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  • Hardy Chicago, Belleclare Nursery, Mt Etna, Rifugio Sapienza

    It seems that Hardy Chicago could be called not only a Mt Etna fig, and not only Mongibello but also, say, Dark Purple 1900M (thereby blowing Nero 600M off the mountain, so to speak). Rafaelissimmo has noted elsewhere:
    "Hardy Chicago was named by Fred Born but there have been documented posts that it got to Chicago via Brooklyn, I think that Belleclare had this fig and somebody inherited Belleclare's original notes and posted it on the [F4F] forum, the original fig was listed as coming from the "Rifugio di Sapienza" which is in fact on Mt. Etna, the picture of the notes is here on the [F4F] forum somewhere...and as we all know the Sicilian name of this fig "Mongibello" means beautiful mountain, referring to Mt Etna!"

    Rifugio Sapienza, an isolated tourist hotel and restaurant, a ski resort and summer Etna hiking point, sits at 1910 meters, more than 6,200 feet, well over a mile high up stark volcanic mountainside. The terrain is more or less barren beyond patchy shrubs and grasses, except for a few trees purposefully planted around the hotel and restaurant. Apparently a fig bush was also planted from which someone clipped and brought to Belleclare Nursery?

    Rifugio Sapienza on Mt Etna sits at about the same latitude and altitude as Durango, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains.

    Photos of Rifugio Sapienza in winter and summer below.

    Belleclare Nursery (on Long Island now closed) by way of Martha Stewart visit: http://tinyurl.com/pzkg3tz



    You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
    Tony WV 6b
    https://mountainfigs.net/

  • #2
    So, I'm north east of Durango in Colorado Springs... oh... and on the other side of the Rockies. My altitude is 6266 feet. Are you thinking a mature HC would thrive in ground here with no protection?
    Scott - Colorado Springs, CO - Zone 4/5 (Depending on the year) - Elevation 6266ft

    “Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.” – Bill Mollison

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    • COGardener
      COGardener commented
      Editing a comment
      Perplexing.

      I'm not going to stay at this location fire much longer so I'll hold off on such an endeavour, however once moved I do plan to experiment with some in ground trees.

    • mountainfigs
      mountainfigs commented
      Editing a comment
      I was imprecise in saying no to your thrive question about an unprotected mature Hardy Chicago. By no I mean that I doubt very strongly that any unprotected limbs would survive a winter, let alone thrive. However, I would think that the bush as a whole could thrive, though maybe being helped by mulch heaped around the base each fall. Even if no low limbs are preserved by the mulch (which they might be) the bush could come booming back from the ground each year, and I would think be quite fruitful if tended well. I posted a few weeks ago about some early success I've had doing this in Chicago this year (far north of Colorado Springs, though much lower elevation) bringing through a hard winter some partial low limbs beneath bags of mulch, with decent subsequent fruit formation.

    • COGardener
      COGardener commented
      Editing a comment
      I do plan to try some figs in ground and I'm planning for heavy winter protection. My area was an inland sea during the Cretaceous period resulting in rather basic soil. Without intervention, the pH trends to average around 8.0, the summers are, typically, hot and dry. Other than the winter lows and extreme elevation, it is very Mediterranean in climate here. Perhaps I will put one fig to ground this year and see what happens, I can always dig it and take it with me when I move.... or infect another person with Musthavemorefigsitis.

  • #3
    I read online that Mt. Etna has good snow cover from November to April and can have harsh wind. Not sure how low the temps get, but with normal thick snow cover that may have helped to keep this fig alive. It's quite the beautiful mountain. Thanks for this posting Tony, very interesting to know more about our figs.
    Greg, Maine, zone 5. Wish List: Green Michurinska

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    • #4
      I grow a fig bush in northern PA with minimal mulch protection that comes back every year. It's small, a few feet, but I haven't done anything to help it yet. The latitude is north of Laramie Wyoming, and the altitude is about 520 meters, or 1700 feet. Zone 5 most years, 6 some years.

      Where I live in WV at the latitude of southern Denver (though with an elevation of only about 1,000 feet) I grow a 2nd year in-ground Mt Etna fig bush with total top kill last year, no protection, that is about 5 or 6 feet tall and nearly 8 feet wide currently, dozens of limbs, a few dozen fruit. This fall I intend to protect as many low limbs as possible with leaves. I expect a relatively huge and very fruitful bush next year.
      Last edited by mountainfigs; 08-02-2015, 01:40 PM.
      Tony WV 6b
      https://mountainfigs.net/

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      • #5
        Hi Tony

        Thanks for bringing up this topic again. A couple of comments:
        1. On my recent trip to Italy I met someone who had been to the Rifugio Sapienza and she in fact confirmed what you state, which is that the actual promontory is too bare to support any vegetation, much less a fig tree. But the national park where it is situated is quite large and at lower elavations there is plenty of vegetation and fig trees.
        2. The Belleclare notes state that the Bensonhurst Purple was brought to New York by Sicilian immigrants and later transported to Chicago by Sicilians.
        You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 2 photos.
        Rafael
        Zone 10b, Miami, FL

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        • mountainfigs
          mountainfigs commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks for the documents, Rafael, and the earlier information.

      • #6
        Great info gents. Hardy Chicago made a believer out of me this year. Although here in zone 7b- 8a ( ATL GA) there is less of chance of die back due to the warmer climate, the production to tree size to fruit quality ratio by this variety is hard to beat. Throw in the fact that if it does die back it comes back to produce that same year and you have a winner. Thinking that the tree that grows in my front porch came from the top of Mt Etna and has so much history behind it is what makes it even more special. Great work Tony and thanks for sharing.

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        • mountainfigs
          mountainfigs commented
          Editing a comment
          Can't resist noting that the top of Mt Etna is fire, the middle of Mt Etna is ice, the bottom of Mt Etna is figs. Mt Etna is over 2 miles high and prone to volcanic eruption. About halfway down Mt Etna are ski resorts. And as we've sorted through in this thread, below that grow the figs.

          Agreed 100 percent that Hardy Chicago and the other Mt Etnas are great fig trees that produce great figs.

      • #7
        Here's some additional information: http://figs4fun.com/Info/Info_Hardy_Chicago.html

        According to one of the accounts in the link, Fred Born obtained cuttings from a gardener in Chicago and then gave them to Edible Landscaping who most likely coined the term "Hardy Chicago". It is not clear to me though at what point Belleclare obtained the variety (apparently from folks in NYC). Then there is the whole lore on the relationship between SalsEL and HC. I have been able to resist the urge of obtaining a Hardy Chicago given that I already have SalsEL, Takoma Violet and MvsB. These three so far have behaved about the same, though this season I should learn more. I plan to reduce this group to one eventually and it won't be easy.
        Steve
        D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
        WL: Nantes Maroc

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        • #8
          Hardy Chicago is my favorite fig and it's nice to have a location in Sicily to reference the possible origin of HC. Out of curiosity this got me looking for the winter temperatures of "Rifugio di Sapienza". Here are the temps from this past January.
          http://www.3bmeteo.com/meteo/rifugio...storico/201501
          The winter temperatures apparently are much milder compared to the north east here considering the altitude. Then again this is not really a surprise. Whenever I search for winter temperatures in Europe they seem to be warmer that what I had anticipated.
          For example the temperature for Kunovice Czech Republic, which I think this is the location of the EBT LaRadek, was warmer than expected.
          Just for info I'm linking the January 2006 weather calendar since it was the coldest month/year I could find. The columns on the right are the historical high/lows for that particular calendar day.
          http://www.geodata.us/weather/show.p...epublic&y=2006
          John Z5 Wish list:

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          • Rafaelissimmo
            Rafaelissimmo commented
            Editing a comment
            Its been so warm in Italy last few years that the Blastophaga wasp has reached as far north as the coastal plain near Venice.

        • #9
          Hardy Chicago and similar stereotypical "Mount Etna Types" are some of the tastier, hardier and more productive cultivars in circulation, even when given minimal winter protection in colder zones. IMO, the Mount Etna Types constitute ~ 60% of the "Dark" figs growing in backyards in NYC, with in ground trees that exceed 12 feet in years with consecutive mild winters. This cultivar should be included in every collection if only for its flavor, hardiness and breba production.
          You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 3 photos.
          Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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          • #10
            So which varieties are the Mount Etna types? Even though they have similar characteristics, some still shine (like MBVS, Sal's EL, Malta Black, Danny's Delight, Gino's Black) better than others for various reasons like quality of taste, ripening time, productivity, etc., right? , etc..

            These?
            Bari
            Black Bethlehem
            Black Greek
            Black Portuguese
            Bryant Dark
            Danny's Delight
            Dark Portuguese
            Gino's Black
            Ginoso
            Hardy Chicago
            Hardy Hartford
            Keddie
            Maryland Berry
            MBVS
            Natalina
            Navid's UDG
            Papa John
            Rossi Dark
            Salem Dark
            Sal's EL
            Takoma Violet
            Zingarella

            Maybe these?
            St Rita
            Malta Black
            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
              Don, Nobody knows. They may all be identical. There may be some differences, large or small. With all those above and more. I've covered my bases by acquiring a variety of differently named Mt Etnas. More could be said, and has been! but I think that's the basic situation.

          • #11
            There seems to be 2 Zingarellas, supposedly one is from Richard Watts, that is different from Mt Etnas
            Also, I saw a post from Bass, who 'found' Black Bethlehem, and he thought it was different from the Mt Etnas.
            I'm on my way to find out for myself someday
            Ed
            SW PA zone 6a

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            • #12
              Don,
              IMO, Hardy Chicago/Bensonhurst Purple is the stereotypical Mount Etna Type, its the cultivar that should be used for the comparisons, its the "original".
              Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b

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              • #13
                Wow, after reading this thread I'm glad I got my HC from EL.
                Jerry, Canyon Lake TX 8b

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                • #14
                  "So which varieties are the Mount Etna types?"

                  I've been growing a Montenegro Dark that appears to be a Mount Etna type fig. It had a few figs in 2014 when I planted it in the ground.It got damaged in the winter and its growth has been slow so I did not get any figs this season.I grafted several cuttings from it to some TC rootstock because I thought it might die earlier this summer.Hopefully,it will do better in 2016.

                  You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 2 photos.
                  Barry
                  NE GA ,Zone 7b Low Temperature of 4F in 2015,17F in 2016,17F in 2017,6F in 2018,17F in 2019

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                  • AscPete
                    AscPete commented
                    Editing a comment
                    IMO, the simplest way to tell is to compare mature leaves and figs to the known Mount Etna Cultivar, Hardy Chicago.

                • #15
                  IMO, the simplest way to tell is to compare mature leaves and figs to the known Mount Etna Cultivar, Hardy Chicago.
                  The leaves look similar to my HC and MBVS trees.

                  You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
                  Barry
                  NE GA ,Zone 7b Low Temperature of 4F in 2015,17F in 2016,17F in 2017,6F in 2018,17F in 2019

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                  • #16
                    Originally posted by Gr8Figs View Post

                    The leaves look similar to my HC and MBVS trees.
                    Barry, Thanks for your response. Here are two of the fruit. The large, ripe one has a sweet jammy taste with enough of an acid balance to give it a berry taste. Not as good as some of my other trees but nice. They seem more rounded with more splitting than other pictures I've seen of Hardy Chicago.
                    You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 2 photos.
                    Mara, Southern California,
                    Climate Zone: 1990=9b 2012= 10a 2020=?

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