Growing Figs in the Pacific Northwest

When we think of figs, we think hot climates…tropical…Seattle.

Wait.  What?

Yeah, figs will TOTALLY grow in the Pacific Northwest!  There are a few kinds that do really well- for a list of types, and descriptions, Raintree Nurseries is a really excellent local resource.  Figs do well in pots or in the ground- obviously, with more room to grow, they’ll get bigger and yield better harvests.

These two figs came from my mom’s trees- they’re roughly 15 years old now.  The tree that bears the green figs- we believe it’s a desert king- is a really consistent fruiter.  Pick the fruit when it is positively dripping down- the figs grow straight and hard, until they ripen and turn soft the the stem softens enough to allow the heavy fruit to dangle.  You might even see a bead of moisture at the thick bottom end.  Figs are funny things- they have to be pollinated by a certain kind of wasp, and the flower is on the inside, or rather, the flower is the fruit.  I think.

The tree that bears the dark fig is not as heavy a fruiter or as reliable, but the fruit is so delicious it earns its space we think.  Much sweeter than the green figs, with a more concentrated flavor. I snagged the only ripe one on the tree on this particular picking day- lucky me!  Looking at the Raintree catalog, I’d guess this is a Nordland fig- originally from Switzerland and hardy to 10 degrees.  (The trees, I believe, were a gift to my mother from my grandmother- if anyone is still certain of the types, I don’t know about it!  They were highly recommended as appropriate for the area by the nursery, and that was enough for Grandma 🙂

I think it’s because these were some of the first fruit of the season, so they’ve been growing the longest, but some of the desert king figs were enormous! The desert king figs are green on the outside, with a pink interior. I can see why figs are so hard to come by at the store- to pick them at their peak of ripeness, they’re almost mushy and should be eaten with a day or two AT MOST, but really they’re best within an hour or two I think. Or the next morning with muffins, that’s pretty great as well 🙂

This next fig is mine.  I’ve waited three years for this fig.  A good friend (who I barely even knew at the time) offered this specimen to us when she discovered we’d be traveling in the area.  It was in a pot, and need to room to grow.   We were just moving into a house with a real yard.  Perfect!  Oh that poor tree.  The first year it was put in a hole not much larger than the original pot in tough clay soil.  It lost all its leaves.  The second year, it leafed out…and lost all its leaves again.  This year it leafed out, and we dug it up intending to dig a bigger hole that same afternoon.  Then we remembered why the hole was so small in the first place (you kind of need heavy machinery to get through all the clay and baseball-sized rocks) and dumped the tree in the biggest pot I could find.  And look!  It likes it there!  It grew a fig!  We actually pulled the fig off a few days after these pictures were taken- the stem wasn’t nearly as soft as on my mom’s ‘desert king’ tree but the fruit was rather soft, and showed signs of splitting.

Oh my good gracious, was the fruit ever good! It was amber-colored, and so sweet. Looking at Raintree again, I’d guess Lattarula. Here’s hoping to a bigger harvest (and bigger hole in the ground!!) next year!

Once figs are established in good ground, they are virtually maintenance free.  You can prune them, when young, into a “vase shape” for ease of harvesting.  They are drought resistant though, and from what I understand can have quite the greedy root system so I wouldn’t plant anything nearby that relies on lots of water, because chances are the fig will take everything it can get.


4 Responses

  1. Oooohh…….like!!!

    And now i’m wondering if there’s room in my yard for a Meyer Lemon in a pot AND a fig tree. Maybe I’ll just keep the lemon tree potted, on the deck, and plant a fig tree in my open space? Hrm?

  2. Drat! It needs full sun. I’ve got too much shade on my property. I’ve been wanting to plant more fruit trees. I’ve got one apple tree and another which died during this summer’s drought. At least this year’s garden was successful…I used everything that grew, and it did well. Too bad the apple tree doesn’t put out more fruit. I need to research it.

  3. I live in Seattle to, and I did not know that you could grow figs here. I don’t know if I’ve ever had anything but a dried fig before. They look a bit like pears!

  4. I planted a desert king much too close to other things and I’ve known it for awhile. I’m just not sure what to do about it. I think I’d rather have the figs than the other things anyway.

    And I do have a smaller fig (violetta du bordaux) in a pot and a meyer lemon in a pot. That is a good solution for someone with little sun. Bring the pots inside during the winter. The fig will go dormant so you won’t need to water it but once a month and you can put it in the garage. The meyer lemon, however…well once you figure out how to keep that happy let me know because I’m on my second one and I think I’m done with it.

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