Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Peter's Honey Fig: Great Hope or Great Hype?

I'm very specific about my figs. I tend to like dark figs better than green figs. I like sweet figs, but not sickeningly sweet figs. They also must have a "figgy" flavor. I want my figs to taste like figs, not like other things such as honey or jam.

After downing hundreds of black, purple, and brown figs over the years, I decided it was time to explore green and yellow figs. Peter's Honey was one of the first varieties that caught my attention online. Website descriptions included the words "productive", "long growing season", "amber", and "sweet". People growing the fig in different regions raved about its growth habit and flavor. I had to try it for myself to see if it matched the hype.

I purchased a 1-gallon potted plant three years ago and planted in the ground. It grew and grew and grew, and this year it was LOADED with well over 100 figs. I can state with 100% confidence that this variety lives up to its billing as a "productive" fig. Prolific is probably a more accurate term.

Peter's Honey fig tree branch loaded with fruit. Every new branch on the tree was covered with 15+ figs. 
I can also attest that this variety is not well suited for growers in cooler regions of the country. It took loads of heat and sun to ripen these figs. Again, Peter's Honey matched its online persona of a plant that needs a "long growing season". Southeastern Virginia is warm enough for a sufficient period of time to ripen almost any fig. So far Peter's Honey was 2-for-2 in my un-scientific trial.

What about the "amber" color? Look at the beautiful interior of this fig. It's definitely a rich amber color. Check!

Sweet amber interior of a Peter's Honey fig.
Now for the most important attribute in my book...flavor. How did it taste? Sweet as honey! Peter's Honey fig definitely lived up to its reputation and all the hype.

So we can all agree that this variety of fig is a smashing success for everybody's garden, right?! Not so fast. Yes, it's productive and colorful and sweet. But that's part of the problem. I now have a tree loaded with dozens of figs that taste like, well, sweet. That's it. No classic rich fig flavor at all. Just a ball of sugar. Definitely not my hope.

Some of you may be licking your chops at the thought of an abundance of sweet figs and are ready to order a Peter's Honey tree for your yard. If so, go for it! I'm the last guy to discourage somebody from growing a fig tree. On the other hand, I do have a few words of caution about Peter's Honey compared to the other fig varieties (Violette de Bordeaux, Negronne, Celeste, etc.) I grow in my yard:

1.  It has a sugary sweet taste but no fig flavor.
2.  It is the last fig to ripen.
3.  For the past 2 summers, each fruit has had unpleasingly thick skins.
4.  When near-ripe, the figs suffer badly in high humidity and rain, and they get moldy fairly easily.
5.  It was the variety most prone to attack by ants (but not by birds) this summer.

Remember that these gripes are based solely upon my experiences in my yard in southeastern Virginia. The flavor and growth habits of figs can change drastically from region to region.  Fig preferences also vary greatly from grower to grower. Many fig junkies seem quite pleased with their Peter's Honey figs, but not me. As with most things in the garden and life, I guess it all comes down to personal preference.


Thad said...

Your fig trees really do make me want to get a couple for our new yard ... unfortunately, they are going to have to wait a little longer. And, with your description, I am not going to try the Peter's Honey, but will stick with my original idea of a Violet de Bordeaux.


Erin said...

What is your favorite figgy tasting fig? I want to make fig preserves as well as cook with them. They're amazing on pizza. Is that sacrilege??

.09 Acres said...

Thad, when you do finally plant one you won't be disappointed. Erin, Celeste is a great variety. Violette de Bordeaux, Alma, and Hardy Chicago would be solid options as well.