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  • Portney's "Celeste" (unknown Adriatic) fig

    In the late 1990s I got my first fig tree from a generous and knowledgeable member of the California Rare Fruit Growers: Charles Portney. Charles told me that he remembered getting this fig variety from a friend. He said it was a common variety (i.e., it was a named variety that was readily available). But he lost track of the variety's name; he thought it might be a Celeste of some kind. It is one of his favorite varieties (along with Violette de Bordeaux).

    When I've described this fig to other OurFigs members, the typical response has been (1) it is definitely not a Celeste, and (2) it's probably an Adriatic. Until we know what its official name is, I'm calling it "Portney's unknown Adriatic" as a temporary placeholder.

    So for over 20 years now, CRFG'ers in the Los Angeles area have been exchanging either (mis-labeled) "Celestes", or occasionally "Portney's Celestes". Within a few years I hope we will know the official identity of this fig. I hope that at that point, the name "Portney's" (and especially "Celeste" when applied to this fig) will go by the wayside. (No offense to Charles, of course! He has made the fig more widely available, and I'm very thankful he has; it is a great fig!)

    I'm writing this post to document what's going on with this variety at this point in time. Hopefully this information will be useful to other OurFigs members -- especially if someone gives them a "Celeste" that doesn't match up to their expectations.

    Characteristics: The tree grows as solid wood (no hollow core). The fruit is common (i.e., parthenocarpic). It has green, tough skin, and the neck is sometimes rather flat. The flesh looks and tastes almost exactly like strawberry jam. 😲 (In my yard at least some of its fruit has been caprified, so take that into consideration.) Here in the Los Angeles area its fruit ripens from the beginning of August to the last few stragglers at the end of October. Average weight: ~ 30 grams.

    Below are photos of a typical leaf and some of the fruit. The dried red drop of honey that's sealing the ostiole is a little uncommon. More typical signs of ripeness include (1) fruit druping, (2) vertical cracks in the skin, with the off-white plascenta showing through, and (3) some shriveling, often with darker, brownish splotches on the skin -- almost as if it was bruised.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	2021_05-03_Portney's typical leaf-4 - Copy.JPG Views:	67 Size:	629.1 KB ID:	1028279 Click image for larger version  Name:	2021_08-03_Portney's unk Adriatic-2 crop.jpg Views:	62 Size:	812.7 KB ID:	1028280 Click image for larger version  Name:	2021_08-03_Portney's unk Adriatic-3.jpg Views:	62 Size:	851.8 KB ID:	1028281 Click image for larger version  Name:	2016_08-04_Fig_Portney's unk Adriatic_Detail-2 - Copy.JPG Views:	62 Size:	777.5 KB ID:	1028282
    Last edited by claret; 08-08-2021, 07:00 PM.
    Alan. Los Angeles area. Zone 10b (Sunset zone 24).
    Looking for: Boysenberry Blush, Dolce Calderai, Hative D'Argenteuil, Ondata.

  • #2
    Serving suggestion: peel the figs and spread on home made wild yeast toast with butter. Accompany with dark coffee or beverage of choice.

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    Alan. Los Angeles area. Zone 10b (Sunset zone 24).
    Looking for: Boysenberry Blush, Dolce Calderai, Hative D'Argenteuil, Ondata.

    Comment


    • Halligan-
      Halligan- commented
      Editing a comment
      Great looking figs!
      What a hidden treasure.

      Gotta say though, I’m more impressed by the Powell’s Books coffee cup👍🏻

    • claret
      claret commented
      Editing a comment
      @Halligan Ah, you spotted that, did you? After buying from them from a distance, visiting Powell's in person was fun. And I really like the large-size mug!

    • Halligan-
      Halligan- commented
      Editing a comment
      It’s a crazy experience. A true maze of books and hidden gems👍🏻

  • #3
    Those look so delicious. Great serving suggestion 👍
    Joe - Rhode Island Zone 7a

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    • #4
      Thanks for sharing. Great write up and photos. Looks delicious and the leaves have a pretty pattern around the edge.
      South Jersey, zone 7a- 20 mins from Philly, 30 mins from AC

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      • #5
        I was fortunate enough to taste these Unknown figs yesterday. Alan and his wife gifted me some when he dropped off some plants for me at my son’s house. They were truly amazing figs. This will be my first Unk. on my WL!
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        Peter - San Diego 10a. Santa Rosa 9b, 10b. WL: Angelito, Sicily 33, Narucciolo d Elba and Figoin. Better to give than to receive

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        • #6
          Another feature of the fig I'm calling "Portney's unknown" is its stringy skin. In the photo below you can see light colored fibers that run from the peduncle to the ostiole. I don't like the strings, so after cutting the fig in half, I usually peel it or use my front teeth to scrape the flesh away from the skin.

          As a reminder, I'm looking for the official name of this unknown. It's probably a variety that a lot of people already have; I just don't know the name of it yet. I've been told that it resembles an Adriatic. But if it is, I've also been told that it ripens very early for an Adriatic. It bears for a pretty long time here in Los Angeles (zone 10b). It starts in early August and keeps bearing until the end of October.

          It might be a Col de Dame, since I've seen them described as tasting like strawberry jam (This one tastes exactly like it) and they ripen about the same time. But I haven't eaten any Col de Dames yet, so I can't say.

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          Last edited by claret; 08-31-2021, 03:48 PM. Reason: Added how long it keeps putting out figs.
          Alan. Los Angeles area. Zone 10b (Sunset zone 24).
          Looking for: Boysenberry Blush, Dolce Calderai, Hative D'Argenteuil, Ondata.

          Comment


          • #7
            its a great looking fig. AFter BFF is over, Id like to get a trade in for it
            Ike
            bergen county NJ 6b
            Wish list: oh lets face it Ill take any variety I dont have!!

            Comment


            • PBfigs
              PBfigs commented
              Editing a comment
              Ike, you don’t have to worry about BFF if you get a cutting. It is a fabulous fig. I got to taste it thanks to the great generosity of Alan. He even gifted me an AL of this Unk variety!

          • #8
            claret your Portney Celeste looks just like Evdurtschi’s Malibu Greek. He posted picture of it on 08-13-2020
            Teresa Staunton Va Zone 6B

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            • claret
              claret commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks for the tip. I’ll take a look.

          • #9
            ​First time I've ever seen this: a fig with so much honey that it makes 2 drops! I've been growing this fig in the ground since 2017 and this is the first time this has happened.

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            I suspect this happens when the fig is ripe and then gets an extra boost from ambient heat. I harvest more figs with honey drops on hot days (mid- to upper-80s). Also, this fig came out of some "fig armor" I had put around it to protect it from nocturnal mammals. I made the armor from a clear plastic clamshell (a produce container with holes poked in it to provide ventilation). But even with the vents, I suspect the clamshell holds in some heat and humidity.

            The red honey is especially fitting, since the fig's flesh tastes exactly (and I mean exactly) like strawberry jam -- at least the way it grows in my back yard.
            Alan. Los Angeles area. Zone 10b (Sunset zone 24).
            Looking for: Boysenberry Blush, Dolce Calderai, Hative D'Argenteuil, Ondata.

            Comment


            • #10
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              I just harvested my first two Strawberry Verte. They looked just like your Unk. They even tasted exactly like the ones you gave me in every aspect. Alan, you may have an early version of a Strawberry Verte tree or I have a late version. My tree is only a year old, so it’s timing may not be set yet. My wife and I agreed that they were the best two figs we ever tasted so far. Thanks Doug Bluemalibu for the AL gift.
              Peter - San Diego 10a. Santa Rosa 9b, 10b. WL: Angelito, Sicily 33, Narucciolo d Elba and Figoin. Better to give than to receive

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              • venturabananas
                venturabananas commented
                Editing a comment
                Well, that just means it could be any number of "Adriatic types", since there are many that are pretty much indistinguishable by the fruit. The leaves shown in the first post are not right for Strawberry Verte. They also aren't right for CdD Blanc (at least mature CdD leaves don't look like that), which Alan suggested, and is a late ripening variety. claret please post a photo of a mature, typical leaf if the one at the start of the thread is not. Thanks. And sign me up for some winter cuttings!

            • #11
              Do you have any pictures of the immature fruit? I have a tree with immature fruit that display a flattened, bent neck just like the ones in your photos.
              “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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              • #12
                venturabananas and PBfigs here are more leaf pics. The most typical leaf is like the one in my first post above. Here's another of those (on the right in the picture), plus the second-most common leaf (on the left in the picture), which is much the same, except both of the leaf's "shoulders" (next to the stem) have a little additional bump at the top of the first lobe. Another thing I notice about the leaves is that they are pretty coarse-feeling. That's very common for fig leaves, so it isn't remarkable (as opposed to Marseilles Black VS's thin leaves, or Unknown Pastiliere's "hairy" leaves). The pictures that show the back sides of the leaves show how the thick veins protrude below the dark green part of the leaf's upper surface.

                Note: Click on any of these pictures to see a larger version.

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                ginamcd , here are some pictures of the unripe fruit, but they don't do a very good job of detailing how flat the neck is. The first picture (side view) shows the wider part of the neck, and the second picture (taken from above) shows the more narrow part (sort of, since it's taken at an angle). As the fruit gets larger and softens, the weight of the fig's bulk accentuates that flatness. While the fruit are young, they stick straight out from the limb, as you see here.


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                Alan. Los Angeles area. Zone 10b (Sunset zone 24).
                Looking for: Boysenberry Blush, Dolce Calderai, Hative D'Argenteuil, Ondata.

                Comment


                • #13
                  October 2nd I picked 11 figs off our in-ground Portney's Unk. Adriatic tree. That was the most productive day of the season this year. I put most of them in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator and I've worked them down slowly on days when the garden hasn't produced anything else. Those 11 figs varied from 13 to 20 grams (avg 16.9 grams). That's a little smaller than they were earlier in the season. I'm not sure how much that's affected by my tapering off on watering the tree.

                  Then today (after 6 days in the 'fridge) I ate one of the 11. It was small, but tasted sooo good! The flavor started out like a rich, creamy strawberry jam. It was only one bite's worth, so I went slowly to savor it. About half way through I started tasting an unmistakable caramel flavor along with the strawberry jam.

                  It's funny how individual figs can vary in one season. I've never noticed a caramel flavor in this variety before. But about this time last year a few of them tasted like a blend of strawberry jam and raspberry jam (just a hint of tartness). Those fruit came off the same in-ground tree. (I only have one, so it would be pretty difficult to get this confused -- even for me!) This year, no raspberry, but here's this caramel twist to liven the story.

                  There are about 40 more figs on the tree; I'll see how many of them ripen.

                  Here's the one that tasted like strawberry + caramel:

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                  Alan. Los Angeles area. Zone 10b (Sunset zone 24).
                  Looking for: Boysenberry Blush, Dolce Calderai, Hative D'Argenteuil, Ondata.

                  Comment


                  • #14
                    That pulp looks insanely good!
                    Peter - San Diego 10a. Santa Rosa 9b, 10b. WL: Angelito, Sicily 33, Narucciolo d Elba and Figoin. Better to give than to receive

                    Comment


                    • PBfigs
                      PBfigs commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I hope I get some figs next season off the tree you gifted me, Alan!

                    • claret
                      claret commented
                      Editing a comment
                      @PBfigs
                      I bet you'll get some, Peter. You probably treat your potted figs better than I treat mine! Thankfully this tree is in the ground, so I get pretty good results without really trying. Now that I have a Strawberry Verte too (thanks to you, buddy!) I can try them side by side and see the nuances of difference between them. (Assuming there are some.)

                      I think I'll graft one branch of this unknown using the SV you gave me. That way I can figure out the differences between them within a year or two (if there are any).

                  • #15
                    Good looking fig! It does look a lot like SV but lots of figs do so that doesn’t say much. 😂 If it’s delicious, that’s what matters and it sounds like this is a winner
                    Eric - Santa Barbara, CA Zone 10a

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                    • #16
                      I can't wait !!
                      Zone 10b, Long Beach CA
                      Creator of The Original Wasp In Fly Out (WIFO) Bags
                      Wish list: Bebera Branca

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                      • claret
                        claret commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Yeah, good luck with that; it's only 10 months away now! Do you grow anything else on your balcony that produces fruit some other time of year?

                        Normally my pomegranate would start ripening about now, but I trimmed it back too late this year, so no fruit. Cherimoya: same. Persimmon: tree too young (so no fruit). Bananas: 2 mature plants, but they skipped this year (so no fruit until it warms up again). So even though I have a yard to grow in, you and I are in the same boat until next summer!

                      • JT1923
                        JT1923 commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Exquisito is still going, but that's the last this season for me since I pulled the figs off all my others to build scaffolds. Spring 2022 is going to be stupidly good (hopefully)!

                      • claret
                        claret commented
                        Editing a comment
                        "Spring 2022 is going to be stupidly good"
                        LOL. I like that.

                    • #17
                      It's November 15, 2021 and there's only 1 fig left on the tree. That one is in fig armor, but it may not make it. Practically speaking, the season is over, so it's a good time to crunch the numbers.

                      This season I kept track of how many figs my in-ground tree produced, and how much each one weighed. This summer was relatively cool for us, so fig size seemed to be a bit down from last year (although I'm not absolutely sure, since I didn't weigh them last year).

                      The tree filled out a space roughly 5 ft tall by 5 ft wide by 6 feet long. (I tipped all the branches on July 30th to maintain that height.) The tree has 4 main scaffolds, and each scaffold produced a couple of branches. So there were 8 fruiting branches. Also, 4 vertical branches developed in the open space in the middle of the tree (otherwise it would've been an empty "vase" shape). Together, all of this new growth since March of 2021 amounts to 38 linear feet of new fruiting wood.

                      The tree produced 130 figs that my wife and I got to eat, and another 30 that we didn't get to eat (mostly lost to raccoons).

                      The average weight of those 130 figs was 22 grams (a bit smaller than I thought it would be, but again, I have no measurements from last year). They ranged from 12 grams to 55 grams. The tree bore fruit from Sept. 2nd to Nov. 13th (although there have been more days between ripe figs as the season has neared its end). I learned that the largest figs are produced early in the season. In August, they averaged 31 grams. In September 21 grams, and in October (through mid-November) the average weight got down to 17 grams.

                      Over the whole 3 months of production, half the figs weighed between about 16 and 23 grams. Here's the full chart of figs by weight for 2021 (click to enlarge).

                      Click image for larger version  Name:	2021 Figs by Weight.jpg Views:	50 Size:	120.8 KB ID:	1088008

                      That's the wrap-up for 2021, folks! Hopefully I can identify what this thing is.
                      Last edited by claret; 11-16-2021, 05:38 PM.
                      Alan. Los Angeles area. Zone 10b (Sunset zone 24).
                      Looking for: Boysenberry Blush, Dolce Calderai, Hative D'Argenteuil, Ondata.

                      Comment


                      • venturabananas
                        venturabananas commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Alan, I salute your dedication to numbers. I suspect you have even more gardening spreadsheets going than I have!

                        If it weren't for the leaf pattern, I would assert that Portney's fig is Verte. In addition to the fruit looking essentially identical, my Verte had almost an identical fruiting duration as your "Portney", starting Sept. 6 and almost done now. But the leaves of your tree are just too lobed to be Verte. There are so many varieties with essentially identical looking fruit, it is going to be hard to figure out what variety it is.

                      • claret
                        claret commented
                        Editing a comment
                        venturabananas LOL! No, Mark, this was the one and only spreadsheet I got my lazy a$$ to cobble together. It was an exception. But I wanted to get a firm grasp on what this tree produced this year, so I committed to this one project and carried through on it. And once I got beyond my ineptitude at using Excel, the project rewarded me with some surprises. I learned that (A) the figs are smaller than I thought they were, and (B) I had no idea that they systematically decline in size through the season. So the project paid off.

                        Thank you for trying to ID it, and for sharing your observations on Verte!

                    • #18
                      Thanks for updating! I have been lax this year in my recording duties. Next year I'll have to up my game so we can compare.
                      Zone 10b, Long Beach CA
                      Creator of The Original Wasp In Fly Out (WIFO) Bags
                      Wish list: Bebera Branca

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