Fig enthusiasts gather for annual field day

Johnny Morgan, Johnson, Charles E.  |  7/18/2015 12:55:19 AM

LSU AgCenter horticulturist Charlie Johnson, left, discuss fig varieties with Independence, Louisiana grower Carl Head during the fig field day at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on July 11. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

News Release Distributed 07/17/15

BATON ROUGE, La. – Oppressive heat was not a deterrent for hobby fig growers and others interested in learning at the annual fig field day held at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on July 11.

The crop is such a popular fruit that growers from as far as Picayune, Mississippi, came to hear about the latest research and to discuss new varieties.

From Houston and Corpus Christi all the way to Florida along the Gulf Coast, figs can be found, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Charlie Johnson.

“Figs are such a valuable crop here in Louisiana, you can find them in most everybody’s backyard,” Johnson said.

In recent years the demand for figs has been shifting slightly from processed fruit to fresh market fruit.

Johnson believes one reason for this shift is people are beginning to realize how nutritious figs are.

“This is a fruit with lots of potassium, calcium and a lot of soluble fiber,” he said. “I think with some development of different varieties and colors, we can develop a market for them.”

The majority of the figs seen in stores have been shipped from California or Chile, but Johnson believes Louisiana can produce enough fruit for the local market.

“Growers have no problem selling them at farmers markets,” Johnson said. “Many people are only familiar with processed figs, but not so much with the fresh fruit.”

Most of the figs grown in Louisiana are for home use, while California produces about 90 percent of the figs for processing and shipping because of their dry, arid climate, Johnson said.

Now is the time for fresh figs, as the majority begin to ripen by the Fourth of July.

“The field day is a very informal event where people who enjoy growing figs get together,” Johnson said. “It’s a hobby to most of those who attend.”

Bobby Lehmann said he drove from Picayune to meet up with friends, learn about figs, eat some figs and trade some figs.

“I ate a fig one day, and it was good. So I started looking for a plant and found out that there are so many different types and they are extremely easy to grow,” Lehmann said. “There’s not much of an insect or disease problem.”

Carl Head, of Independence, Louisiana, said growing figs is a hobby for him, and he has more than 40 trees.

“Not only are they easy to grow, but they also are easy to propagate,” Head said. “You can take a cutting, plant it, and with just a little help it will grow.”

Planting different varieties allows growers to have figs from four to six months of the year, Head said.

Figs have the potential to produce an early crop, called the breba, on last year’s wood in the spring, followed by a main crop on the current-season wood during the summer, and a third crop in the fall.

“Figs are commonly grown in all areas of Louisiana, with Celeste being the most popular variety in the state,” Johnson said. Celeste is a very cold-hardy fig and is recommended for north and south Louisiana.

Johnny Morgan

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