Israeli grower wants to breed a better fig

Chaim Oren

The modern fresh produce landscape requires constant improvement – improvements in yields, in disease resistance, in flavor and in the ease with which a product can be grown and harvested. For one Israeli fig grower, that process of continuous improvement takes places in a testing ground for new varieties located in the Jordan Valley.

Different fig varieties are tested

“We have hundreds of varieties that we test for taste, color, shape and many other factors,” explained Chaim Oren of OREN a.s.Marketing. “We call all of our farmers here and ask them to give the varieties marks on these things, and out of the hundreds of figs, we plant about seven of them in the Jordan Valley and also in some other parts of Israel each year.” From there, the figs are observed in different conditions. Everything from how they hold up to pests to how they withstand various weather conditions is measured. Chaim Oren uses that information to decide which figs can be successfully planted in Israel's different climates.

“In the Jordan Valley, the amount of sunlight is less than that in Tel Aviv, so you need a lot of sun to get the right color,” explained Chaim Oren. Along with regional considerations, the fig must fit into a specific size, usually size 24 or 20 for the export market, to make it a worthwhile investment. The way the fruit breaks off from the tree must also be taken into consideration, in order to make it as easy as possible to harvest in order to reduce labor costs. Finally, and, arguably, most importantly, the fruit must taste good.

This is a commercial orchard

“The first thing we do is taste the figs when we choose new varieties, because we're sick of the plastic taste in fruit,” said Chaim Oren. “We do many things, conduct many tests, to create knowledge on how to grow these in different areas.”

Chaim Oren in his coldstore with harvested figs

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