Fig Variety Details

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White Marseilles
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DFIC 305

Blanche, Blanchette, Blanquette, Fig de Marseille, Fig of Athens, Fig of Naples, Figue Blanche, Italian Honey, Lattarula, Lemon, Lipari, Marseillaise, Oregon Prolific, Petite Grise, Testicles of the Pope, White Marseilles, White Naples


Large almost round fruit, slightly ribbed. Pale green to yellow/white when mature. Translucent flesh which is sweet, should be better known.

One crop, Mid-September. Small green fig, yellow, pink, very sweet flesh, very good taste and fragrant, at the same time firm and melting, recommended for drying. Productive and rustic fig tree (France).

This French fig tree grows very rapidly for us. The fig is smaller with a yellowish green skin and a pink or red interior. It is very sweet and firm. The leaves on our trees are a very beautiful dark green with contrasting lighter colored midrib and veins. Our trees are loaded with figs starting in July however this variety can be affected by changes in summer heat and drop figs until the weather cools.

This variety is common in Provence and has been grown in France for centuries. It is also traditionally part of the 13 Provencal dishes of Christmas.

In Provence, the Christmas Eve dinner is called "le gros souper".  It's a meal of abstinence before midnight Mass.  It consists of a succession of fish and vegetable dishes.

The dinner ends with the 13 desserts. In Nice there is always dried fruits and nuts, one or two kinds of nougat and a flat yeast cake made with olive oil, called "pompe a l'huile". Fruits like figs, grapes and melons are put in the cellar at harvest time so they became semi-dried and very sweet by Christmas.

The number 13 represents the 12 Apostles and Christ. This is a Provencal tradition that occurs nowhere else in France.



As Blanche: 

(syns. Blanche d’Argenteuil, Blanche Ronde, Grosse Blanche Ronde, Blanche Hâtive, Blanquo, Argentine, Blanche Fleur, Royale, Versailles, Blanquette and Madeleine of some authors, Marseilles, White Marseilles, Marseillaise White, White Naples, Pocock, Ford’s Seedling, Raby Castle, White Standard, White Smyrna, Quarteria, Vigasotte Bianco). In 1700, Tournefort described a fig variety as La Grosse Blanche Ronde. Garidel (1715) quoted this account, but expressed doubt that it was the same as the one called Blanquo Communo, grown in some parts of France. Duhamel (1755) also quoted Tournefort, and designated the variety as Figue Blanche. In his “Nouveau” work of 1809, Duhamel again quoted Tournefort, as well as Garidel, and stated that the fig known at Paris as Figue d’Argenteuil was only a subvariety of Figue Blanche of Provence, the differences between the two being minor, and due to climatic influences. The fig described and illustrated in color by Carbon (1865a) as Figue Blanche à Peau Verte may be the same variety.

Other accounts of this fig as Blanche, Blanche d’Argenteuil, Blanche Ronde, or Grosse Blanche Ronde are by Merlet (1667), Liger (1702), Weston (1770), Knoop (1771), La Brousse (1774), Rozier (1781—1805); Mirbel (1802—1806), Lamarck (1783—1817), Bory de Saint Vincent (1824), Noisette (1821, 1829), Couverchel (1839), Poiteau (1838—1846), Dochnahl (1855), Duchartre (1857), Forney (1863), Lhérault (1872), Simon-Louis (1895), Schneider (1902), Juignet (1909), Nomblot (1913), Mazières (1920), Leclerc (1925), Société Nationale d'Horticulture de France (1928), A. Rivière (1928), G. Rivière (1930), Delplace (1933), Delbard (1947), and Simonet et al. (1945). Figue Royale was described by Bernard (1787), Duhamel (1809), Bory de Saint Vincent (1824), and Noisette (1829), with Versailles as a synonym. On the other hand, it was described as Versailles, with or without the synonym Royale, by Couverchel (1839), Duchartre (1857), Du Breuil (1876), Hogg (1866), Soc. Pomol. de France (1887, 1947), Barron (1891), Eisen (1901), Bois (1928), Blin (1942), and Evreinoff (1947). Eisen regarded Blanche and Versailles as distinct, but later authors, such as Nomblot, Soc. Nat. d’Hort. de France (1928), and Simonet et al., treat them as the same variety. See Rolland (1914) for synonymy.

Descriptions of this variety as White Marseilles are given by Brookshaw (1812), Baxter (1820), Sawyer (1824), Lindley (1831), Rogers (1834), Holley (1854), M’Intosh (1855), Thompson (1859), Hogg (1866), G. S. (1867, 1869), Barron (1868c, 1891), Rivers (1873), Coleman (1887b), Lelong (1890), Wythes (1890a), Massey (1893), Burnette (1894), Wright (1895), Forrer (1894), Eisen (1885, 1897, 1901), Thomas (1902), Ward (1904), Starnes (1903, 1907), Royal Hort. Society (1916), B. A. Bunyard (1925, 1934), Cook (1925), Arnold (1926), Fruit-Grower (1936), Condit (1947), and Preston (1951). Illustrations in color are by Duhamel (1809), Brookshaw (1812), Noisette (1821), and Wright (1895). Illustrations in black and white are by Poiteau, Eisen (1901, fig. 75), Bois, Société’ Nationale d’Horticulture de France, Starnes, Bunyard (1934), Simonet, and Condit (1941a, fig. 2, E).

The name White Marseilles became attached to a fig that Brookshaw described and illustrated in color in 1812 of fruit gathered by himself from the original tree at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s palace at Lambeth. This tree was generally believed to have been planted by Cardinal Pole during the reign of Henry the Eighth. Another account, that of Baxter (1820), stated that a fig tree at Oxford was introduced by a Mr. Pocock, hence the name Pocock’s fig; fruit exhibited on August 17, 1819, proved to be that of the White Marseilles. John Wright (1895) referred to a large tree of White Marseilles with a trunk 6 feet 9 inches in circumference 2 feet above the ground. Sawyer, in 1824, reported that the fig he named Ford’s Seedling was sometimes called the Pocock, but was more properly designated White Marseilles. Various authors, including Lindley, Thompson, and Hogg, described White Marseilles, with Figue Blanche as a synonym. The description and illustration by Eisen in 1901 of Marseillaise White are regarded here as properly referring to Blanche. White Genoa, as pointed out by Eisen, is distinct from White Marseilles. According to Bunyard, Marseilles is a well established favorite in England, thriving both indoors and on walls outside. Cape White, described by Davis (1928), Burger and De Wet (1931), and Gayner (1949), as a “well-known fig” of South Africa, appears to be very similar to, if not identical with, Blanche. In southern India the Marseilles is said by Naik (1949) to “crop well on the hills over about 5,000 feet elevation.”

Blanche is extensively cultivated in Provence, mostly as a drying fig. Near Paris, where Blanche d’Argenteuil has been cultivated for many centuries, elaborate methods of culture as described by Lhérault, Juignet, and others, have been followed for the production of the first crop. A famous tree of this variety at Roscoff, France, planted by the Capuchins in 1621, has been described by Lambertye (1874), Blanchard (1878, 1879), and by Martinet and Lesourd (1924). In 1924, the branches covered an area of 600 square meters; they were supported by 80 pillars, many of granite. The annual crop was reported to be 400 dozen figs.

The variety designated “Lemon” in most of the southeastern United States is identical with Blanche. See descriptions of Lemon by Starnes and Monroe (1907) and by Gould (1923).

At Crisfield, Maryland, and at Cape Charles, Virginia, trees of Marseilles are neither vigorous nor productive. Near Portland, Oregon, this variety ranks first among the figs tested for home and orchard planting. A Portland nurseryman, B. R. Amend, in his catalogue for the season of 1942, describes this variety as Lattarula (Italian honey fig), a name suggested by some visitors from Italy. As described elsewhere, however, the Italian variety Lattarola has red, not white, pulp.

This variety has long been grown in California, mostly under the name White Marseilles. According to Shinn (1915), White Marseilles was growing at Santa Clara and Santa Barbara before the discovery of gold. As determined by Saunders (1889), White Smyrna proved to be the same variety. It was apparently this fig which Lelong (1890, 1892) reported as found growing at Downey, Los Angeles County, where there was a “very large fig orchard, devoted to the Marseillaise, a small, white, sweet fruit.” But Eisen (1901) mentioned that an orchard, probably the same one as above, had been dug up on account of the figs souring so badly. No other commercial plantings have been found, but dooryard trees are common, especially in southern California. It was grown and tested at the various California stations between 1893 and 1903, and an analysis of fruit grown at Fresno was recorded by Colby in 1894. According to Eisen, Versailles was once grown extensively by Felix Gillet, Nevada City; no records, however, have been found of its distribution or planting under that name.

Three varieties introduced into California in the Chiswick collection all proved to be identical with Marseilles; they are P.I. Nos. 18,864, Vigasotte Bianco; 18,866, Quarteria; and 18,904, Figue Blanche. Eisen appears to be the only author who has described the first two, and he has listed them as distinct varieties. Except for minor characters, his account of the fruit coincides closely with that of Blanche given here.

Trees of Blanche are slow-growing, fairly dense, with green terminal buds. Leaves medium, 3- to 5-lobed; surface glossy above; upper sinuses of medium depth, narrow, lower sinuses shallow; base subcordate, sometimes auricled; margins crenate; mature blades often affected by necrotic spots (plate 13). The following description of fruit is from specimens grown at Riverside since 1930.

Breba crop fair; figs medium or above, up to 2 inches in length and 1-7/8 inches in diameter, turbinate, with broad, rounded apex; neck thick and short, or absent; stalk slightly curved, 1/4 inch long; ribs few, inconspicuous eye medium, open, scales chaffy, erect at maturity; flecks very small and inconspicuous, green rather than white; bloom delicate; color light green; pulp and meat white; seeds large, conspicuous; quality fair to good.

Second-crop figs much the same as brebas, except for smaller size; average weight 30 grams; shape spherical to oblate, mostly without neck; stalk up to 1/2 inch long. Flavor fairly rich and sweet; quality fair as a fresh fruit, of light weight and poor quality when dried; susceptible to fruit spoilage. (Plates 8; 26, A.)

Caprification has little effect upon size and color, either of skin or pulp. Figs produced at Portland, Oregon, and in coastal districts of California, are usually larger in size and more oblate in shape than those just described. Near Paris the second crop of Blanche matures in warm seasons only.

White Marseilles
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Breba Crop

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