The Celeste fig, also known by other names including Blue Celeste, Celestial, Conant, Little Brown Sugar, and Malta fig, is among the most popular figs grown in the United States today. The tree is attractive and produces very sweet and flavorful fruit in large quantities. Celeste figs are considered common figs and do not require pollination. They are very cold hardy and can be grown in a wider range than most figs.
The Celeste fig is considered one of the best figs to grow in the southeastern United States and is among the most common figs grown, second only to the Brown Turkey fig. It is also grown, less successfully, in California. The Celeste fig is very cold hardy and can be grown as far north as zone 6 and as far south as zone 10.
The tree of the Celeste fig is large and can reach 25 feet in height, although most grow as large shrubs, due to frequent cold damage. The plant grows vigorously. The tree is deciduous, with large, deeply lobed leaves. Fruiting is usually very productive. The main crop usually ripens in early summer, often before other fig varieties. There is usually no breba, or secondary, crop. Celeste figs fruit without pollination and do not contain true seeds.
The fruit itself is small and pear-shaped, with ribbed sides.The color ranges from purple to brown, tinged with bronze. The pulp of the fruit is white or amber. The eye at the base of the fruit is usually very tight. Celeste figs are very sweet with a rich, fresh flavor.
Celeste figs should be planted in areas that receive full sun. Plant bare root trees during the dormant season. Container varieties can be planted at any time, with proper irrigation. During the first year, watering should be frequent, with at least 10 gallons per plant three times each week. Once established, the tree should only require irrigation during periods of drought. Heavy pruning should be avoided to prevent crop reduction. For younger plants, 1/2 pound of a good 10-10-10 fertilizer can be applied 4 or 5 times during the summer season. Larger trees can receive up to 4 pounds.
Fresh Celeste figs are considered dessert quality and can be eaten out-of-hand. These figs are also excellent processed as fig preserves or they can be dried. They can also be frozen for storage. The Celeste fig tree itself can be grown as an ornamental, with large, dark green leaves and significant branching.
The fruit can be tough and fall from the tree prematurely, if exposed to hot dry weather. Cultivation practices, such as fertilizing in the late summer, can produce new growth late in the season that can be consequently damaged by cold weather.
Several diseases can attack figs. Most notably, fig rust, certain fungi, and smuts will attack figs. These cam be controlled with appropriate treatment. Pests, including nematodes, mealy bugs, fig borers and ants can also cause damage. While the risk is usually minimal from these pests, a good pesticide is successfully in controlling severe infestations.