Why grow figs?  If you have ever tasted a fresh ripe fig (and surprisingly few people have) you will know the answer.  I consider them to be one of the best fruits for fresh eating.  Unfortunately figs are soft, do not ripen off the tree and do not store (2-3 days under refrigeration)or ship well. This explains why few people outside of California or the Mediterranean have actually ever tried them, they are high-value fruits of limited demand.  Most of the less than 2% grown for fresh eating are sold regionally and rarely exported, the other 98% are canned, dried or made into a paste for fig newtons.  These products have very little semblance to the fresh fruit.

Figs are considered to be the oldest cultivated fruit crop going back well over 5,000 years. The fig is believed to be indigenous to western Asia and to have been distributed by man throughout the Mediterranean area. Remnants of figs have been found in excavations of sites traced to at least 5,000 B.C. There are about 800 varieties recorded and around 50-100 in the United States.  Below is a poster for sale by http://www.fruitlovers.com/FigPoster.html  which shows 126 varieties of figs.

126 varieties of Figs

With their history you would think more was known about them and that they were a simple crop.  Actually they have a fairly complex nature and relationships between varieties when compared to other fruits.  Some common fig varieties produce only one crop while others produce two crops. The first crop, called the breba crop is in the spring on last season’s growth. The second crop is borne in the fall on the new growth and is known as the main crop. In cold climates the breba crop is often destroyed by spring frosts. The next issue is some figs, Persistent (or Common) require no pollination, some Caducous (or Smyrna) do require pollination and some Intermediate Group (or San Pedro) do not need pollination to set a breba crop but do need it for the main crop (in some environments). To add to the confusion often the fruits are divided further by color, green and yellow figs and dark figs.  The last issue is that of synonyms or name confusion. An example would be the common Brown Turkey –which is also known as: Eastern Brown Turkey, English Brown Turkey, Everbearing, Texas Everbearing.

That pretty much is the tough part and really has very little bearing to most people who are not extreme hobbyists. The good news is that some types of figs can be grown in New Mexico.  Figs like a dry, warm temperature environment which also inhibits many of the diseases from wetter areas.  They also thrive on lots of sunshine which we have in abundance.  A poor quality soil is also considered good as it slows the ultimate tree size and concentrates sugars to the fruit.  A soil ph between 6 and 8 is acceptable. Figs can be grown in containers very well since they like root restriction.   Figs that are completely dormant before severely cold weather arrives can easily tolerate temperatures down to 15° F with little or no damage. Some varieties are hardier and can tolerate even lower temperatures. If the top is winter killed, the plant will probably come back from the base or underground parts.  Fruit production starts early with 2 year old plants often setting a crop.