'Brown Turkey'....Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear?

bronxfigsMarch 25, 2012

For years I have read all the postings about the insipid flavor of the ubiquitous, "Brown Turkey" figs, so I just need to ask this question:

Are there any cultural recommendations that will improve the taste of this bland-flavored variety, or, is it just a proven dud, and not worthy of the time and effort? Does anyone on this forum grow this fig variety well? What's the secret?

The north-east garden centers are always loaded with this fig tree, Celeste, Kadota, and virused-Mission.


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a friend of mine has a large California B.T.in my opinion a large very good tasting fig,got a rooted cutting from him last year and this fig is a keeper one of the best for my area.Ciao,

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:21AM
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Just ask Jon's opinion about them BT figs ... most likely
any silk purse will be over filled (with bad stuff)!

As for me; I am still not sure what a true BT is...

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 1:36PM
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Glad you reminded me about this "identity-crisis" with the "Brown Turkey"....there seems to be no consensus as to which plant is the real McCoy.

Back in 2007, when I first started shopping for a fig variety to grow, I quickly realized that the fig-world was really screwed-up because anyone can name any fig whatever they want. There is no recognized registry, there are no hybridizing programs that select and release identifiable new varieties, no variety standards...nothing....zip, zero, nada. It's a real mess.

So you give me a rooted cutting of your brownish fig and I decide to name it: "Gorgi's Brown Turkey", but in reality it's some no-name, brown fig your neighbor gave you. So, what is it?

This naming nonsense is really annoying, and the same fig can have 3-4 names. Forget about the same figs in other countries with all their names. I see nothing but confusion, and no real way to straighten out this revolting development.

So...if I wanted to buy a real, authentic, "Brown Turkey" where would I find this variety? Miller's, Willis, J. Robin's?

Thanks for the information.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 3:58PM
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>>> and the same fig can have 3-4 names.
Want some more fig confusion;
how about 3-4 different figs having the same name...

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 4:49PM
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There is no happy ending with this fig, name-game. We are all the victims...so maybe I will order from Ty-Ty and just ask them for a "brown fig", and be happy if it IS brown. :)


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 5:37PM
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stepandfetch(NC 7B)

I've never met anyone that found the Southern Brown Turkey insipid... they are quite the opposite, and often carry more flavor than other well known figs.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 8:06PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Are the Southern BTs small, or large? I got a BT from JF&E and it had small figs on it. They had thins skins and, other than being more round, looked like Celestes. The same for the TX E I got from another source. They were exactly the same as each other, but neither were as tasty as the Celeste. I got rid of them both.

My head goes round in circles when I listen to people about the BT. People here have been so great trying to help me zero in on BTs like the ones my grandparents had, but none of the pictures look like those back when. Those trees were planted in the 40s, so it's unlikely I'll find the same kind of trees.


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:45PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Make that--My mind goes round in circles. LOL! I am NOT possessed, except by figs.....


    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:47PM
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I was trying to call attention to this EXACT problem! Where are, and who has, a real "Brown Turkey"?

Giuseppe loves his figs, ...Jon hates his...Noss, is disappointed, and thinks his trees might be some other variety, and is still searching for tress that are as good as the fig trees his grandparents once grew....and, on, and on, and on.

This thread is about BT, but you can substitute an awful lot of other fig varieties in its place...e.g. "Celeste"...who has the real "Celeste"? Herman, Jon, you, me..? Who knows? Define the characteristics of the real "B-T" variety. You cannot. Leaves change shape from tree to tree, often on the same branch. Fruit varies from season to season. Cuttings from the same trees grow, and look differently than your neighbor two houses away.

There is no such thing as standards when it comes to fig variety names. Imagine ordering "Red-Delicious" apples from Stark Bros. and from Miller's and getting two different kinds of apples? It doesn't happen, but with figs...it's a crap-shoot as to what you will get.

If you really think about it we are screwed! The best we could hope for is that our trees give us fruit that comes close to what we think we bought.

Just venting.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 6:58AM
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I have just ordered a southern brown turkey fig from Rolling River in CA. Does anyone know if this is a large fruited fig? And also I have read in at least 2 books that southern brown turkey is the same as texas everbearing.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 8:54AM
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harvey12(z7 NC)

I grew up in the South, where many old homes have a brown turkey in the back yard. Most are excellent figs. I have been interested in the variations, and have a collection of five separate cultivars, all from "heritage" figs growing for decades in this area. All are of moderate size, brown in color, and all look the same! The quality of a fig is always in the head of the person sampling the fig, but in my judgement, all of my collection are very good. The quality varies from year to year, and with level of ripeness. The latter is the most important, in my opinion. I am aware that there is a west coast fig that is called West Coast or California Brown Turkey. I have no experience with this fig, but the pictures I have seen are a larger size, and with a purple color appearing as streaks from stem to eye in the days before becoming full ripe. All of my Southern heritage BTs weigh about 20 to 40 grams, and have a uniform brown color as they ripen. My guess is that the west coast BT is a different fig! The only way to be sure about any fig is to KNOW the parent tree! Varietal labels are very useful, but as you can see from this forum, lots of trees from nurseries and web sites turn out to be something else!!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 9:06PM
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Brown Turkey is the most common fig in the southern states. I've had them in Louisiana, South Carolina and here in Florida. About medium size in my opinion, and usually taste good IF you let them ripen fully. Too many people pick them at the first hint of color (way too soon) or at the fist sign of softening (barely too soon). Raised on BT's, I let them go all mushy, and then they are delicious. And the ones which I miss and fall to the grass below... they are the best of all IMHO.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 12:38PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

I had the pleasure of tasting a CA Brown Turkey a while back and it was very good. Nice and ripe and it had a great figgy flavor, was nice and sweet and sticky. I really liked it a lot and wished for more, but there were none. No accounting for taste, eh? :D


    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 1:00AM
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Just a casual observation on the discussions on the Brown Turkey,it would appear that the majority of those that are not pleased with the fig are those located somewhere other than the Southeast. I also think that the "Legacy/Heirloom" trees in the Southeast are known for producing a good fig. Of course, some of us think all figs are good and we may not have the sophisticated palate as some do. There will always be the elitist that looks at the label as opposed to the merits of the fig.

BTW, one of the best trees for figs that I know, for great sweetness and flavor, is a BT. It is 5 generations old. Is it a "real Brown Turkey?, who knows, or cares, it tastes good, produces loads of large figs, survives the winter, what is the criteria?

Danny K

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 7:09AM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)


What is the color of that fig and what is the eye like?

See you soon,


    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 10:55PM
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I have 4 brown turkey trees, abundant production and best tasting figs in the world. although small but sweet and delicious This season from 4 trees we got over 400 figs and all ripened in August. Beats the other varieties I have celesta, lsu and Chicago hardy very little production and the taste so so. I air layered 6 branches of the 4 brown turkey and nest season I will have 10 producing brown turkey. Yes the air layered branches are about 3 feet each they are almost trees. VIVA BROWN TURKEY

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 5:00AM
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I had a brown turkey and didn't like it, gave it away. The other figs in my yard, 6 varieties, I love them all. I bought the tree from a local nursery. At the same nursery, they told me their American Persimmon seedlings were self pollinating (they are not) and that there are no variety names for persimmons or paw paws because they are also seedling grown (not true). They also sold Kiwi, claiming them to be productive, but no male varieties were being sold. So who knows the origin of that Brown Turkey.

Most of my other fig trees were grown from cuttings someone sent to me, from their trees that bore figs they liked. I think that's a great way to know that at least someone, somewhere, really liked the fig that you are growing.

Even so, the same fig grown in another climate, another soil, another sun exposure, might taste and bear very different.

Just my 2 cents on this issue. I would still grow Brown Turkey if it was the only one around. I would also try it again, if the source was reliable and they really liked their fruit, especially if local, so grown in conditions similar to mine.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 10:02PM
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I agree with what several folks here mention... that it seems like certain figs vary a WHOLE lot with climate....

I would say that in South Carolina - your typical Bland Brown Turkey issue is from Breba crops and culture - not enough sun, too much fertilizer, Not ripe enough or all 3......

It sounds like farther north and out west - they can really be duds...

but along those same lines - I see posts from folks who LOVE the LSU purple... and to me - it's a worthless, grassy tasting, not sweet fig.... The only reason it's still in my yard now is that it produces figs in the "Donut hole" of the mid-summer season when everything else is bare....

The interesting thing around here is that when you ask people - they tell you "A brown turkey is a selection from Celeste".... and most of the Brown Turkeys around here are pretty darned similar to a Celeste..... but then you read - and people other places say it's NOT a selection from Celeste...

And.. There you go...

Probably - a brown fig around here is a "Brown Turkey".... whether it is or not...


    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 5:31PM
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Just about a year ago, I asked the original question(s) about the common "Brown Turkey" figs, and how it should be grown to produce maximum flavor.

A few posters mentioned that the fig is usually picked to soon, over watered, over fertilized, and just not grown well, thus...insipid flavors that disappoint the taster.

I still think that if you are growing some selected strains, or, local heirloom "BT", that you probably have a wonderful fig, that worth the time and effort. Too many just dismiss this poor variety.

Anyway, since I started this subject, a very generous Forum Member, from down South, contacted me and sent me a nice rooted cutting from his grandfather's Brown Turkey tree...a tree that has been in, and grown by his family for years. I am so thankful that I have a piece of this special, heirloom fig. He told me that this special, Brown Turkey makes a very sweet, large, fig. I can't wait until my little tree starts to produce.

Interesting answers....and if grown correctly, I gather, this variety IS worth growing.


    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 8:36PM
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Ralph Whisnant(z7b-8 NC)

In my neighborhood here in Raleigh, NC there is an old, very large fig tree that people claim is a Brown Turkey. The fruit is medium large and has the coloration and a large open eye usually associated with this variety. The problem is that with our typical high humidity in August, many of the fruit will start to sour and rot before they are fully ripe, and the bees and wasps have a field day with them. Last summer we had several days of rainy weather just as the fruit was peaking and most of the crop rotted before it ripened.
If you want an idea of the number of different claimed Brown Turkey variations. take a look a the listings on the Fig4fun.com website.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:18PM
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I think the answer is....

It *Might* be worth growing if you like the flavor of Brown Turkey... My inlaws have several MATURE trees... My Wife, kids, and all the inlaws practically gorge on the things...

Personally, I really don't.... I don't "Hate" them.. but I like MANY other figs so much better that it's not worth me planting one... Frequently, the flavor is too "Grassy" or "Vegetal" for me and can be a bit too watery.....

If you like a Brown Turkey - it's probably worth looking into an LSU purple - as it has a closed eye... so it doesn't pick up quite as many bugs...


    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:09AM
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I have a large fig tree in my yard. I have no idea how old it is but the house was built in 37. I don't do anything to the tree other than cut a few limbs everyonce in awhile and it stays loaded with figs that are really sweet. I think a lot of people try too hard with them and over water and fertilize them.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 5:05PM
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My Brown Turkey produces outstanding figs. Maybe it is the aforementioned Southeat location.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 12:57PM
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A common theme throughout many of the postings is: ...old trees, growing IN GROUND for decades....taste watery, grassy, not that sweet....etc.

I will bet that if some of the better "Brown Turkey" fig trees were grown in large containers, and/or were watered carefully as the figs started to ripen, then the poor, "Brown Turkey" would probably rate a little higher on the likability scale. Too much water at the roots, whether grown in ground, or, container grown, will kill the concentrated flavors and dilute sugars in the figs. No figs can stand up to soaking rains, or just too much garden hose. Cut way back on the water as figs ripen, and flavor will vastly improve. For in ground trees....spread a cheap, plastic tarp over the roots. Control the water as best as you can. It's temporary, your figs will have better flavor, and you may save them from splitting and souring.

Good luck.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 2:59PM
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