The fig (Ficus
Moraceae) probably originated in Western Asia, and spread to the
Mediterranean. Today, the fig is a moderately important world crop,
with an estimated annual production of one million tons of fruit (Sadhu
1990). Approximately 40% of this crop is sold as dried fruit. About 30%
of the crop is produced by Turkey (300,000 t). Other major producers in
descending order are Egypt (160,000 t), Morocco (57,000 mt), Spain
(50,000 t), Greece (50,000 mt), California (43,000 t), Italy (40,000
t), Algeria (38,400 t), Syria (37,000 t), Tunisia (35,000 t), and
Libya, Iraq, and Portugal (Sadhu 1990; CIHEAM 1994). While production
by Italy and Spain has decreased over the last decade, that of Turkey,
Syria, and Brazil has increased (IBPGR 1986).
The fruit usually
is consumed fresh locally or in dried, canned, and preserved form.
Dried figs and those unfit for human consumption, can be used as animal
fodder. Several countries import dried figs or the paste. The main
exporters of dried figs and paste are Turkey and the United States. Of
California's production, 85% is marketed as dried figs, 12% as canned
figs and fig juice, and 3% as fresh fruit (Storey 1975). The
nutritional value of fresh figs is comparable to that of many other
fruits. They are high in calcium. Dried figs, with only 20% water are
nutritious relative to other fresh fruits (Table
typical fig-producing regions have mild winters and hot dry summers.
The fig tree is tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions,
has a low chilling requirement, will withstand some frost and is
tolerant of drought, although it grows most vigorously with abundant
water. A frost of -5° to -10°C may kill the plant down to
ground level. Figs can be grown on a wide range of soils, including
heavy clays, loams, and light sands, but ideally the soil should be
well-drained. The plant is moderately tolerant of high salinity (IBPGR
There are two main commercial types of figs, the "common
fig" that produces fruit without pollination, and the "Smyrna fig" that
requires pollination by a fig wasp (Blastophaga spp.), that lives in
the "caprifig" (male fig), to set fruit. The "common-type"
(self-pollinated) fig is more commonly grown. These cultivars bear one
or two crops per year. The most famous are: 'White Adriatic' (syn.
'Verdone'), 'Black Mission', 'Kadota' (syn. 'Dottato' in Italy), and
'Conadria' in California (Storey 1975; Ferguson et al. 1990); 'Cuello
de Dama Blanco' and 'Napolitana Negra' in Spain (Llacer et al. 1994);
'Kalamon' in Greece (Lionakis 1994); 'Sultani' in Egypt and Tunisia
(Mansour 1994; Mars 1994); 'Rhouddane' in Morocco (Loudyi 1994), etc.
The "Smyrna-types" include the popular Turkish cultivar known as
'Sarilop' in Turkey and 'Calimyrna' in the United States and other
cultivars of Algeria 'Taranimt' and 'Tameriout', that have high dried
fruit quality (Rebour 1955; Aksoy 1994).
The tree is propagated
by rooting 20 cm cuttings of one to three year old wood taken during
the dormant season. Trees are normally planted 4 m apart with 5-6 m
between rows. Fruiting begins after three years. Regular fertilization
will increase yields without reducing fruit quality. Figs carry two
crops in a year, the main crop normally being the second crop in late
summer and autumn. The first, or "breba" crop, is produced from flowers
initiated in the preceding late summer and maturing from May to June.
The second crop is produced from flowers on the current season's
growth. Pruning may be required to maintain a balance between new and
old wood, as well as to remove suckers and to keep the tree's canopy to
a reasonable size for easy harvesting.
Fresh figs are picked
when they begin to soften and the color change indicates maturity. When
picking, gloves should be worn to prevent damaging the fresh fruit and
to prevent the skin irritation caused by the white sap that contains
ficin exuding from the broken stem. Since fresh figs ripen irregularly,
picking should be done daily or weekly during the long harvest period
(4-6 weeks). In California most figs are grown for drying. They are
mechanically harvested by sweepers from the ground during Sept. and
Oct. (Obenauf et al. 1978). After harvest, the dried figs are washed
and can be stored for a few days at 0deg. to 1deg.C. Fruit is dried in
the sun or by using an electric dryer at a temperature of 60deg. to
70deg.C before processing as dried figs.
Figs are not usually
seriously affected by pests except in high rainfall areas. In these
areas and during the rainy season, fruit cracking usually occurs and
fungicide sprays may be necessary to control surface rot (Alternaria alternata
smut (Aspergillus niger
and mold of fig (Botrytis
spp.). Aphids, birds, fruit flies, and scale insects are occasionally a
problem. Figs are highly susceptible to nematodes and should not be
planted in infested soils.
The economic importance of fig
production is likely to continue into the future. In the world market,
there is an increasing demand for fresh figs and a stable demand for
dried figs. The most important trade aspects of this species are the
short commercial life of the fresh fruits, and for the dried fruits,
the market competition of Turkish production, where production costs
are lower than for other countries (Europe). Fig production in some
European countries is slowly decreasing. Turkey and Mexico are
expanding their fig production. At present, evaluation of fresh
cultivars in Europe and 'Calimyrna' improvement in the United States,
combined with improved cultural practices and better fresh fruit
postharvest practices are opening new prospects for this crop.
2. Nutritional composition of Mediterranean crops (per 100 g of edible
portion). Source: Goulart (1980); Sawaya et al. (1983); Fernandez Diez
(1983); IBPGR (1986); Morton (1987); Cantwell (1994).