|The cultivated fig (Ficus carica)
probably originated in southwestern Asia and became a very popular
fruit throughout Turkey, Persia, Arabia, and the Mediterranean region
when civilizations and empires were just being born. Egyptians depicted
figs in pictographs and hieroglyphics, and the writings of the Greeks
and Jews made many references to the plant. Figs are edible either
fresh or dry, and, like dates, the dried fig became an important staple
in the diets of people on the move or living in dry areas, where fresh
fruits were unattainable. Figs are high in calories, but the milky
latex in the plant is a laxative.
Figs, whose story starts with “Adam and
Eve”, are accepted as sacred fruit and commonly consumed during
Christmas all over the world. There are traces that figs were cultivated
in their motherland Anatolia in the years of 3000-2000 B.C. and they
were spread through the Mediterranean from Anatolia within time.
grow on small trees with three-lobed, deciduous leaves. What is
here called a fruit is actually a "multiple fruit," which
is an entire inflorescence of flowers. The vase-shaped multiple
fruit of a fig is sometimes called a syconium. The syconium evolved
from a primitive form that looked like a flat plate crowded with
small flowers. Through evolution the plate arched upward into a
ball. Therefore, the flowers are located on the inside, and there
is a small hole (ostiole) at the top that is hidden by some scales,
but is important as the entrance for the pollinator. Most species
of figs in the world (the genus Ficus has more than 600 species)
are monoecious and have male and female flowers within a single
syconium. This is the condition also of the "caprifig,"
the wild goat fig (also Ficus carica) of southeastern Europe and
southwestern Asia. The charming but puzzling feature of three other
types of cultivated figs (Common, Smyrna, and San Pedro) is that
no male flowers are ever produced.