Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hardy Chicago Fig Tree arrives!

We received a long-awaited parcel in the mail today...plants from Richters Herbs. It's planting day tomorrow!

Various plants we had ordered from Richters Herbs ( - near Goodwood, Ontario), included a wide selection of mints for my new mint tasting garden (apple mint, chocolate mint, ginger mint, and more), alpine strawberries (a ground cover that's going in our front yard and is said to bear the sweetest tiny berries, and be cold weather hardy), intensely fragrant creeping thyme for the front yard, and the most dearly awaited, our new Hardy Chicago Fig tree! We continue to expand our fruit & nut tree selection for this urban homestead, in the hopes that one day we, or future owners, will have an abundant harvest enough to last through the winter months. We have several apples, pears, an Italian blue plum, three cherries, a hazelnut, of course the black walnuts, and now this fig.

When we read about the Hardy Chicago Fig (ficus carica) we knew we needed to plant at least one. The fruits are described as a gorgeous brown-purple with a luscious strawberry-sweet flesh. The thought of eating local figs, let alone growing them in our own yard, was so tantalizing. Eating our own organically grown sun-ripened figs straight off the tree in late summer or savouring carefully dried figs with wine, honey and cheese in the winter, while we cozy up next to the woodstove. Mmmm, what a treat!

The Hardy Chicago Fig is one of the best for flavour and hardiness. It was said to have been brought to Chicago by Sicilians from Mount Etna many years ago, and has been grown in Chicago and elsewhere by dedicated fig fans ever since. Many people assume it can't be grown in North America, but with protection it can grow well as low as Zone 4. It is a perennial in Zones 8-11. It is hardly a tree, and can also be grown easily indoors, in an apartment or house, or in a container outdoors (and either protected for the winter, or taken indoors). We plan to grow ours in a container outside and then take it into the greenhouse over the winter months where it will be more sheltered, but hopefully not die back as much as it would if left outdoors. We have read accounts of fig harvests in the second year, and massive harvests by the fifth or sixth season. These trees can bear abundant fruit for upto 30 years if taken care of properly, so definitely worth the investment. This small 1-year old seedling cost us about $7.

By the way, there is a lot of information on the internet regarding care of the Hardy Chicago Fig (people LOVE this fig tree!). Garden Web also has useful posts on their "Fig Forum" discussion forum (


  1. I've searched your fig post at least twice in the past year :) I hope to someday have chicago hardy figs as well. I will give a try, as it looks very healthy. Please visit my edible landscaping/urban homesteading page whenever you get a chance. Thank you!

  2. I am also growing a hardy chicago fig tree and I'm in Massachusetts. I am growing them in my heated sunroom and next season I will plant them outside. I just got mine about two weeks ago so it is only 10 inches high with four leaves.

  3. I am growing a hardy fig in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (zone 4) in a warm, sheltered location in a raised bed. I have had good luck with arctic kiwi and hope my fig survives our hot summers and cold, snowy winters.