Monday, July 20, 2015

My Visit with Kiwibob


I love seeing how other people grow their figs. Especially those who have been growing for over 40 yrs.

Today was extremely hot well into the 90s, which is unusual for the "cool Summers" of Seattle. I took a field trip today to Kiwibobs house in Seattle. He has a jungle of figs and specialty kiwis on his small back yard. Bob's a special guy. He has a big white beard, retired and has a passion for figs and kiwis. There's about 30 something varieties all growing in various pots and stages. Bob's my kind of guy not an inch of grass in the backyard. Every little nook and cranny was filled with plants and fruit trees.

Upon arrival he immediately let us sample some of his raspberries. They were tasty but I had my focus on the many of varieties of figs in his garden. I wanted to pick his brain and learn more about his experience with what works well in Seattle, what's his most productive variety and how he maintains his plants.

Most of his larger trees were in 50 gallon planter, but he also had an abundant amount of rooted cuttings growing in the green house or as under story plants around the property.

He gave me the grand tour of his lovely backyard. Each tree he had came with their own story and how he attained them.  Maybe I'm a bit of a fig geek but I found it to be fascinating.

Bob's main goal in growing figs here in Washington are to maintain them for their breba crop.  We have a short summer and cool winter and most main crops do not ripen in time. I was surprised to learn that he has had very little success with main crops on most of his plants. Including the Chicago Hardy, Monstreuse, Beall, Adriatic,  Longue DAout, Petite Negri, Kadota, Peter's Honey and a few others.

His successful breba trees include the following which he ranks in taste.

Based on about six Breba crop taste-tests the Fig varieties rank as follows:
1. “Vashon Violet” (aka “Brunswick”) is clearly in first place with a “rich” flavor that one taster described as “figgy”.
2. “Dan’s Favorite” is second with a fairly rich flavor.
3. “Gene’s Vashon” third, also with a fairly rich flavor.
4. “Violetta” (a patented variety) and “Tilbury’s Turkey” were about a tie with a fairly rich and subtle fruity (cherry or berry) flavor.
5. “Desert King” and “Lattarula” sometimes switched places depending on the taster’s personal preferences, but generally in that order.
6. “Gillette” which must be fully ripe to be edible some times beat “Lattarula” depending on the taster’s personal preferences. Personally I like “Gillette” better than “Lattarula” which I find sweet but lacking in character.
7. “Negronne” came in consistently mildly sweet but flat flavored.
8. “Petit Negri” was last, lacking sweetness, flat flavored, and somewhat mealy.

Bob believes that a plant is not worth growing if you have to shuffle it in and out. I'll probably agree more with that philosophy when I get on with age, but for now I want every variety I can get my hands on, even if it means I have to shuffle them.

We got a chance to sample some ripe of the Gillette figs and they were very tasty. This variety has been on my wish list for a long time.  Check out the honey dripping from this fig. The interesting thing about these Gillete's are that they need to be nearly dried on the tree before it's full flavor and sweetness are at their peak. The flavor was like a sweet thick honey with a hint of melon. I would have loved to have purchased a cutting from him but at the moment kiwibob was not selling any plants due to AYLS.

 Visit his site and learn more about his fruits and figs trials here in PNW.

(Unfortunately my phone rain out of battery and I did not get chance to take some photos but Bob was nice enough to offered up his little camera and sent me the few photos we snapped from our trip)

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