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  • Effects of Caprification on Fig Flavor

    NOTE: This is a repost. The original post was lost on the 'missing day' issue the site had. There were some good comments from Quy and Harborseal regarding caprifigs and trying to start a wasp colony. I am hoping to re-discuss that.

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    Does caprification of figs affect the flavor of the fig? Other than flower pollination to produce seeds (which will change the texture of the fig), does the flavor change: become fuller, richer, produce more honey, etc.?

    I know there are many fruits whose flavor is enhanced by pollination (persimmons come to mind immediately). I am wondering about figs?
    Location: USDA Zone 9b / Sunset 13. Chandler, AZ

  • #2
    I'd love to know more about how to start and maintain a blastophaga colony. Too bad I missed the first thread.

    Comment


    • #3
      I don't remember the exact question but I'll try to tell you what I might have said

      First of all you'll need a variety of caprifigs. Some are early season, some mid and some are late. Some have great profichi crops but poor mammoni or mamme or any other combination. There's some, but very little info on those issues here, but not anywhere else as far as I know. Each of the caprifigs listed are described in more or less detail, usually less Anyone please chime in if you have other caprifig info.

      http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.o...ONDITonFIG.pdf

      You have to have enough caprifigs to cover the range of fruiting times and also a sufficient number of each crop among all the trees to maintain the life cycle of the wasp. Whether that's 1 tree or 12 depends on the environment and the tree(s) I'm getting all the caprifigs I can and will weed out the redundant ones once I figure out what they are. No one that I know of has any experience growing caprifigs in zone 6 outside of a greenhouse

      Once your caprifigs are old enough to be producing 3 crops regularly then have some kind soul from CA send you a rooted caprifig with wasp laden fruits or several wasp laden figs. If you go the plant route I'm guessing it would be best to send the caprifig after it's gone dormant in the fall. The mamme are built tough and the plant should wake up when the rest of them do, synchronizing the wasp-laden caprifig's cycle with the rest of your plants.

      If you're not going to breed it doesn't matter what type of caprifigs you choose. If you are going to breed you want to be careful that only pollen from persistent caprifigs get to your common figs, even if you have other caprifigs to maintain the population. Only persistent caprifig pollen introduced into a common fig will give you seeds that can produce edible, common figs - and only ~ 25% of those seeds will be common figs. The only persistent caprifigs that I know of are DFIC 6 (UCR 347-1), DFIC 8 (Enderud), DFIC 10 (Saleeb), DFIC 126 (Capri Q) and possibly DFIC 127 (Capri S) (conflicting info in the GRIN database) and Igor's (greenfig) Black Prince. (Igor, do I have that right?)

      Good luck, all!
      Bob C.
      Kansas City, MO Z6

      Comment


      • Harborseal
        Harborseal commented
        Editing a comment
        As far as maintaining the colony, don't let the dormant figs get too cold. I can't give you exact numbers but a wasp outside of a fig will die in a frost. Inside the mamme, where they overwinter, they are somewhat protected. I'm going to keep mine above 32 so I know I won't have problems. A brief dip to 30 probably won't hurt them but no one knows what temps and how much time at that temp will kill them. There are stories of cold snaps and survival but that may even depend on the variety of the tree as well as time at temperature so I'm going to be careful

      • Levar
        Levar commented
        Editing a comment
        This is really exciting. Thanks for this!

        1. Ok so let's say I have the necessary amount of mature capri figs - is there a good time of year to send the wasp-laden figs instead of the tree? Just budgeting, it would be less expensive to just get the figs. Although, which do you think is safer for the wasps?

        2. I want to make sure I understand your comment about how "the wasps will overwinter in the figs" - so the blastophaga just live in my capri figs from then on, year after year? It won't be necessary to re-order wasps for each year, right? (My area doesn't hit freezing temp so that's not really a concern.)

        3. Say something bad happens to my only mid-season capri fig tree - my early and late season capris are okay but my midseason died or something. Where would the wasps go? Would you need to get a new tree and introduce a new batch of wasps?

    • #4
      And about the flavor, it depends. Many figs are greatly improved by being pollinated. One person in the thread said Hardy Chicago wasn't changed.
      Bob C.
      Kansas City, MO Z6

      Comment


      • #5
        Bob, Awesome! This was a great wealth of information. Thank you for putting your thoughts down again!
        Location: USDA Zone 9b / Sunset 13. Chandler, AZ

        Comment


        • #6
          Quoth Levar

          1. Ok so let's say I have the necessary amount of mature capri figs - is there a good time of year to send the wasp-laden figs instead of the tree? Just budgeting, it would be less expensive to just get the figs. Although, which do you think is safer for the wasps?

          2. I want to make sure I understand your comment about how "the wasps will overwinter in the figs" - so the blastophaga just live in my capri figs from then on, year after year? It won't be necessary to re-order wasps for each year, right? (My area doesn't hit freezing temp so that's not really a concern.)

          3. Say something bad happens to my only mid-season capri fig tree - my early and late season capris are okay but my midseason died or something. Where would the wasps go? Would you need to get a new tree and introduce a new batch of wasps?
          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          1. The shipper has to send the wasp laden figs just before they're ripe. Too early and everything dies. Too late and the wasps are gone. There is a window of time between the two but no one that I know of knows how long that is. Heat and humidity probably play a role. Will the wasps survive a cross country shipment if it takes 2 days? 3 days? If you compare overnighting a few figs vs priority mailing a dormant plant, the dormant plant is probably cheaper. It can't hurt to try mailing a few wasp laden figs via a small, flat rate box in the Spring or early Summer and if that doesn't work ship a plant in the Fall.

          2. That's the plan, yes. That's what happened in CA.

          3. As always, it depends. If the wasps can find someplace to go they can maintain your colony. If there's overlap between your early and late season trees you may very well maintain your colony. If your early season mamme figs have an early season profichi to go in to, you're fine. Same with the late season. But your common figs that are midseason may not have anything to pollinate them with. They'll ripen figs but they won't be as good.

          I hope you're not confusing early season with early crop. There are 3 caprifig crops. The mamme is where the wasps spend the winter. When those are ripe they move into the Profichi. When those are ripe they move into the mamoni and when those are ripe they move into the new mamme. Only the profichi has the pollen. Wasps leaving the profichi can carry the pollen to common figs as well. The prime purpose for having early, mid and late trees is that you'll hopefully have a continuous supply of pollen all during the common fig development season. Figs are receptive from about when they're the size of a dime or nickle. Once past that they won't need a wasp. That goes for common and caprifigs.

          But in Z10 you have a problem. When an animal steals one of your figs it will plant the seeds in its droppings. Over time the wasps will spread to these new figs and birds will spread them far and wide. In parts of CA figs have become an invasive nuisance because of this. The same could easily happen in any zone 9 or 10 areas. In Z6 neither the seedlings nor the wasps will survive an unprotected winter so here it doesn't matter. There it will. If you had a green house and some way of killing any rats that got inside it would be a lot safer to do this in your zone.
          Last edited by Harborseal; 01-28-2016, 11:48 AM.
          Bob C.
          Kansas City, MO Z6

          Comment


          • Levar
            Levar commented
            Editing a comment
            I really appreciate you being so thorough and helpful.

            I just started reading the Waynesword post about pollination this evening. Caprifigs and their functions just seemed like something I wouldn't have to study. I've got a ton to learn about this. Do you have any other recommended reading?
            Last edited by Levar; 01-27-2016, 11:21 PM. Reason: edited because my syntax was garbage

        • #7
          Just be forewarned, Caprifigs and caprification are not without their potential pitfalls. The fig wasp often brings along fungus for the ride which will spoil your figs. In California, it's required by law to pick the Mamme crop every year, split them open, and wash them (inside and out) with fungicide. The wasp larvae are in the fruit, so they're unaffected by the treatment.

          I had problems with figs rotting last year from fig wasp born fungal infections. I finally found the local caprifig growing in someone's yard, and once I have my own colony going I'm going to have the ask the county to remove that un-tended caprifig.
          Fig & Blackberry Farmer in Sunol, CA.

          Comment


          • Harborseal
            Harborseal commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for posting that. When do you pick the mamme? How long do the wasps survive in a fig picked off of the tree? Are there certain fungicides that are preferred?

            Are you on the foggy side of the mountains or the dry side? Does it matter?

            In a wet or hot year I have problems with figs souring before they're ripe anyway

            Thanks.

          • smatthew
            smatthew commented
            Editing a comment
            Harborseal - My caprifigs are just babies, so I haven't done this procedure yet. Here's a reference:
            "Before being treated with fungicide, mamme figs were cut in half with a a sterile knife; the incision extended from the neck of the fig alongside the eye to the neck on the other side" "Figs were separated into two halves, which were still connected to the stem. For the preliminary test with the mamme crop, 83-85 figs were dipped in fungicide suspensions for 5 min;" http://www.apsnet.org/publications/p...e66n07_566.PDF

            Another reference: "Collect mamme caprifigs in early March as the wasps start emerging, split the fruit and discard any with internal discoloration. Treat the healthy looking split mammae figs by dipping or spraying with a registered fungicide. Hang treated figs in the profichi (spring) crop of caprifigs." From http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/r261100211.html

        • #8
          That sounds like a tremendous job. How can you ensure its efficacy? How does one apply that much fungicide to all of those Mamme?

          This is slowly beginning to sound like a terrible idea for a place that often reaches 70% - 95% humidity. Not to mention the irresponsibility of introducing an invasive species in a state that has enough agricultural problems.

          I wonder if anyone has any insight on how to contain the colony in a greenhouse or something, if that's even a plausible solution.

          Comment


          • #9
            If you can keep fig seeds from escaping that's most of your task. You'll have to be sure that any rat or bird that enters never leaves and is not buried without being burned. An airlock entry and exit can contain almost all of your wasps. A water curtain would be inconvenient but even better. But if someone has a fig tree near you and a wasp from a profichi escapes and the wind blows it that way, the process has begun. It can't continue unless other wasps escape a few years later but a few is all that's needed to start the cycle. If 1 wasp pollinates 1 wild caprifig and lays eggs in it you'll never get the cat back in the bag.
            Last edited by Harborseal; 01-28-2016, 12:03 PM.
            Bob C.
            Kansas City, MO Z6

            Comment


            • Levar
              Levar commented
              Editing a comment
              Originally posted by Harborseal View Post
              You'll have to be sure that any rat or bird that enters never leaves and is not buried without being burned.
              Is that a Marilyn Manson lyric?

            • Harborseal
              Harborseal commented
              Editing a comment
              I don't know.

          • #10
            It looks like it goes even further than that. I don’t understand all the way why, but it is considered extremely problematic to have both early and late caprifigs. Specifically, “The presence of both mamme and set profichi figs in the caprifig trees at the same time is a public nuisance. The caprifigs, or the trees, or both, shall be destroyed at the owner’s expense by the owner or by the commissioner, pursuant to this article, before the profichi caprifig crop matures.”

            https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/f...11.&article=4.

            It seems like caprification is hard to do right!

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