|Smyrna figs are considered to
be the most desirable fig. They are judged better in flavor than the
parthenocarpic fruits because the skin is more tender and the oil
in the fertilized seeds give the fig extra flavor.
Most fig varieties produce crops of figs wherever they grow, such
as the Common types (e.g., Adriatic, Mission, and Kadota), the caprifig,
and San Pedro type. However, the Smyrna (Izmir) figs do not set fruits
when they are grown alone. In 1880, Californians began to import and
widely plant Smyrna figs, which have the most desirable fruits. The
trees looked healthy, but never formed ripe fruits--all the synconia
fell off when the fruits were the size of a marble. In fact, the first
successful harvest of Smyrna figs in California was 1900. The lack
of fruit production in these figs posed a major riddle and economic
problems for California growers until they finally understood the
biology of fig production.
The story of the Smyrna fig must include
the story of the caprifig. Briefly stated, for fruit development
to occur, the Smyrna fig needs pollen from the caprifig. Kadota
and other common figs do not need the caprifig, even though they
lack pollen, because syconium development is "parthenocarpic,"
i.e., it proceeds directly without pollination and fertilization
(see also pineapple and banana).
In the case of fruit set for Smyrna figs,
branches with profichi figs of the caprifig are collected and hung
in the late afternoon within the fig tree canopy. The next morning
the fig wasps emerge from the profichi figs and then transfer pollen
to the young Smyrna pistils. Enough fertilization takes place to
promote Smyrna fruit development. This process is called caprification.
Caprification was practiced for centuries in the Old World without
understanding the pollination mechanism; but the process had to
be verified and understood in California (by Eisen in the 1890s)
before it could be accepted as sound horticultural practice. Caprifigs
were imported to California from Algiers in 1899, which began the
western Smyrna fig industry. Three to five caprifigs are grown at
fig orchards for every 100 Smyrna fig plants, to provide the necessary
pollen and fig wasps.
Speaking of extra flavor, it is true that the skeleton of a female
wasp plus some dead larvae of the next generation fig wasps occur
in Smyrna figs; however, the consumer hardly notices these inclusions.
The "crunch" of the Smyrna fig is the oily seeds.
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
Turkey is the biggest dried fig producer
with a share of 60-70%, and in world dried fig export with a share