Golden, nutty Calimyrna figs must be pollinated by a tiny wasp in order to set fruit and develop the slightly crunchy seeds which give them their unique and delicious flavor.
The fig wasp inhabits the carpifig trees which, like the Calimyrna, are also common to the warm interior valleys of California. (The caprifig was imported into California from Asia in the late 1800s to provide pollinators for the Calimyrna trees.) The female fig wasp enters the fig fruit through the tiny hole in the fig's apex.
A fig fruit is actually a collection of florets.
The wasp makes her way through the bract-lined opening in the fig with great difficulty. She then proceeds to pollinate the florets, laying eggs as she goes.* The fig wasp larvae develop inside the fig fruit and emerge when they mature. On their way out, the females become covered in pollen and fly off in search of another fruit to pollinate.
After the fig wasps leave, the fig ripens. The changes in color and smell attract other forms of wildlife to the figs. In order to prevent over-pollination which can cause the fruit to split, Calimyrna fig growers control the distance between their orchards and neighboring caprifigs.
They staple paper bags containing caprifigs and fig wasps to the branches of the Calimyrna fig trees. This makes their orchards look a little funny but insures them of having the right number of wasps to get a good crop.
All of this is necessary because Calimyrna fig fruits contain only female flowers unlike self-fruitful fig varieties which contain male flowers as well.
There are several self-fruitful fig varieties which grow well in southern California. These include
, and the popular
The fact that professional growers go to the extra expense and trouble involved in pollinating Calimyrna figs demonstrates how special these tasty treats are.
This is further emphasized by the fact that they do all of this in spite of the highly perishable nature of the fruit. It spoils so rapidly that fresh fruit rarely makes it to market outside of the Calimyrna's immediate growing area. The vast majority of the crop is dried or processed into candy or baked goods.
If you get a chance to sample a fresh Calimyrna, I heartily recommend that you do so. The golden skin is tender and only adds to the deliciousness.
Calimyrna trees are actually Smyrna figs imported from Turkey. Growers changed the name to a combination of "California" and "Smyrna".
Trees are hardy to USDA zone 8 and could be grown outside of Southern California but they would not produce fruit.
This is because the fig wasp has only naturalized in parts of California. That makes the Calimyrna one of the best fig varieties to grow in areas of California where caprifigs grow.
The tree is handsome and disease resistant. It will often fruit more abundantly when planted singly in a lawn than when in an orchard. Apparently it appreciates the extra space. A Calimyrna fig growing in this fashion will require little care.
These fig trees come into bearing 4 years after they are planted.
*Fig wasps only lay eggs in male fruit. Since all the fruit of the Calimyrna is female, they only pollinate it, they do not lay eggs inside it.
Delicious Fruits You Can Grow at Home