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  • Mt Etna fig studies

    It has been noted in passing that the Mt Etna type fig, whether Marseilles Black or Hardy Chicago, etc, has been studied formally by LSU and University of Maryland. Does anyone have links or access to those studies, or any formal studies of that type fig? I searched but located nothing.
    Tony WV 6b
    https://mountainfigs.net/

  • #2
    I would love to read this as well
    WL: ALL GREEK FIG https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t?usp=drivesdk

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    • #3
      Me too. Would love to see some research on these great tasting figs and such big producers for cool climates.

      But regardless of the research we already know the successful results of growing this variety in places that figs should not grow.

      The old timers that grew this fig (and some select other figs) for 100 years or longer already knew this and they spread their love of figs to anyone that was interested.
      Pino, Niagara, Zone 6, WL; variegated figs, breba producers & suggestions welcome
      Breba photos / Main crop fig photos

      Comment


      • Pino
        Pino commented
        Editing a comment
        Tony, In zone 6, figs I have grown for 25 years (survived some pretty cold winters) that are unquestionably "set 'em, mulch 'em, and forget 'em" fig and have always produced bountiful delicious figs are Ciccio Nero (a mt. etna type) and Fico Bianco (a White Marseilles type). When I add some minimal winter protection they also produce many brebas. Also a great producer for 9 years has been my Dalmatie with some added winter protection.
        Growing many other potential candidates for 3/4 years but haven't dared to leave these unprotected yet. So far they are growing OK but are on the shy side producing figs.

      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks, Pino. Are those brebas or main crop that you ripen with your Bianco and Dalmatie in ground?

      • Pino
        Pino commented
        Editing a comment
        Mostly main crop.
        But if you do put the effort in to protect the branches then FB will produce a lot of delicious brebas. Very similar looking to the main crop figs slightly longer rather than round with a more concentrated honey taste.

    • #4
      Perhaps searching the names of involved researchers would yield results?
      SE PA
      Zone 6

      Comment


      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        Tried it. Didn't spend all day on it, but ... nothing. I vaguely remember seeing a report a while back but maybe am only imagining it.

    • #5
      Did you try using the Google scholar search engine?

      Comment


      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        Good idea, so tried it, limited results; will note below.

    • #6
      Have you thought about calling the colleges? They could at least transfer you to the horticultural department and point you in the right direction
      WL: ALL GREEK FIG https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t?usp=drivesdk

      Comment


      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        Have reached out via email recently. No response yet. However, the trials by a couple of the researchers, probably minor trials, would have taken place over a century ago, before both world wars, so....

      • Nic40
        Nic40 commented
        Editing a comment
        So your saying there's a chance.... lol

      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        U. of Maryland came up with nothing. It seems that somehow a Mt Etna fig bush found in Maryland was somehow associated, mistakenly or not, with the fig research of Starnes and Monroe in Georgia?

    • #7
      Tony are you trying to bridge the chasm of the origins of these figs?

      I love these figs but I have difficulty understanding why figue verte de marseilles, figue de marseilles ... bear no resemblance to white marseilles/lattarula type figs.

      See some EU fig collectors trying to get Hardy Chicago to grow in cool areas (great idea). But I would have thought after so many years and travelers these figs would already be in widespread cultivation in n. EU more than they are already here because they are great for cool and wet climates.

      The common explanation is that these figs are just not as good as the others but just look at Greenfig's amazing photos of MBVS in hot dry S, Cal.

      I am sure there are plausible explanations but a direct connection to these fig origins seems elusive.
      Last edited by Pino; 08-28-2017, 09:21 PM.
      Pino, Niagara, Zone 6, WL; variegated figs, breba producers & suggestions welcome
      Breba photos / Main crop fig photos

      Comment


      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        Pino, yes. Actually Kelby started wondering about the origin of "Mt Etna" figs and we got to kicking it around. I haven't looked much into the origin of White Marseilles yet, but I think I've traced "Mt Etna" back to 1890 at least when it was known as Black Provence. I'll post below on it.

        Pino, you don't think Baud in France offers your White Marseilles or one like it?:
        http://www.fig-baud.com/cataloguefig...marseille.html
        http://www.fig-baud.com/cataloguefig...seillaise.html
        Last edited by mountainfigs; 08-28-2017, 03:05 PM.

      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        Plus now it looks like I may be coordinating some fig trials with West Virginia University's organic farm here in town, and they have expressed interest in studies on the Mt Etna / Marseilles Black variety.

      • Pino
        Pino commented
        Editing a comment
        Hi Tony I have seen those listings but those figs don't look like the White Marseilles/Lattarula in circulation here. 25g?, red pulp?
        Interesting that first Figs in England in 1552 was white marseilles grown there by Archbishop Pole.
        http://www.planetfig.com/articles/fareng2593.html
        Last edited by Pino; 08-28-2017, 09:23 PM.

    • #8
      I think now that the historical name for what we have taken to calling Mt Etna fig is Black Provence. At least it seems that's what it was called around the turn of the century, a century ago, since 1890 at least. What it may have been called before that, who knows. Maybe some hamlet deep in Switzerland knows.
      Black Provence ( AKA Black Marseilles ) Grown by the RHSV in the 1890’s at Burnley. D Crichton describes this as " a French variety with roundish oblong fruit rather below medium size. Skin brownish black. Flesh red, tender very sweet and luscious.. ripens rather early The tree is hardy and bears prolifically ". Offered in Goodmans Fruit Catalogue of 1911; Sold by Law Sumner & Co in 1915. Probably lost.
      Except, it's not lost, far from it. It's "Mt Etna" seems extremely likely. The above is by Bill Hankin, 2001:
      http://web.archive.org/web/200312141...a/Inv_fig.html

      Provence is a region in France ranging from the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea, with its largest city as Marseilles. Thus, Black Marseilles, where the fig was surely taken to be sold.

      Unfortunately the only Black Provence figs circulating in the US may be mistakenly labeled Black Ischia or VDB or I suppose even Negretta.

      Also, see Ira Condit, Fig Varieties, 1955:
      Marseillaise Black (syns. Black Marseilles, Marseillaise Negra, Black Provence, Ficus carica phoceana Risso, according to Sauvaigo). Described by Sawyer (1824), Hogg (1866), G. S. (1869), Sauvaigo (1889), Barron (1891), Eisen (1901), Starnes (1903), and Starnes and Monroe (1907, with illustration). The following account is after that of Eisen, which differs somewhat from the short one given by Hogg. Figs medium, pyriform, with distinct neck; stalk long, about one-third the length of the fig; ribs distinct, especially on neck and body; eye medium, closed; scales large, red; skin waxy, with thin bloom; color black; pulp red. Quality good in Provence and at Nice.
      Nice sits on the Mediterranean Sea at the edge of the Alps in Provence.

      Finally the supposed Maryland researchers that Herman2 refers to are Hugh N. Starnes and John F. Monroe, authors of The Fig in Georgia: Second Report (1907). See the two screenshot attachments of that book. It's possible that the fig being described there as Provence Black is VDB but I think not, for a variety of reasons. I think it's Mt Etna, Marseilles Black, as they also call it. (I have a query out to a U. of Maryland official about Starnes and Monroe, and he has indicated that he is asking around. West Virginia University Organic Farm is now interested in research on this fig.)

      Also, in one of the attachments the fig detailed below the PB entry, Reculver, which they wonder if it might be also Provence Black, seems to me instead more likely to be Negretta.

      Tony WV 6b
      https://mountainfigs.net/

      Comment


      • Pino
        Pino commented
        Editing a comment
        excellent research Tony!
        A lot of ducks lining up. Would be nice to see some diagram of the Black Provence leaf.
        They describe long slender lobes?
        Last edited by Pino; 08-28-2017, 09:11 PM.

      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        I wonder now if the fig "Reculver" as pictured and described in the "photo" above isn't in fact Sultane. The highly detailed description of both the fruit and leaf seem to be that of Sultane exactly.

      • mountainfigs
        mountainfigs commented
        Editing a comment
        The Fig in Georgia: Second Report (1907) text link https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?...iew=1up;seq=16

    • #9
      Thank you for finding and sharing this!
      Christine (Waddell, AZ Zone 9b) Wishlist: All my fig wishes have been fulfilled by OurFigs members. Thank you!

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      • #10
        LSU did have Hardy Chicago in a couple of their orchards.

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        • #11
          Pino, there's no certainty in this but the odds point mightily in one direction. These three sources spanning a century list Black Provence and Black Marseilles ("Mt Etna") as synonymous, and never VDB, as best I recall, nor anything that seems to refer to Negretta, which might be a couple of other most likely candidates. The repeated references to early and productive fruit, the hardiness, and the shape and color, etc, everything combines to point to Mt Etna.

          Even here in WV, lacking Georgia sun, and in semi-shaded conditions, Mt Etna leaves can have relatively long slender lobes, see attached photo. And note what the authors go on to say under the entry of Reculver (which may be Negretta or, I suppose, even VDB):

          "[Reculver] may prove, on further test, synonymous with Black Provence, although leaf of latter has 'Spatulate' lobes" as opposed to Reculver's "Lyrate" leaf. Spatulate lobes are not as long and slender as the "Lineate" lobes of Brunswick or VDB. So when they write "lobes long, slender; sinus deep" we know they don't mean "lineate" but something less long and slender. More detail on the leaf system of these authors is provided by Ray Givan: raysfigs.com/id-figs.html

          Included leaf shapes would have helped greatly of course. Mt Etna / Black Provence definitely has "spatulate" lobes in accord with their diagrams.

          Tony WV 6b
          https://mountainfigs.net/

          Comment


          • #12
            Nice article, Tony, I think I saw that before but cannot recall where. Is it online somewhere?

            I guess I will be a contrarian here. I see no indication that the Black Provence or Black Marseilles described by Starnes and Monroe in 1907 is what we know as a Mt Etna fig. First, the leaf description they give is of long slender lobes with deep sinuses - absolutely not what we see in Mt Etna figs. Second, the description of the fruit is also not consistent with what I have experienced - "quite sweet but with little character". Third, everything we have heard about what we call Mt Etna figs is that they were brought to this country by immigrants from Southern Italy/Sicily mainly to the NYC metro area, and documented reports are that they were spread from there (obviously they could have been brought to other areas as well but we have documentation of the above).

            A couple of points. If Starnes and Monroe were documenting this Black Provence as having been a great fig in GA in 2009, why did it disappear? I can't imagine that a Mt Etna fig, with all of their redeeming qualities, would have been completely dropped until recent years if one was there over a hundred years ago. This was not a book recommending figs, it was a book of the figs IN Georgia.

            And there is nothing to really tie our current group of 'Mt Etna' figs (Chicago Hardy, Sal's, Takoma Violet etc) to the historical Black Provence / Black Marseilles OTHER than a report that a WW2 GI brought a fig from southern France to Maryland after the war and that Herman2 believed it was the same as Marseilles Black and THAT fig, where ever it was from originally, looks like the Mt Etnas.
            Ed
            SW PA zone 6a

            Comment


            • #13
              Ed, good counterpoints, and thanks for pushing the discussion. These are some of the first challenges that I was considering too. I think on close examination that none of these premises stand up to scrutiny. I'll intersperse replies at --> for convenience:

              I see no indication that the Black Provence or Black Marseilles described by Starnes and Monroe in 1907 is what we know as a Mt Etna fig. First, the leaf description they give is of long slender lobes with deep sinuses - absolutely not what we see in Mt Etna figs.

              --> I answer this above in post 11 in response to Pino's same query:
              https://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-h...530#post189530
              All-in-all, Starnes and Monroe classify the Provence Black leaf as "spatulate" - a Mt Etna type leaf - not "lineate" - a Brunswick type leaf. Quick growing Mt Etna leaves can be quite long and slender, as I show in photo, and I note evidence below that indicates the trees studied by Starnes and Monroe were very fast growing.

              Second, the description of the fruit is also not consistent with what I have experienced - "quite sweet but with little character".

              --> Agreed, however that's an outlier description in the information I provided. And it seems also likely that in Georgia where this trial occurred excess water conditions diluted flavor, given that "some of the trees ... were nearly sixteen feet high with trunks at the base as large as a man's thigh--and this after only a couple years' growth."

              --> And look at the other descriptions of the flavor that I provided: Bill Hankin: "Flesh red, tender very sweet and luscious.. ripens rather early The tree is hardy and bears prolifically." And Ira Condit: "...pulp red. Quality good in Provence and at Nice."

              --> Also, though Mt Etna flavor typically impresses me greatly as a favorite flavor, it does vary in flavor quality moreso here than more premier flavor cultivars such as Battaglia Green, Black Madeira, Bordissot, and even VDB, and so on, which are all more likely to be consistently at a more premier quality of flavor even though they ripen later here when less heat is available to help with flavor. The authors Starnes and Monroe in this publication The Fig in Georgia: Second Report (http://tiny.cc/f2bfny) get at this as well in their note that "almost all the 'gray' figs are more or less superior in quality. Bourgeassotte [Bordissot] Grise is particularly good, and an extremely productive variety here, bearing its fruit in heavy clusters and seems well worthy of extensive propagation. St. Jean Gris is also a delicious fig and one of the best for the table that we have..." So, it seems to me that Mt Etna which I can grow in abundance with nearly unrivaled flavor here can readily be surpassed in hotter climes, more conducive to fig growing. It seems basically irrelevant here given how incredible Mt Etna tastes, but having tasted Black Madeira and so on, I can appreciate the different flavor realities and situations.

              Third, everything we have heard about what we call Mt Etna figs is that they were brought to this country by immigrants from Southern Italy/Sicily mainly to the NYC metro area, and documented reports are that they were spread from there (obviously they could have been brought to other areas as well but we have documentation of the above).

              --> The Mt Etna variety (or very close strains), as I understand it, hails from all over, far beyond Sicily. This is evident in the name of Mt Etnas that I ripen here: Spanish Unknown, Black Greek, Malta Black, Marseilles Black, Dark Portuguese, Carvalho, etc... Immigration from all over impacted the South as well as the North of course. But no surprise if far more Mt Etna trees landed and spread through the north than arrived in the South, given differences in immigration patterns and culture.

              A couple of points. If Starnes and Monroe were documenting this Black Provence as having been a great fig in GA in 2009, why did it disappear? I can't imagine that a Mt Etna fig, with all of their redeeming qualities, would have been completely dropped until recent years if one was there over a hundred years ago. This was not a book recommending figs, it was a book of the figs IN Georgia.

              --> Again excellent points to consider but with premises that don't hold up to scrutiny. First Starnes and Monroe were documenting the very few figs that happened to be growing at the Georgia Experimental Station and then the very many more figs they gathered and planted from all across the country and Europe. So originally they were studying merely about 16 different varieties by about two dozen different names, by their estimation. That's it. And, yes, Provence Black did happen to be one of the few varieties already at the Station, but they do not mention that it was widespread across the south, unlike a number of others that they do so note (Celestial, Brown Turkey, Lemon, Brunswick, etc). Of those approximately 16 varieties, they note that they were particularly interested in about half a dozen of them (pages 49-51) - but not Provence Black, for whatever reason, their taste experience perhaps, and perhaps apparently its not being widespread in the region. (It seems that the South had mainly figs that came from/through England (Brown Turkey, Brunswick, maybe Lemon, etc, rather than figs that came from/through France and Italy and the like. NYC got the Italian and other southern Europe figs due to different patterns of immigration and culture, I assume, though surely there was some spread of the figs and overlap in imports.) In this prominent section of the book, a list of about 8 figs of focus, another variety mentioned with great emphasis was one not originally at the Georgia Station that Starnes and Monroe became particularly intrigued by, the one they brought in that showed among the greatest flavor and productivity: Bourgeassotte [Bordissot] Grise. Compared to these figs, Provence Black is mentioned only in passing in the book and not at all in this section of emphasis. I'm aware of no evidence that it was widespread at all in Georgia or the South in general. Plus, Starnes and Monroe expressed great interest in very many fig varieties in their trial, stating that "Comments of the foregoing sort could be continued indefinitely..." They praised a lot of figs, including Provence Black, but did not highlight it as much as they did others.

              And there is nothing to really tie our current group of 'Mt Etna' figs (Chicago Hardy, Sal's, Takoma Violet etc) to the historical Black Provence / Black Marseilles OTHER than a report that a WW2 GI brought a fig from southern France to Maryland after the war and that Herman2 believed it was the same as Marseilles Black and THAT fig, where ever it was from originally, looks like the Mt Etnas.

              --> The fruit and tree itself ties all the more-or-less synonymous names of this variety together, all the widespread locales overseas seem to share this fruit in common, including the region of Provence and its largest city Marseilles. A few of these Mediterranean Mt Etnas could have easily reached Georgia by the turn of the century but not nearly as many trees that spread around NYC.

              More could be said. The preponderance of the evidence seems to point a certain way.
              Tony WV 6b
              https://mountainfigs.net/

              Comment


              • #14
                Two comments / questions:

                1. We know that there was tremendous mobility of populations around the Mediterranean during the past few thousand years. Just as an example, there were Greek colonists everywhere from the coast of Anatolia and the Levant to Sicily, southern France and southern Spain. Shouldn't we presume that any good fig variety cultivated in any of these areas would be transported to most or all of the other areas? I'm sure that eBay isn't the first place where people sold fig cuttings.

                Correspondingly, it seems to me that the story of a Sicilian origin of the "Mt Etna" varieties is a myth. That family of figs had to exist for millenia everywhere in the Mediterranean suitable for their growth. The march probably started in the Levant / Anatolia, proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean islands and then Greece, and then (thanks to the Greeks and Phoenicians) to Sicily, North Africa, France and Spain.

                2. Wherever there is sexual reproduction of figs (i.e., the wasp), shouldn't we presume thart the same processes of cross-pollination that produced one "Mt Etna" variety produced many very similar sister varieties? So couldn't there be literally millions of fig trees all slightly different but all resembling the "Mt Etna" prototype?
                Joe, Z6B, RI. Thankful that winter was kind to my in-ground trees.

                Comment


                • mountainfigs
                  mountainfigs commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Joe, about your first point, agreed, though I don't know what migration patterns or trade webs exactly existed. It hardly matters, as, needless to say, migration, intermixing, and trading was rather diffuse. About your second point, in a sense all figs are slightly different variations of all other figs, within Ficus Carica at least. In a very real sense. That's the story of figs, and of other fruits, though the "Mt Etna" fig no more than any other variety.

                • jrdewhirst
                  jrdewhirst commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Yeah, I didn't mean to imply that any other genetic cluster (e.g., VdBs, Palermo Reds) is any different.

              • #15
                Would this fig still be this fig by any other name?

                Regardless of its exact origin its THE fig for growing in ground in the N.E. zones 5/6. The original Italian immigrants knew a good thing when they saw it and this fig (and its white counter part) spread like wildfire in N.E. Italian gardens.

                Given the predominance of evidence available is simply word of mouth then clearly the fig origin question will only get settled when someone undertakes a concerted effort to find the mother plants.
                Lookout Rifugio di Sapienza or where else the mother plant may be, here we come.
                Pino, Niagara, Zone 6, WL; variegated figs, breba producers & suggestions welcome
                Breba photos / Main crop fig photos

                Comment


                • mountainfigs
                  mountainfigs commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Agreed that it's "the" fig in zones 5 and 6 at least, as far as seems to be known, in ground in particular. And yes, I've only traced here what may be some of the earliest commercial and scholarly references to the variety, how it became know early in documented commerce and scholarship. I'm sure people have been calling this fig Mongibello in Sicily far longer than I've been able to demonstrate documented knowledge of here. I assume that it has centuries old names in many regions. Where it originally came from or first gained widespread foothold - that may be lost to the mists of time.

              • #16
                Today my neighbor was asking about my figs. I pulled off a ripe MBvs and he was blown away. I tried one, and man this 3rd leaf plant figs are much better this year. And it just rained all day, the worst time to pick them. What a great fig this MBvs is. It is as good as any other figs I grow including the premium types.Last year it was just OK. They do seem to get better with age.

                Thanks for the info on My Etna's Interesting. As far as early moving of figs into other countries. You all heard of hot Thai food, well the peppers they use came from South America. All peppers and tomatoes, corn, blueberries, originate in the Americas. Never were in Europe till they were brought there. They found cocaine in the Egyptian mummies, it only grows in South America. So long before Columbus trade with South America had to occur. Trade was going on a long time.The island people were going to South America for goods, long before Columbus.

                Comment


                • mountainfigs
                  mountainfigs commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I have to consider Mt Etna to be a premier fig, of a kind, certainly in and for Appalachia, the mid-Atlantic, and well beyond. It's first-rate here, and in many ways the premier fig, as far as I've experienced and am aware of. Figs can get stronger in many ways with age, sure, bigger root systems, etc, which can enhance their many qualities.

                • drew51
                  drew51 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  With fruit sometimes they vary depending on the year. Yes, works here well. it can be very cold here too. Seems to ripen fine in fall weather. Actually most do, I feel my best figs are when it's cold as the humidity is low and I can let them hang forever. I really do not like unripe figs at all.The longer the better. In the summer I have to pick earlier as they mold on me.
                  The Red Lebanese Bekaa Valley is another fig that is outstanding, as is VDB or any of those black figs like Valle Negra, the only two I have. VDB is not ripe here yet, another week or so. Unk Teramo is another that impresses me. It has to be fully ripe or it's nothing special.

              • #17
                This is gonna be a newbie question.

                There seems to be a variety of figs belong to the Mt. Etna family. I found a few lists of them. People seem to add varietals to the list at will. Who name them Mt. Etna figs first? Why? Were they from the same Mt. Etna region? Were they tasted alike? Or look alike? Or grow alike?

                I have limited space, which Mt. Etna should I try to grow?
                Los Angeles, CA, zone 10b

                Comment


                • mountainfigs
                  mountainfigs commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Calling them Mt Etna figs grew out of previous attempts by a number of people to source this variety. See in particular the links to discussions in GardenWeb forum here: https://mountainfigs.net/answers/som...ka-mongibello/

                  The Mt Etnas all seem basically interchangeable to me for growing purposes. Some people have different opinions on what should and should not be considered a Mt Etna fig. Some think Malta Black is not a Mt Etna fig, while it seems to me to be, and so on.

                  Finally, genetic testing (linked at the link above) has shown that there are some genetic differences between some of these strains that are generally referred to as Mt Etna figs. So, for example, Sal's, Dark Portuguese, and Abruzzi have tested genetically as being slightly different from Hardy Chicago. I don't doubt it, but the difference seems slight as I can't detect any difference observationally. The leaves, fruit, and ripening time all seem the same to me. That said, I'm not making especially close systematic observations either. But this year my Sal's and Hardy Chicago (and Marseilles Black) ripened first here in ground basically simultaneously, nearly side by side. They all seem the same to me but maybe some differences could be observed by careful study. Or maybe not. Maybe the genetic differences are not visible, don't know.

                • grasshopper
                  grasshopper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thank you for explaining

                • drew51
                  drew51 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I agree they are very close. I noticed Marseilles Black seems to produce more figs, and slightly bigger too. Maybe just the luck of a good plant? I would get that or Hardy Chicago. My Malta Black is young, so no comparisons.
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