In 2014 Slow Food USA named this fig to their International Ark of Taste. The fig grows on Hog Island VA, which is an abandoned barrier island off of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The fig has a long history on the island including being served to President-elect Grover Cleveland in 1892 during a hunting trip. The area was originally populated in the 1700’s and the Hog Island Fig is included in a photograph dating as far back as 1892. Hog Island was abandoned starting in the 1930s following two bad hurricanes that significantly reduced the size of the island. Since the 1940s the figs have continued to grow on the island unprotected. Today the fig stands in salt grass in an area frequently over washed by winter storms. Needless to say the fig is very salt tolerant and has survived at least 80 winters unprotected in zones 7/8. The National Weather Service maintains a weather station only 12 miles away and going back to 1955 when records started it has recorded minimum temperatures down to -5 F, with 7 winters at or below 0 F and 31 years below 10 F.
After Slow Food USA added the Hog Island Fig to the International Ark of Taste Hermitage Farms Nursery, a wholesale-only operation on the Eastern Shore, began propagating cuttings and selling the fig locally. The mother tree came from a plant purchased from Hermitage Farms Nursery in the spring of 2018 by my parents who live on the Eastern Shore of VA. Hermitage Farms is a wholesale nursery, but the donated several plants to a sale to raise money for the non-profit who maintains Hog Island.
The fig is a golden colored fig described by Slow Food USA as being notable for the rich complexity of its flavor profile. It has a very ‘figgy’ taste and can ripen a very dark brown when left on the tree. Hog Island fig is also an early variety consistently ripening some of the first fruit at our farm and continuing to ripen crops through the first frost. The fig is great for fresh eating and has been historically used on the Eastern Shore to make fig preserves and jam.
This tree is from a cutting taken from the plant my parents purchased. An article with more information is here: https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/2014/03/24/never-hear-of-the-hog-island-fig/6825549/
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