Ronde de Bordeaux

This little fig is just figgin’ fabulous!  Known as Ronde de Bordeaux, one could take for granted that it is from France. However, the story behind this fig variety is a bit of a mystery…but who doesn’t like a bit of mystery, especially where figs are involved.

Ronde de Bordeaux next to a Tangiers variety fig.
Ronde de Bordeaux figs next to traditional size figs (Tangiers variety)

When this baby fig variety crossed our path recently, I recalled working with it a few years ago, in February 2010 to be exact.

We had the privilege of being involved with processing the sub-standard figs in South Africa. Included in the fig varieties were Ronde de Bordeaux. We had several projects running parallel for processing the figs to different products. However, the project related to this variety was my favourite. With an average weight of about 20 grams the fig is bite size and makes for a perfect on-the-go health snack. For this reason it made perfect sense to freeze-dry the baby figs, which preserved the fruit and maintained the nutrients without compromising the beautiful purple coloured skin and rosy flesh.

The only freeze drying facility that would accommodate us at the time was based in Graaff-Reinet, which is about 8 hours drive from Cape Town. So we decided to do a little road trip. We  love road trips, especially when it’s a Route 62 road Trip.

Graaff-Reinet is a magnificent town situated in the Eastern Cape Province. It is the fourth oldest town in South Africa, after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam. Probably best known for The Dutch Reformed Church in the center of town which is a National Monument. Rumour has it that it is the only known church in South Africa, and possibly in the world, to have a kitchen and a chimney.

Picture 982
Cactus with gaping pitaya in the Obesa Nursery, Graaff-Reinet

After surviving a tyre burst and an impatient toddler we arrived safe and sound. To unwind we took a walk through the Obesa Cactus Nursery, which was located just across the guest house where we were staying. Nurseries, and Botanical Gardens for that matter, always seem to relax us, it is like a shrine for all the plants of that region and the admiration of it all swamps everything else.

The next morning we started the freeze drying trials. After a successful day we visited one of our favourite towns in South Africa, Nieu-Bethesda. This little town is best known, if not only known, for Helen Martins’ Owl House. Her artwork always leaves me with a sense of calm and wonder. Walking through her concrete filled garden I tend to find myself entering a dream-like state that transcends time…definitely worth a visit. If you would like to read more about this timeless works of art please follow the link.

Present day…

So what do we know about this baby?

The origin of Ronde de Bordeaux is not exactly clear. What we do know is that it is either from France or Spain…both countries are captivating, with good climates to commercially produce this variety in future. That´s what we’ll be focusing on.

The fruit is small and distinctively round, from there its name Ronde de Bordeaux meaning Round (little fig in this case) from Bordeaux.

Ronde de Bordeaux fig are small with a weight of between 15-25 grams
Ronde de Bordeaux figs are small with a weight of between 15-25 grams

The dark purple skin is soft and needs no peeling. This is very convenient as you can hold the fig by its maroon coloured stem and comfortably eat it. It is firmer than standard fig varieties which adds to the no-mess-no-fuss eating. The flesh is dense and packed with full flavour sweetness and a very distinct fig flavour. If you have fond memories of eating figs way back when this variety will have you reminiscing with every bite.

The flesh is deep pink at the center and fades toward the skin. The weight varies between 15-25 grams depending on where it is grown. Almost never exceeding a weight of 30 grams.

This baby fig variety performs well in humid conditions and can withstand rainy condition quite well. Another remarkable characteristic of the variety is its tolerance for cold climates. There are fruit gardeners growing trees as far north as Sweden. They grow the trees in pots, which they take inside during the winter.

When and where can we expect to get hold of these babies?

Ronde de Bordeaux trees in South Africa
Ronde de Bordeaux trees in Porterville, South Africa

Currently there are 23 hectares in South Africa producing Ronde de Bordeaux commercially. As far as we know South Africa is the only country that commercially produce this variety. Although there is a hectare in France that export to the UK certain seasons. Actually, a few days before publishing this post we got news that Ronde de Bordeaux figs from France will be available in selected Marks & Spencer stores in the UK now.

Ronde de Bordeaux will be available from mid-January next year in Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Tescos and Booths in the UK. Figs will also be available in selected Edeka stores in Germany and selected Woolworths stores in South Africa during the same time.

Ronde de Bordeaux figs ready to be harvested.
Ronde de Bordeaux figs ready to be harvested

In Ethiopia there are 4 hectares which should produce commercially in 2016 probably for export to the UK.

So, if all goes according to plan these babies should soon be available more often.

All ´n all we just love this fig variety. It´s an easy and nutritious snack, tastes deliciously figgy and has an excellent shelf life, up to 10 days when refrigerated.

Woo-hoo! Go baby Bordeaux!

Big shout out to Keith Wilson! Also known as the Figman, who was so kind to share his knowledge of figs with us. Much appreciated Keith.

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14 thoughts on “Ronde de Bordeaux

    1. Hi James, unfortunately it seems highly unlikely. As far as we know there are no commercial plantings in the United States. And the producing countries most probably won’t be able to export to the USA for various reasons, including transport cost, volumes and possible phytosanitary restrictions.

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  1. Oh fabulous post that answers almost all my questions! Recently in Hong Kong where Im living at the moment, and for the first time these delicious little bites of figgie heaven appeared on our supermarket shelves. Imported from South Africa, exported by “Figton” in Paarl. As Im South African born and bred I always try what’s on offer from that fair country so I bought a few punets. I was completely hooked. While I can’t say the same for quite lot of SA fruit we get here these were an absolute winner. I ket buying them in fact for as long as they appeared which was rather short unfortunately. They seemed to fill in the late season gap between other larger varieties imported from various countries like Argentina, Spain etc. The Ronde de Bordeaux however is now my firm favourite. The flavour is just delicious, sweet and the colour rich and jammy. I love the size. Would perfect on my my cheese board, business class, Cathay Pacific. The bigger ones don’t keep very well but these do even fully ripe. These are perfect and lovely halved for salads, cereal, yogurt or just popping in the mouth. I also bought for my tortoises as special treats, their eyes light up when ever they saw the figs in my hands. They all came running even Cedric the alfa bull. They eat them in two bites and hang around drooling waiting for more long after they’re finished.

    Im hoping some seed germinates after having past through the tortoises because I would love some in the garden. The tortoises would of course also happily eat any seedlings that appear as fig leaves are on most recommended menus too.

    Our summers experience extreme humidity, extreme precipitation and extreme heat, full on tropics, typhoons and all so I will be surprised if any seedlings that escape the eagle eyes of the tortoises manage to take off. Our winter is glorious, cool sunny and dry but it’s short sadly, just three months. Hope, least looks like something that should come true from seed? Has that wild look about the size anyway. Thanks for the information. I see many many varieties of fig trees on sale at the Bangkok plant market so it looks like the tropics is not a complete no go zone. Bangkok’s wet season is up there with ours, though maybe they keep the trees under cover so they stay dryish even with the extreme humidity. Just maybe they have Ronde de Bordeaux in case no seedlings appear, I will definitely be looking in April. Just your mention of the word “humidity” has me all in a spin LOL.

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    1. Sounds interesting. May I ask is it that soft white silky tofu or cooked……..Im imagining a tofu panna cotta happening?

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  2. Unfortunately I never saw them again in our supermarket ): I can’t imagine why. Instead we are getting those large soggy whitish ones again….sigh. Least the tortoises still like them. Most are slimy half rotten by the time they get onto the shelves and have a most unappealing insipid pale looking flesh, quite sweet though.

    I haven’t seen them in Marks & Sparks either. M&S have recently open many little grocery outlets across the city mostly near MTR stations. The quality and variety of veg and fruit is excellent. Fingers crossed hoping to see Ronde de Bourdeaux one of these days.

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