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  • Rules of Thumb for ripening figs

    There are always questions about figs ripening...
    How long does it takes? and When will they get ripe?
    These are two general "Rule of Thumb" that can be applied to most cultivars in any location or zone.

    My first introduction to the 'Rules' were in posts by Herman2 at the Gardenweb Fig Forum, he grows figs in-ground in zone 7 in central NJ. His observations were tailored specifically to the cultivars that he's growing, but after reviewing archived posts of various other members from different locations and my personal experiences it became clear that his observations could be applied as general rules...
    http://figs4funforum.websitetoolbox....00&postcount=1
    http://figs4funforum.websitetoolbox....8&postcount=24
    http://figs4funforum.websitetoolbox....2&postcount=32

    I've been calling the first the "30-60-90-120 rule".
    Simply stated once embryonic figs are visible "match head to rice grained sized" they will ripen as follows...
    ~ 30 days to swell from rice sized to stagnant stage.
    ~ 60 days to ripen for early cultivars, (45 - 60 days at stagnant stage)
    ~ 90 days to ripen for late cultivars, (75 - 90 days at stagnant stage)
    ~ 90 - 120 days total for Early to Late ripening from embryo stage.

    The second is the "minimum daily average temperatures needed to properly ripen figs".
    Simply stated the average temperature within a 24 hour period (night and day) should be greater than a minimum of 70 deg F for a fig to develop an acceptably ripe (jammy, translucent) interior. So with a night time average temperature of 60 deg F the day time temperatures should be at least 80 deg F for a properly ripened fig.

    By observation of the newly formed figs you can predict approximately when your harvest will begin and end. Variables such as temperature and sunlight will increase or decrease your time to harvest, more sunlight and heat will decrease the times while cooler temperatures and less sun will increase the time to harvest, but the 30-60-90-120 day rule provides for a conservative bracket for ripening time of most cultivars. Some cultivars produce embryonic figs early or late in their growth from dormancy which will also add to the total elapsed time to harvest ripe figs. My earliest maincrop to date is LSU Improved Celeste (hybrid) which took ~ 70 days per the rule with a total elapsed time of ~114 days. The LSU Improved Celeste continued to ripen figs until the first frost ~ six week later. This rule can also help to get the correct time to start pinching tips to induce early fig production.

    By finding the daily temperatures during your "ripening times" or period you may want to provide an additional aid such as a hoop house, greenhouse, cold frame, low tunnel, etc to help in attaining properly ripened figs from a specific cultivar or you could choose to grow earlier or later ripening cultivars. Although figs will ripen at a lower average temperature they will ripen slower and may not attain the "jammy" interior that is produced at higher temperatures, of course there are cultivars that can ripen figs in cooler weather. Last year the LSU Champagne ripened most of its figs in cool weather
    and they all had good jammy (translucent) interiors, but did not develop as much sugars as when ripened at warmer temperatures.

    Please add your observations as to cultivars and ripening times (days of elapsed time), since the actual dates will vary based on location and zones.
    Thanks.
    Last edited by AscPete; 06-21-2015, 02:19 PM. Reason: typos....
    Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

  • #2
    Great info Pete thanks. What about excessive heat? How hot for how long can adversely affect a developing fruit? Eg Phoenix temps of 100F plus.
    Rafael
    Zone 10b, Miami, FL

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    • #3
      Yes, thanks for putting this information together in one place. For beginning fig growers in the north with a lot of enthusiasm there is tendency to want to acquire varieties like the Col de Dame family, Black Madeira, etc without considering whether their season is long enough to properly ripen such figs. With this information one can do the math and figure out whether long season varieties make sense for one's climate. Another issue I discovered after I started collecting is a fig ripened in late August from given variety tastes a lot better than one ripened in mid-October from the same variety - this goes back to the idea that you need an average of 70 deg. over a 24 hour period. Figs will ripen under cooler conditions but they won't taste as good.
      Steve
      D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
      WL: Nantes Maroc

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      • #4
        Rafael,
        You're welcome. Excess heat is not a problem for figs, its their native domain
        There are several forum members that successfully grow their fig in Phoenix and similar areas and they follow the best cultural gardening practices, mulching and watering schedules... https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEa...mLYlcUgktO_FLw The ripening order still applies.


        Steve,
        You're welcome.
        It was some of the first info that I came across when I started growing figs. Most of his advise rings true including his advise of starting off with easy to grow, early ripening cultivars before attempting the "hard to grow" or rare as a way of learning fig cultivation and boosting confidence. Using the math to estimate the fig harvest was one of the reasons why I was able to taste over a dozen different cultivars in my first year growing figs. Its much like figuring out when to start garden seedlings (tomatoes, peppers, etc) indoors before the set out date (last frost date)...
        Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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        • #5
          Good stuff. I've recorded the date of emergence of dozens of varieties of fruit buds this year so should be able to trace data to the rule upon ripening. I've also noted the limb-leaf bud emergence dates of totally top-killed cultivars and cultivars top killed except for mulch protected low limbs. Thus, can track days to ripening from first limb and leaf bud emergence of these top killed cultivars, in addition to tracking ripening from first fruit buds.

          Last year for example, a totally top killed young Improved Celeste emerged from below ground during the first week of June and first ripened fruit during the second week of September - three months and a week for this relatively fast ripening cultivar from underground emergence of the first tip to ripe fruit. Did not record but recall that it put on fruit after about 3 weeks of growth, so about 2.5 months from first fruit bud to ripening. I did pinch the young limbs early on, so that may have helped speed ripening. That particular fig gets direct sun only till 3 p.m. daily.

          Also after total top kill, an unknown Mt Etna strain emerged from underground before the Improved Celeste and ripened fruit about two weeks ahead of the IC, while receiving about the same amount of sun. Something similar seems to be on track to happen this year, again after total top kill.

          This year I'm doing much less pinching of in-ground fig limbs to see 1) if the resultant presumably longer limbs might help increase the quantity of harvest, and 2) to have longer or at least more singular limbs to lay down in fall and mulch over to preserve through winter. Some of these unpinched limbs are fruiting better than I would have thought. Still waiting on others to begin showing signs of fruit.
          Tony WV 6b
          https://mountainfigs.net/

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          • #6
            Good info. I was under the impression that it took two to three months to grow and ripen. Good to know that it's really three to four months. I have one fig that grew indoors under grow lights. It's about ninety days old now. I guess it should ripen anytime. :-)
            Don - OH Zone 6a Wish list: Zaffiro, Moro de Caneva, Nerucciolo d'Elba, Bordissot Blanca Negra, Rubado

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            • mountainfigs
              mountainfigs commented
              Editing a comment
              The fruit can grow and ripen in 2 to 3 months from first appearance of the fruit, if it's an early cultivar like Improved Celeste, Ronde de Bordeaux, Marseilles Black...

              The bush or tree can grow and ripen fruit in 3-4 months from initial growth of new limbs, again for early cultivars.

              Heat helps though. So, the Improved Celeste last year that waited until warm June to break up through the ground set fruit in 2 or 3 weeks that ripened in a little over three months from first limb appearance (2.5 months from fruit appearance). And it was in a relatively protected warm micro climate.

              Many other cultivars this year began growing limbs in mid to late April, none of which began to set fruit until late May and early June and then mid and now late June: 5 to 9 weeks after first growing new limbs. I assume that the cool weather caused these trees and fruit to come on cautiously. The youth of many of these trees also may have had an effect. So the growth to ripening variance can be wide, depending on heat and other factors. That's why cultivars like Improved Celeste, most of the Mt Etnas, Ronde de Bordeaux, Florea and some others are extremely practical because not only do they ripen fruit relatively quickly during the season, they also are especially fruitful at a very young age, unlike many other cultivars in short growing seasons. For example, despite having some significantly older trees, they were of cultivars not known to ripen especially early or youthfully, thus my first tree to ripen fruit last year was a young one, a one year old unknown Mt Etna that I had purchased and rooted as a cutting the previous winter. (The tree was not an 8 month old rooted cutting, it was a 1 year old tree, at 1 year and 8 months.) Prioritizing these early season, early life ripeners reaps its rewards, as that is where the bulk of the fruit is likely to come from, especially at first. That said, skillful growing in pots and otherwise can overcome a lot.

          • #7
            Pete, Thanks again for terrific useful information. Do Breba figs also follow this average temp-days time line?
            Shailesh, Pennsylvania, ZONE 6B

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            • #8
              Tony,
              Thanks. Thanks for sharing your info.
              I've found an easy way to document the dates is to take a few digital snapshots and save them to a file. The photos all have automatic time/date stamps saved in their "properties". Since all my photos are taken with my phone its a simple procedure.



              Don,
              Thanks. The time is also dependent on the cultivar, whether they are early, mid-season or late ripening. Good Luck.



              Shailesh,
              You're Welcome.
              Yes, breba figs do follow the "rules", but IMO they may seem to ripen faster because they actually have a head start, they were already formed last season.
              Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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              • #9
                Thanks Pete! Great info and a great post.
                Phil
                Zone 7A - Newark, DE; Zone 8A - Wilmington, NC;

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                • #10
                  very interesting information...thanks Pete

                  Ross B. Santa Rosa Calif zone 9b, wish list: CdD Blanc, Igo, Palmata, Sucrette, Morroco, Galicia Negra

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                  • #11
                    Phil, Ross B,
                    Thanks and You're welcome...



                    Tony,
                    in reference to your comment #1 in post #6, the 30-60-90 rule works because the added variables of growth on the "front end" is not part of the equation. When fig trees are exposed to colder winter (storage) temperatures they will bud out slower that when exposed to warmer winter temperatures. The initial grow stages therefore are too varied (too many unknown variables) and are skipped (eliminated) by starting at fig embryo emergence. Also some cultivars produce fig embryos sooner than others which adds variables that would complicate the simple rule for estimating when your figs will ripen.

                    The rule can also be used to calculate the start dates for growing fig trees, for example if I wanted to have ripening Black Madiera figs in September, while the temperatures are still warm, the rice sized figs would have to already be on the tree in late May. The trees are woken in February to have rice sized fig embryos by May which will result in harvesting figs by September, as the "worst case scenario".

                    Dieseler a longtime member of the older fig forums, from Chicago had posted photos of his trees loaded with ripe figs in late summer, including Black Madieras. Martin (Dieseler) used the rule to establish the start dates of his "fig shuffle", where he wakes his potted trees moves them outdoors into the sun on warm late winter and early spring days, then back into storage at night and on cold days. Of course the zone conditions also have to be considered, whether there is enough sun and warmth.
                    Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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                    • #12
                      IMO, the simplest way to predict ripening dates is to combine the known and established time based fig Phenology and Heuristic (30-60-90) with readily available GDD (base 50) info. Its similar to using the "maturation dates" on seed packets when gardening, "Plant after all danger of frost has passed" and harvest in "XX" days, calculating your GDD (base 50) for "XX" days will give you the required GDD (base 50) at your location (and any in the world).

                      The predicted fig ripening dates will usually be within 1 - 2 weeks of the actual ripening dates when using this simple Time and Temperature based Heuristic method.

                      The GDD values can be easily calculated by using sites like Weather Underground, inputting your location, choosing the "Custom" tab and inputting your start -end dates as discussed;
                      https://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-h...002#post227002
                      https://www.ourfigs.com/forum/figs-h...370#post228370

                      Heuristic (under optimal conditions);

                      Early to Late season figs ripen in - 3 to 5 months or 90 to 150 days...
                      Breba figs ripen in - 3 months or 90 days
                      Main Crop figs ripen in - 3 to 5 months or 90 to 150 days depending on the variety.

                      30 days from bud break to "rice sized" figs (stage 1)
                      30 days to stagnant (stage 1)
                      60 - 90 days to ripe figs for early to late cultivars (stage 2 & 3)
                      Phenology; https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/15714/PDF
                      Breba Figs: (3 to 3-1/2 months)
                      Stage I ... Spring growth to quiescence, 7 - 8 weeks
                      Stage II ... Quiescence stage (or stagnant stage) 2 weeks.
                      Stage III ... Ripening 2 weeks.

                      Main Crop Figs: (3 to 5 months / early to late ripening)
                      Stage I ... Rapid growth to quiescence, 5 - 6 weeks
                      Stage II ... Quiescence stage (or stagnant stage) 3 - 8 weeks (depending on the fig variety)
                      Stage III ... Ripening 3 - 5 weeks.

                      The "optimal" conditions were those of the trials location at UC Riverside, California with the following Seasonal GDD (base 50) and mean average temperatures (assuming a March 1 season start date).
                      2017
                      1458 - 3 months, Early and Breba (Mar - May, 90 days 66 F)
                      2249 - 4 months, Middle (Mar - Jun, 120 days 71 F)
                      3311 - 5 months, Late (Mar - Jul, 150 days 76 F)

                      1735 - last 2 months, ripening stage 2 & 3 (Jun - Jul, 60 days 79 F)
                      The preliminary info from calculating the statistical median GDD (base 50) of fig ripening dates indicates;
                      Preliminary Heuristic GDD values;
                      GDD / Season
                      1500 - Breba crop figs ripen
                      1600 - Very early ripening main crop figs
                      2000 - Early ripening main crop figs
                      2500 - Middle ripening main crop figs
                      3000 - Late ripening main crop figs
                      As an example (using preliminary calculated GDD values)...
                      Cultivar - GDD / Season
                      Brooklyn White - 2300
                      CCD Gris - 2600
                      Champagne - 2000
                      Hardy Chicago - 2300
                      Italian 258 - 2900
                      Italian Honey - 2100
                      Malta Black - 2200
                      MBVS - 2200
                      O'Rourke - 2100
                      Sals GH - 2300
                      Takoma Violet - 2300
                      VdB - 2400
                      GDD at my location;
                      2017
                      1682 - 3 months (May - Jul, 90 days 68 F mean avg)
                      2600 - 5 months (May - Sep, 150 days 67 F mean avg)

                      918 - last 2 months (Aug - Sep, 60 days 65 F mean avg)

                      The conclusion for my location is that I can ripen breba figs and early main crop, but may only be able to ripen some middle ripening cultivars due to shorter season, colder temperatures and reduced GDD during the last month of ripening (in my growing season). The actual selection of fig varieties and cultivars could be easily made using the cultivars' GDD indexes, once they are established.


                      Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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