Also known as Bensonhurst Purple Fig or Hardy Chicago Fig
About Chicago Hardy Fig Trees
The Chicago Hardy Fig tree is known for producing luscious brown-purple figs, even in freezing climates! The glistening deep pink interior color is reminiscent of strawberry preserves, so pretty on a plate.
Beginning fruit gardeners love this tree because it’s easy to grow and produces so many delectable figs. In colder growing zones, Chicago Hard may die back after a hard freeze (like a perennial) and re-emerge the following spring. If you plant the tree in a container, it can simply be moved inside during the colder months.
Fruit is borne early on the new growth. Figs that grow on older branches will come in early summer months. In addition to its cold-tolerance, Chicago Hardy can also take the summer heat. It is self-pollinating and does not require the presence of another fig tree to produce.
It’s an ideal patio plant because of its dramatic broad leaves and handsome fruit, which starts out as spring-green and slowly ripens into its familiar purple color.
Using the Fruit and Leaves
Fig trees (ficus carica) have been prized for their sugar-sweet fruit throughout history. Wonderful eaten fresh, figs are also a lavish ingredient in salads and desserts, or as an element of a cheese or charcuterie board. Chefs incorporate them in both sweet and savory dishes and love their versatility. Figs can be dried, canned or even frozen.
Figs are high in vitamins A and C, and are a good source of calcium, fiber, potassium, iron and magnesium. Even the leaves can be put to use as a wrapper for grilled and steamed foods (which gives them a subtle smoky flavor), or you can dehydrate the leaves and pulverize them for tea.
Growing Chicago Hardy Fig Trees
All fig trees require full sun (at least 6 hours a day) to produce fruit. Established trees prefer even soil moisture, but can tolerate some drought. Work in a yearly top-dressing of compost (6mm (1/4″)) to continuously enrich the soil and help feed the tree the micronutrients it needs. A springtime application of 10-10-10 fertilizer will increase your crop and ensure that the tree is properly nourished.
If grown in the ground, the Chicago Hardy Fig can reach 3-9 m (10-15′) tall—it’s a naturally dwarf size. If you’d like it to be even smaller, grow it in a container, which will limit its size. Light pruning will also help manage the size and shape the tree.
There’s nothing like a fresh fig—and you can grow them yourself, even if you live in a cold climate. The tree will give you loads of fresh figs for many years. Buy one today and fresh figs will soon be yours!
Overwintering Fig Trees in Cooler Climates
If you experience temperatures below freezing, then additional winter protection is necessary for best results. Potted figs should be placed in an insulated, unheated, preferably dark room or cool basement. Water them monthly until just moist so the roots do not dry out completely.
For fig trees planted in-ground, insulate as much as possible by getting creative. Use chicken wire and burlap or surround with straw bales stuffed with leaves. The pliable branches can be bent in to preserve as much as the plant as possible. What is not covered, will likely die back. Figs fruit on new growth and the insulated roots will send out new growth, even if the top dies.