Fig Variety Details


Brown Turkey (DFIC 17)

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DFIC 017

Ashride Forcing, Aubicon, Aubique Noire, Black Douro, Black San Pedro, Black Spanish, Blue, Blue Burgandy, Brown Italian, Brown Naples, Brunswick, California Brown Turkey?, California Large Black, Common Blue, Early Howick, Eastern Brown Turkey, English Brown, Everbearing, Fluer de Red, Fleur de Rouge, Fleur Rauge, Harrison, Italian Large Blue, La Perpetuelle, Large Black, Lee's Perpetual, Negro Largo, Nisse, Ramsey, San Pedro, San Pedro Black? San Piero? Texas Everbearing, Violetta

Variety Strains

Small to medium light brown to violet fruit with strawberry pulp. Turbinate to oblique, mostly without neck. Small eye which has a reddish color from very early stage (unlike Celeste). Cold hardy. It fruits on new growth if winter killed. Often bears two crops a year. Very sweet, but not rich.  Midseason semi"dwarf adaptable tree produces large Brownish purple fruit with amber flesh. We"ve been growing this select gourmet variety of Brown Turkey for many years. Its one of our favorites!

California Rare Fruit Growers, Vol. 23, No.6, December 1991: Medium-to-large, elongated fruit with brownish maroon skin. Large open eye. Fine-grained, sweet, juicy, firm, meaty flesh. Excellent for jams, canning, drying, or eating fresh. Vigorous, small tree. Prune severely. A European variety, probably introduced into U.S. from England. It is not recommended for planting as a dried fig variety. Brown Turkey trees produce a few large breba figs that are utilized fresh. The second crop has medium to large fruits that are also shipped to the fresh market. The eye is fairly open and the fruit is subject to insect infestations and souring.

Accession was donated. Jan-1982. California United States. Donors: University of California. Comment: Donated to NCGR, Davis.

Condit Monograph

Brown Turkey: (syns., according to Hogg: Ashridge Forcing, Blue, Common Blue, Blue Burgundy, Brown Italian, Brown Naples, Long Naples, Early Howick, Italian Large Blue, Lee’s Perpetual, Murrey, Small Blue, Fleur Rouge, Walton). Described by numerous authors, beginning with Miller (1768). Others are as follows: Hanbury (1770), Brookshaw (1812), George Lindley (1831), Rogers (1834), M’Intosh (1855), Dochnahl (1860), Thompson (1859), Hogg (1866), White (1868), G. S. (1869), Barron (1868c, 1891), Hyde (1877), Coleman (1880, 1887b), Eisen (1885, 1888, 1901, probably confused), Wythes (1890a, 1900a), W. I. (1893), Wright (1895), Burnette (1894), Price and White (1902), Starnes (1903), Starnes and Monroe (1907), Ward (1904), McHatton (1909), Reimer (1910), Royal Hort. Society (1916), Potts (1917), Gould (1919), flume (1915), Cook (1925), Mowry and Weber (1925), E. A. Bunyard (1925, 1934), Arnold (1926), Fruit- Grower (1936), Ashley (1940), Woodard (1940), Beckett (1941), Anon. (1944), Condit (1947), and Preston (1951). Illustrated in color by Brookshaw, Hyde, and Coleman. Illustrated in black and white by Wythes (1900a), Price and White, Anon. (The Garden 63: 427, 1903), Bunyard (1934), and Beckett.

According to a writer in the Gardener’s Chronicle, March 25, 1843, French growers have called this fig La Perpétuelle, a name corrupted in England to Lee’s Perpetual. Sources of other such names have not been found. It should be emphasized also that the name “Brown Turkey” has been commonly used for two distinct varieties; one, the English Brown Turkey, and the other, California Brown Turkey. The latter is properly referred to as “San Piero.”

John Rogers (1834) stated: “Miller in the fourth edition of his Dictionary just mentions the ‘long purple fig,’ though Whitmill (an eminent gardener of his day, and to whom Miller owed much for his early knowledge of gardening), in his list or book, published in 1726, calls it ‘Whitmill’s Early Purple’; but which was neither more nor less than the ‘long purple’ of Miller. This little bit of vanity in Whitmill—to gain a sale for his trees, or a little celebrity to his name—has been too much practiced by many who were by nature his juniors, and professionally by far his inferiors.”

The Brown Turkey that was described by Miller to be “so well known as to need no description” is undoubtedly a European variety, introduced into England and given a local name without reference to origin. The synonyms, Brown Naples, Long Naples, and Italian, indicate that it came from Italy, but it has not yet been identified with any variety from that country. For more than two centuries, however, this fig has stood at the head of the list of English varieties for general cultivation, both outdoors and under glass. Coleman reported in 1880: “For forcing we have nothing to surpass, if we have anything to equal it, as it is early, handsome, very prolific, not liable to drop, and of first-rate quality.” An anonymous writer in 1852 (see “Literature Cited”) described a tree at Worthing, trained in the form of a wheel, its branches forming twelve spokes, with the over-all height fourteen feet, and the circumference thirty feet. In 1883, J. Clarke told of a single tree of Brown Turkey covering a wall space of twenty yards “literally crowded with magnificent and well-formed fruit.” W. I. (1893) referred to fine trees growing on the chalk cliffs of England, where the sea spray dashed over them. More recently, E. A. Bunyard wrote: “This is the variety most commonly grown; more are planted, I imagine, than of all the other varieties put together, owing to its hardiness and productivity.”

According to Eisen, the Brown Turkey was brought to California from Boston by W. B. West in 1853, and from England by John Rock in 1883. It has doubtless been introduced many other times by various nurseries. Early reports of the California Agricultural Experiment Station include Brown Turkey among the varieties being tested at the substations. Apparently, it failed to compete successfully with other varieties, and until recently no trees were to be found, even in collections. Introductions have been made from England under P.I. Nos. 81,676, 93,275, and 95,598. At Riverside, however, trees from these importations, as well as those obtained from the southern United States, are so badly affected by the mosaic caused by Ficivir caricae Condit and Horne, that normal fruit has seldom been produced. (See plate 13, showing effect of mosaic on leaves.) On the other hand, trees growing in the southern and eastern states are not at all or very little affected by mosaic. They are of a dwarf habit of growth, and hardy, commonly bearing two crops. The Brown Turkey ranks with Celeste (Malta) as the most popular dooryard fig from Texas east to Florida and north to Maryland. The Everbearing fig of Texas, described by Close (1935), is very similar to, if not identical with, Brown Turkey, although treated as a distinct variety by various nurseries. Harrison, briefly described by Close (1933), and Delta, or New Delta, described by two anonymous writers in 1943 and 1944 (see “Literature Cited”), are also very similar to Brown Turkey.

Descriptions of fruit by Eisen and some other authors are not clear, as they are probably confused with similar varieties. Confusion also exists in some descriptions, as indicated by the two synonyms, Large Blue and Small Blue, with reference to size of fruit. The following description is from specimens grown at Riverside and Fresno, and as compiled from various English accounts.

Leaves small, mostly 3-lobed; upper surface dull; upper sinuses shallow and narrow; base subcordate; margins crenate.

Brebas few, medium, oblique-pyriform, with thick neck that is often curved; stalk up to 1/2 inch long, sometimes swollen toward the body of the fruit; ribs prominent, producing a somewhat corrugated surface; eye medium, open, scales violet-brown; color mahogany brown, tinged with violet; meat white, with violet tinge; pulp strawberry; flavor fairly rich; quality fair. (Plate 21, D.)

Second-crop figs medium or below, turbinate or oblate, mostly without neck; average weight 28 grams; stalk up to 5/8 inch long, often thick and swollen at the apex; ribs present, fairly prominent, more deeply colored than body; eye medium, open, with violet-brown scales; white flecks large, conspicuous, scattered; color auburn to burnt umber; pulp amber to light strawberry, practically seedless; flavor sweet, but not rich; quality fair. (Plate 15,E.)

Caprified figs violet-brown, bloom prominent; average weight 36 grams pulp strawberry; quality only fair. Second crop matures over a long season.

Rogers (1834) stated that if Lee’s Perpetual—bearing fig is “cultivated as it should be—that is, in pots, under glass—it yields fruit nearly all the year round.”

English Brown Turkey
Sub Family (New)
Pierre Baud
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