I have a Celeste fig tree that I bought from a nursery and transplanted in March 2012. It was fruiting size, but it spent last year putting down roots and acclimating to its new home. This year, I have my first crop of figs growing, but I’m obviously having a difficult time knowing when the figs are ripe. I’ve never grown figs before, and this past weekend I found my second too-ripe fig on the tree. Seems I need to start looking at these fruit a little more closely.
In my area, I should get two crops of figs – one that ripens in June/July and another that ripens in September or so. My tree has had fruit on it since June, but only two figs have ripened so far (and I missed the harvesting window on both).
I did a little research and found that lack of nutrition can delay or prevent ripening of figs. I’ve been fertilizing according to the schedule given me by Clemson University’s co-op extension, so I don’t think that’s my problem. Maybe it’s because this is the first year the tree has fruited? I don’t know, but I figured I’d better learn how to tell when a fig is ripe.
First, figs grow from little nodules at the leaf joints. It’s pretty cool to watch them grow from bumps into figs. This picture shows figs at various stages of growth on one branch.
The skin of my new figs are solid green and shiny. As they grow, they lose their shine and get tiny white “freckles.” I learned that ripening figs will swell, start to point downwards (more like they’re hanging rather than pointing outward), then turn color.
There is a small window for harvesting ripe figs. From what I read, it’s only a day or two. If you miss the window, they get overripe – and insects can invade them from the eye (the “dot” on the bottom of the fruit). Here’s a picture of my overripe fig.
The skin was very waxy feeling, and the eye was fully open with ants crawling inside. Ew. It went right into the compost pile. 😦
The other day, I harvested a fig that was still green because it’s eye had turned pink. I wanted to see how ripe it was inside when the eye enlarges and turns pink like this.
The fig was still hard, and fig latex oozed from the point where I pulled the fig from the tree, as well as from the top of the fruit. It was thick, white, and very sticky. I’ve read that some people are allergic to the latex (causing a rash or hives on contact), but I seemed to be okay.
I cut the fruit open, and it was white with a few pink seeds inside. Not ripe at all. It even smelled “green.” (I should’ve taken a picture of the inside. Sorry.) So, the eye opening and turning pink is just the first stage of ripening.
I have a few fruit on the tree that feel like they’re softening as they’re beginning to hang. I’m going to have to check them daily to be sure I catch them just as they’re perfectly ripe. I want to eat my first fresh fig from my own tree!
If you are growing a Celeste fig tree, I’d love any tips you have on knowing when to harvest them at their peak of ripeness!