now I just go by the usual tell tale signs.That being a full droop from the stem as a first indicator .The honey at the eye and dripping is the start of ripening not AT full ripen. I learned that with my Gross Monstruese. Some figs crack and some shrivel ,try just before ,right at and just after this. It should feel soft with give for another good indication of ripeness. Finally if plucked and you see white sap from the stem you blew it--too early. If it falls off the tree it could be spoiled or actually at its best flavor wise. All in All you become the best by trialing these differant indicators for your specific variety and climate. Leave color last.

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                  • #11
                    The old saying is “cloak of a beggar, eye of a widow” or maybe it’s the other way around. But in other words, ugly outside, tear (honey) at the eye.
                    Round Rock, TX 8b
                    WL: Delicious figs

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                    • #12
                      Thanks for the input. I now have a much better idea of what to look for.

                      Now I have a follow-up question: Some fruit is very good at ripening if you pick them a little early and hold them inside for a while. Are figs good if picked a few days early and allowed to age inside or is there a major difference? Also, it sounds like picking a little early might be good to minimize wildlife poaching of my fruit. What do you think?
                      Zone: 6A

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                      • #13
                        They do not continue to ripen. You can get a more concentrated sweetness by letty them dry or by freezing them. I like to eat frozen figs but if you thaw them you get mush.
                        7B Southern NJ

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                        • #14
                          Leaving them on the tree another day after you think it's ripe is usually the right move, but also can be a calculated risk—it depends on how much wildlife pressure you have in your location.
                          Zone 10b, Long Beach CA
                          Creator of The Original Wasp In Fly Out (WIFO) Bags
                          Wish list: Bebera Branca

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                          • #15
                            One comment on the feel method. When I get a heavy rain during harvest time, the ripe figs will feel harder than what I normally would harvest. For one tree, the figs will drop when I touch them, On another tree, the figs don’t drop when touched but they develop a “crackle” look. So basically every variety and every year can be different.
                            Galveston County, Texas

                            Wish list: Original Magnolia, LSU Tiger, Alma, Madeira Island Black

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