As an ancient food source and one of the first fruit trees cultivated, Ficus carica is thought to have originated from the Mediterranean basin and Western Asia. The deciduous fig tree is known for its delicious fruit and many cultivars can be found around the world.
The ‘Southern Black’ is a variety that grows well in our South African climate. Growing to a height of 3 to 9 m, this tree is dormant during the winter months and start fruiting fairly early, from December to January and March, depending on the area.
The fruit has a distinctive dark purple outer skin with a dark cherry coloured interior. The skin is smooth and soft, but can be sensitive to handling. Figs typically ripen on the tree and immature fruit will not ripen further once picked. The flesh of the fruit is sweet and juicy with a prominent ‘fig’ flavour. Ripe figs are very perishable and should be eaten fresh within two to three days of harvesting. In addition, the fruit is often dried and will keep for six to eight months in this preserved state.
Fig trees are drought tolerant and can handle mild frost, once established. The roots of the tree can be very invasive and care should be taken by not planting the tree close to buildings or pavements. The Ficus carica also flourishes in big containers where the root system is contained, but growth will be slower and the plant will need more frequent watering and feeding to provide a crop.
Ficus carica is a versatile tree that will provide fruit, attract bird species and act as an ornamental shade tree for your garden.