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  • Black Madeira and Black Ischia - Are they worth it?

    OK, maybe a silly question, but it's something I've wondered since I got this fig sickness...

    Are Black Madeira and Black Ischia really worth growing?

    I ask this because of their known issues with FMV which curtails the plants health and productivity. I haven't grown or tasted either, but is the flavor is that good?

    Myself, I'd prefer a fig that produces well with little effort and doesn't need babying. That being said, I'm not a collector either (nothing wrong with collecting!), but just want "easy" fruit. Same philosophy why I grow disease resistant apples instead of those I know I like a lot. Productivity is a bit more important than taste in my book.

    I suppose that is the perk of I-258, great flavor but healthy. Maybe grafting ia a solution too.

    Not trying to talk down on these varieties, but seriously wondering if they really are that good. Perhaps I'll have to get them and find out for myself.
    https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
    SE PA
    Zone 6

  • #2
    If you have 500 figs then what's two more? If you only have room for 3 then you'd probably want more reliable varieties. In between it's your call.
    Bob C. KC, MO Zone 6a. Wanted: Martineca Rimada, Galicia Negra, Fioroni Ruvo, De La Reina - Pons, Tauro, BFF, Sefrawi, Sbayi, Mavra Sika , Fillaciano Bianco, Corynth, Souadi, Acciano Purple, LSU Tiger, LSU Red, Cajun Gold, BB-10 any great tasting fig

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    • #3
      It's funny I have never found Black Madeira (or Figo Preto) to be a particularly slow growing or affected by fmv to any significant extent. However, other varieties that are supposed to be very healthy varieties for me are hobbled by fmv (e.g. Longue d'Aout which has now been replaced by an apparently cleaner strain). BM is definitely worth growing in my opinion! But like many figs in our part of the country you will have better success if it is grown in a container. It's probably too late a season fig to give production in ground in your zone (or mine). So you have decide whether to only obtain varieties that do well in ground or to obtain at least a few that will only do well when grown in a container. I've never tried Black Ischia because of it's "viral" reputation.
      Steve
      D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
      WL: Verdolino, Figue Jaune, Nantes Maroc, Lussheim

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      • #4
        I would think each individual has to make that decision for themselves based on
        their goals and specific situations. As for Black Madeira, it takes a long growing
        season, but of my 100+ varities, it is the best tasting fig I have.

        This will be my third season with Black Ischia. I have two 5 gal plants and
        if they don't show significant improvement in production and taste
        they will face the burn barrel.
        Last edited by newnandawg; 03-20-2015, 01:39 PM.
        newnandawg 7b Newnan, GA

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        • smatthew
          smatthew commented
          Editing a comment
          Before it comes to the burn barrel - think of those who'd love cuttings!

      • #5
        Originally posted by newnandawg View Post
        As for Black Madeira, it takes a long growing
        season, but of my 100+ varities, it is the best tasting fig I have.
        Have you tasted Preto and I-258? I understand they're similar in flavor to BM. If so, how close to they resemble each other in terms of flavor?

        Frank ~ zone 7a VA

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        • #6
          Frank, I have not tasted those two but should this summer. I don't know if it will be a good comparison
          since it would be from two first year trees vs my five year old BM.
          newnandawg 7b Newnan, GA

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          • #7
            Maybe I am mistaken but I believe Black Madeira needs a long growing season. Not sure about the other.
            Phil
            Zone 7A - Newark, DE; Zone 8A - Wilmington, NC;

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            • #8
              Kelby you are a trip, as you know I just rooted both. If BM is same as Preto but more hobbled, then I will stick with Preto. As for BI, Herman grows one in ground in NJ. If you get a healthy branch like he did, it can grow healthy and tasty figs. A member traded me the cuttings I got, when I asked about the apparent health of the cuttings, he stated that he had "fertilized the heck" out of his plant (descended from Herman's tree). He also said the taste wasn't that great. Only time will tell!
              Rafael
              Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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              • Kelby
                Kelby commented
                Editing a comment
                Yup, I keep it interesting!

            • #9
              Btw re: Frank's comment on I-258, I got mine from Giuseppe, it appears to be heavily infected w fmv, perhaps picked up during its sojourn in California.
              Rafael
              Zone 7b, Queens, New York

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              • #10
                Thanks for the input everyone! At some point I may have to get a Black Madeira. First I need to thin the current herd...but someday!
                https://www.figbid.com/Listing/Browse?Seller=Kelby
                SE PA
                Zone 6

                Comment


                • #11
                  Originally posted by Rafaelissimmo View Post
                  Btw re: Frank's comment on I-258, I got mine from Giuseppe, it appears to be heavily infected w fmv, perhaps picked up during its sojourn in California.
                  I am rooting a couple from Giuseppe at the moment. Very fast to root. Hoping it remains strong.
                  Frank ~ zone 7a VA

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    I'm rooting Black Madeira (again!) this year, so have no comment, but I can comment on BI. I received mine from the Davis repository and this is its sixth leaf in 2015. Mine has produced figs for at least three seasons, and while it's a decent fig, I wouldn't rate it in my personal top 10 for flavor, probably not even top 20. It is definitely hobbled by FMV, but was fairly productive last season, giving my 20-30 figs from a 3' tall, decently branched tree in a #5 pot. After a nice flush of growth in the early spring that included two suckers large enough to air layer (soooo slow to send out roots on layers) the tree barely grew at all after mid-June no matter how much I fertilized it. At this point in it's life, this tree can't hang onto and ripen a decent crop and push good growth at the same time.

                    My growing season is fairly long, since I shuffle for at least two months starting in mid-late March most years, and my summers are hot, sunny and dry, so weather should benefit this variety. I'm not at the burn pile stage yet, but this fig doesn't come close to the hype surrounding it in my yard. I might pot it up to a #10 container this season just to see what happens. I can deal with slow growth, but if the fig quality doesn't pick up in the next two seasons, this one will be parceled out for cuttings and somebody will get a nice-size, bare root tree in the winter of 2017.
                    Neil
                    Reno, 6b

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                    • #13
                      For me I'd say heck yeah. But if I didn't have a GH to get an early start for BM I might have a different answer.
                      As far as I258 goes, I think it's another must have. My I258 trees are clean and grow super fast.
                      Art
                      Western Pa -6a

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                      • #14
                        Black Madeira and Preto were my favorites for taste last year, heads and tails above others. They are semi productive. I have two that grew well, one that grew slow, and one barely grew at all. The two slow ones were from UCD, while the fast ones were from KK. The pretos were medium growth, but could be because I left a lot of figs on them.

                        Black Ischia grew very slowly, then put out some suckers that grew fast. It was very productive, but the figs took FOREVER to ripen. It ripened in cooler weather and was in the greenhouse all summer and the figs were ok, not great. I will hopefully get to taste some summer ripened ones this year.
                        Youtube: PA Figs eBay: tdepoala
                        Wishlist: Galicia Negra, Paritjal Rimada, Black Ischia UCD

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          I rooted some BI indirectly from UCD just over a year ago and got some figs on a couple of the healthier young plants. I thought they were terrific. This year they got moved up into 15g, so we'll see how they do.

                          Also started Preto and BM at about the same time. Minimal tasting on very young trees, so it's too soon to judge.
                          SoCal, zone 10.
                          www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

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                          • #16
                            "Are Black Madeira and Black Ischia really worth growing?"

                            That was a question I had too, or a question similar to it, not only about BM and BI but about any of the more highly regarded and/or difficult to grow cultivars - is there really a significant qualitative difference in flavor between them and the more common of the common figs, the more lowly regarded figs.

                            My experience is that there is a difference, though with some complications. It seems to me that some cultivars start with a higher baseline of taste than other cultivars. So, a random fig from a 5 star cultivar will be more flavorful than a random fig from a 4 star cultivar, which will be more flavorful than a random fig from a 3 star cultivar. However, a perfectly ripened fig from most any cultivar can be as flavorful as any other fig, even when compared to 5 star figs. And in my experience so far in my growing conditions the 5 star figs are later and less productive generally than the lower star figs.

                            Some examples: In my experience thus far, I prefer Mt Etnas to Malta Blacks and Malta Blacks to Improved Celestes and Improved Celestes to Celestes, but I consider these all to be 4 star figs because they seem to have a similar power or flavor base, despite my personal taste preferences. Meanwhile, at least last season, Emerald Strawberry, Janice, Paradiso GM #9, and probably Calverte all seemed to me to have a 5 star flavor base. I don't know that I enjoyed them any more than I enjoyed the Mt Etnas but it was clear that, wow, a random fig from these to me 5 star cultivars seemed more powerful or complex or somehow impressive/notable than the 4 stars. Can't say that I preferred the taste to the Mt Etna's grape/strawberry punch that I enjoy so much, but as a force of nature somehow they seemed of a somewhat greater class.

                            Problematically, they required more work, more time, for less fruit. For me, definitely worth it. The great and different flavors, exciting and rewarding.

                            It might be more accurate that in my location at least the Mt Etnas sort of oscillate from 4 up into 5 star. Malta Black and Improved Celeste oscillate some too.

                            I would guess that this year I'll ripen Black Madeiras whose typical flavor will be 5 star, a level that will require any of the Mt Etna fruit to be at its best to try to match. However I assume far more Mt Etna fruit will ripen, and earlier.

                            So it seems to me that there are real flavor gradients between cultivars, but that other considerations like productivity and personal taste preference, difficulty of growing and so on can far outweigh a one star difference in baseline flavor.

                            Reactions from family and neighbors here seem to bear out this view of things, with the exception that in the ways that I tend to be partial to the Mt Etnas others have expressed their partiality to Improved Celeste, and for that matter to other Celeste types.

                            For what it's worth below, not a ranking but a bit of a flavor breakdown from my experience:

                            brandy jam/gel:
                            Janice

                            intense strawberry variations:
                            Malta Black, Paradiso GM9, Calverte, Emerald Strawberry
                            (MB more sugary, ES more spicy, PGM9 more sheer, etc)

                            grape/strawberry/(cherry?) punch and jam:
                            Mt Etnas, Bordeauxs

                            sugar jelly:
                            Improved Celeste, O'Rourke, Hunt, Celeste, Alma

                            tropical:
                            Lemon/Blanche, LSU Purple

                            light strawberry:
                            Binello, Conadria
                            Tony WV 6b
                            https://mountainfigs.net/

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                            • #17
                              Anybody has an experience with the caprified versions? How different is the taste compared to the non-caprified BM and BI?
                              USDA z 10a, SoCal. WL: De la Roca, Lampeira Prush, Raspberry Tart, Boysenberry Blush

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                              • #18
                                I've only had Black Madeira that probably were caprified, so can't really comment on a comparison, Igor.

                                In my opinion, Black Madeira is a productive tree and I don't believe it requires a particularly long growing season. My own tree is only two years old so it was later before ripening fruit last year (but low potassium in soil may be partly to blame for that). When I spent a day at Wolfskill with Jon and Dennis around the middle of last August, the Black Madeira tree had many very ripe fruits on it and many more to come. No trees at Wolfskill are babied and the Black Madeira is not particularly vigorous, but "okay". I would guess this tree had ripe fruits at least by the beginning of August and last year was not particularly hot, but it was an early year for most crops (but my own Panache maybe ripened 2 days earlier than the year before). I think it's a great fig and I look forward to many more this year on my larger tree. The thing I've found with Black Madeira is that rooting it is more difficult than most and that root development seems slow. I never see large amounts of roots come out of the bottom of the pots I use to root them in like I see with many other figs My one in-ground tree is grafted onto Brown Turkey as an experiment to see how this works out and I like it so far.

                                My Ischia Black are growing slowly and I'll be lucky to get any fruit from them this year. It's worth growing just for the hope of something great.
                                My fig photos <> My fig cuttings (starts late January) <> My Youtube Videos

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                                • #19
                                  Serious collecters should not ignore Gypsy/Zingarella -- just excellent. Of course some LSU varieties too.

                                  Comment


                                  • Chrisk
                                    Chrisk commented
                                    Editing a comment
                                    Don't know much about the first one but good call on the LSU figs Paully. I have 5 Purples from two sources and a newly rooted Gold and absolutely love them! I will slowly try to collect as many as I can!

                                • #20
                                  Very interesting takes on both the IB andBM. They sound like the original VW Beetle and Fiat 500 respectively! Raw and minimal transportation but cool as hell to own. They can cost you a small fortune but you can outrun them in a Kia Rio(celeste?) . Lol. All jokes aside ,my Preto from Paul(Tyro from F4F) is growing very strong and healthy and the IB that Mrs K got me as a bday present from Amazon three leafs ago is still struggling to stay alive. It seems that the reputation of those two is pretty accurate and the answer to Paully's question is totally different according to personal preference like most of you guys already mentioned!

                                  Comment


                                  • #21
                                    Two years ago, I received only one cutting of BM from UCD and put it immediately in the ground. In its second leaf it produced half a dozen figs for the first time. I was surprised as how productive it was as it was the smallest fig tree in my collection. The four branches in the form of a shrub could not be higher more than a foot, but the new growth looked much healthier than the first year as if a new plant emerged from beneath the soil. The taste is much more complex than other figs in my collection but it is too early to judge. Where you plant your fig tree and how you maintain it will make a huge impact on your final results. I am a firm believer that a potted fig will never taste better than an in ground fig, especially if it is mishandled i.e. over or under watered etc… But if potting is my only choice, I will take it.
                                    Many figs in the dark French group could be just as tasty and even compete with Black Madeira as I experienced from a couple varieties this past summer. At this time, I will mention Violette de Sollies as I was able to sample it side by side with my Black Madeira.
                                    It is important to mention that early productivity of the VDS is low. A five foot two year old tree produced only three figs.

                                    Sas North Austin, TX Zone 8B

                                    Comment


                                    • Chrisk
                                      Chrisk commented
                                      Editing a comment
                                      Great report Sas. I totally agree on the potted vs in ground. Also from my experience being born and raised in Greece, figs do better when you just leave them alone! Plant them on a sloped hillside(for drainage), clear the weeds annually ,fertilize with manure every two to three years and let them do their thing! Check out pics of rooted cuttings for sale from Turkey on eBay. They look like they are grown on pure clay! Weather conditions( heat,humidity) also key factors to growth productivity and taste!

                                  • #22
                                    Originally posted by Kelby View Post
                                    OK, maybe a silly question, but it's something I've wondered since I got this fig sickness...

                                    Are Black Madeira and Black Ischia really worth growing?

                                    I ask this because of their known issues with FMV which curtails the plants health and productivity. I haven't grown or tasted either, but is the flavor is that good?

                                    Myself, I'd prefer a fig that produces well with little effort and doesn't need babying. That being said, I'm not a collector either (nothing wrong with collecting!), but just want "easy" fruit. Same philosophy why I grow disease resistant apples instead of those I know I like a lot. Productivity is a bit more important than taste in my book.

                                    I suppose that is the perk of I-258, great flavor but healthy. Maybe grafting ia a solution too.

                                    Not trying to talk down on these varieties, but seriously wondering if they really are that good. Perhaps I'll have to get them and find out for myself.
                                    People are not paying these prices for taste ,come on

                                    Comment


                                    • #23
                                      Originally posted by Kelby View Post
                                      Myself, I'd prefer a fig that produces well with little effort and doesn't need babying. That being said, I'm not a collector either (nothing wrong with collecting!), but just want "easy" fruit.
                                      Kelby this is what I am striving for too. Not that I don't want to taste some outstanding figs that may not grow well in zone 6 or below. I want to focus the majority of my fig growing time on great tasting and productive varieties.

                                      Chris - Zone 6b

                                      Comment


                                      • #24
                                        If I were growing in a short season area or even medium I'd mostly be growing Gino's Black, RdB, St Rita, those types. They are good figs even excellent. But in a long season area Black Madeira, Preto, and many of the other long season figs like the CdDs are more than worth growing.

                                        Some people value production more than quality. I prefer quality over quantity but then I don't have a large family to feed.
                                        Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7
                                        http://growingfruit.org/

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                                        • #25
                                          Have both Preto and Black Madeira near harvest. The Black Madeira that are ripening now were 1/4 inch size in late June to early July. So about 120 days from very small to ripe. I believe I've had ripe fruit of these for nearly three months. My greenhouse is low 90s all summer and has a 9/10 month growing season.

                                          You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 2 photos.
                                          Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7
                                          http://growingfruit.org/

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