From the Twelve Fruits With Potential Value-Added and Culinary Uses
by Ken Love, Richard Bowen, and Kent Fleming


Scientific name: Ficus carica L.
Family: Moraceae
Origin: Western Asia and the Mediterranean


Steeped in the history and ritual of ancient cultures, the fig has endured the test of time as one of the most universally enjoyed fruits. Fig remnants were found in archeological excavations dating back to 5000 BC. Cultivation of the fruit was reported first in ancient Rome, where 29 different types of fig were grown. Believed to be indigenous to Asia Minor, the fig spread beyond the Mediterranean region before recorded history. It reached as far north as England in the early 1500s, when it was already reported as being cultivated in China. Hiram Bingham first reported the fig in Hawai‘i in 1825.

Members of the Moraceae family, figs are cousins to the Artocarpus species breadfruit and jackfruit.

There are about 1000 cultivars of fig, which are usually distinguished by their size, color of the fruit, and shape of the leaves. The National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Davis, California, has 140 fig accessions in its collection. In Hawai‘i the most common types found are ‘Brown Turkey’ and ‘White Kadota’; some ‘Black Mission’ figs are found at lower elevations.

Figs of various types can be cultivated from sea level to over 5000 feet, so the crop has potential to be grown in most of Hawai‘i’s microclimates. The plant is tolerant of most soils with good drainage. It tolerates drought and some soil salinity but not highly acidic soil. Horticulture The fig tree has numerous spreading branches and contains a significant amount of latex, which is an irritant and may cause skin rash. In Hawai‘i the tree grows rapidly and can achieve heights of 30 feet or more. The fruit of older trees is seldom harvested due to the height of the branches. These trees can be cut back to within a few feet above the soil.

In many regions where figs are grown the trees are pruned severely after harvest. In Hawai‘i, branches can be cut back to the first node, and new growth will appear within a month after pruning. Pruning should be done after each harvest. The tree can be pruned as an espalier or kept very low to the ground. In Hawai‘i’s lower elevations, with irrigation, fruit forms continuously throughout the year, and pruning should be frequent, with the trees shaped to facilitate harvesting. Although not necessary, irrigation at lower elevations will increase production: a 1⁄2-gallon/hour emitter for 10 minutes a day in the early morning ensured constant production at a site at 430 feet elevation. At elevations above 900 feet, the tree usually produces one or two crops per year. At mid-elevations, 600–900 feet, it will produce two or more crops per year, while at lower elevations production is continuous.

Pests and diseases
In Hawai‘i the most common problem is bird damage. Mylar tape, Christmas tinsel, and other reflective materials such as aluminum pie pans or used CDs are all effective in reducing damage. Protective fruit wrapping as the fig develops is also effective, but increased heat inside the wrappings can cause the fruit to ripen prematurely. Wrapping growing figs in newspaper was a common practice in Hawai‘i during the early 1900s. Figs are a fruit fly host, with ‘Brown Turkey’ being less susceptible than ‘White Kadota’. Following the Hawai‘i. Area-Wide Fruit Fly Pest Management Program recommendations is advisable. The mango flower beetle (Protaetia fusca) may also feed on ripe figs. Plant disease pathogens that affect fig in Hawai‘i are Alternaria tenuis, which appears as brown to black spots on the fruit, and Aspergillus sp. (black mold) and Fusarium sp. (soft rot), which occur especially as postharvest problems.

Food uses and nutrition
Figs are high in fiber, which is good for lowering blood pressure and controlling cholesterol. Being high in fiber, they also give a feeling of fullness and are good for diets. Figs are a good source of potassium and vitamin B6.

Nutritional value

'Brown Turkey'
'Brown Turkey'


Although grafting and air layers work well for some growers, cuttings from 2 to 3 year old wood is the most common way to propagate figs. The cuttings should be about 1/2 inch in diameter and about a foot long. Older trees can be top worked with grafts in order to change variety.

Harvesting and Yield
In Hawaii fig production depends on elevation and cultivar. At 430-foot elevation, a Brown Turkey fig tree that covers a 20 x 25 foot area can produce more than 2000 figs per year. Trees at 1200 feet will produce about 800 figs per year, usually in autumn.  Figs are fragile and should be placed in containers at the time of harvest so that they do not touch each other. Latex from the stem end should not be allowed to touch the fruit skin, as it will cause discoloration. White Kadota produced about 1/2 of what Brown Turkey produced at the 12 Trees Project site.  

Postharvest Quality
Fully ripe figs are very perishable and should be chilled as soon as possible after harvest at 30ºF to 32ºF degrees and 90-95%% relative humidity for optimum storage of about 30 days.  Frozen figs for processing can be stored for up to a year or more.

Cost of Production
The project fig tree produced an annual marketable yield of 788 pounds. The average market price was $3.30 per pound, and therefore the tree generated a gross revenue of $2,598.75 for the year. Growing costs (fertilization, irrigation, pruning and all weed and pest control) amounted to $58.81, and harvesting costs (picking, packing and delivery to market) totaled $535.20. (All labor to grow and harvest the figs was assumed to be paid at an hourly wage rate of $16.00, including withholding, FICA and benefits.) Thus, the total annual operating costs, sometimes referred to as “variable costs,” were $594.01. The gross margin (gross revenue minus all operating costs) was $2,004.74.
The fig gross margin is the amount of money available to pay all the ownership costs associated with the fig enterprise. Ownership costs, sometimes referred to as “fixed costs,” include the value of land used (rent or rent equivalent or mortgage and property taxes), the value of the capital investment (such as the tree establishment cost and buildings and vehicles), the value of the management, and the value of any unpaid labor. (All paid labor is already included in the gross margin.) Ownership costs, unlike operating costs, will vary substantially from farm to farm and will depend largely on how the farming operation is financed and on economies of scale. Each grower will have to calculate his total farm ownership costs and then allocate an appropriate portion of these costs to each enterprise on the farm. Now the profitability of the fig enterprise can be determined by subtracting the fig enterprise’s share of the total ownership costs from the gross margin for figs.
The cost and return data are what was obtained from the 12 Trees Project site and other locations.  Yields and costs were based on optimal growing conditions for one or more trees at various locations; different results will be obtained under different growing conditions.  The prices used were actually obtained in 2005 and 2006. There is no guarantee that these prices will continue, especially if production increases significantly.  These costs and returns are simply a starting point for growers to make their own estimates.
Packaging, Pricing and Marketing  
Figs in groceries are usually sold in clamshell plastic boxes to prevent unnecessary handling and damage. Wholesale figs are delivered in single layer boxes, often separated by type and degree of ripeness. In Hawaii figs are usually sold by the piece for about 75 cents each wholesale. Grocery store and farmer’s market prices can range from 75 cents to $1.50 each. Chefs will ask wholesalers or growers for fully ripe fruit or about 80% ripe fruit, which are used for poaching or in, cooked recipes. Figs lend themselves to a wide variety of value added products.
Fig and feta gau gee and wontons
Ken Love

6 ripe ‘Brown Turkey’ figs
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 T finely chopped garlic
Fresh ground pepper
1 package wonton wrappers

Wash and cut off stem end of figs. Put figs, cheese, and garlic into food processor or blender and pulse slowly. Texture should be slightly lumpy and not liquid. Season with a pinch of fresh ground pepper.
Spread about 1 teaspoon of the mixture onto a wonton and fold to desired shape. Dampen edges of the wonton so it sticks together. Deep-fry wontons until golden brown. Makes about 50 pieces. You can also add finely chopped fresh spinach and cooked rice or orzo pasta to the mixture if desired. You can also steam the wontons or form them into shumai.
Serve with sweet and sour dipping sauce or spicy chili sauce.

About the Twelve Fruits With Potential Value-Added and Culinary Uses Project

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© 2007, University of Hawai‘i

Love, Ken, Bowen, Richard and Fleming, Kent. Twelve Fruits With Potential Value-Added and Culinary Uses. University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. 2007. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.


Love, Ken. Fig. N.d. Kona, Hawaii. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.

Published 4 Mar. 2017 LR
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