Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fig Fruit

Figs comprise a large genus, Ficus, of deciduous and evergreen tropical and subtropical trees, shrubs, and vines in the mulberry family, Moraceae. Commercially, the most important fig is Ficus carica, the tree that produces the edible fig fruit. Among the most ancient cultivated fruit trees, the fig is endogenous to the eastern Mediterranean and the southwest region of Asia, where its cultivation probably began. It is now grown in warm, semiarid areas throughout the world.

The fruit bearing fig ranges from bush like 1 m (3 ft) to a moderately tall tree that may grow up to 12 m (39 ft) in height. It is characterized by its dark green, deeply lobed leaves. The fig bears no visible flowers, instead, its flowers are borne within a round, fleshy structure, the syconium, which matures into the edible fig. The common fig bears only female flowers but develops its fruits without pollination. Varieties of the smyrna type also bear only female flowers, but in order to produce fruit they must be pollinated by a process known as caprification.


The caprifig is a wild form of fig tree whose male flowers produce inedible fruits that are host to the fig wasp, Blastophaga psenes. Fig wasps lay their eggs in the caprifig flowers; the eggs hatch within the developing caprifig, and the mature female wasps seek new flowers in which to lay their eggs. When caprifigs are hung among the branches of a cultivated fig, the pollen dusted wasps squeeze through the narrow openings at the ends of the syconia and pollinate the flowers inside. The wasps die within the syconia, and their bodies are absorbed into the developing fruit. Figs produced by caprification are usually larger than the common fig.

Fig Cultivation

Fig trees are propagated through rooted cuttings taken from the wood of older trees. They grow best in moderately dry areas that have no rain during the period of fruit maturation, when humidity might hinder the process of fruit drying. The partially dried fruit drops to the ground, where it is gathered and the drying process complete. Some fruit may be picked before it dries and eaten as fresh fruit. Figs are classified either as Smyrna figs type, common type, or San Pedro type figs. Smyrna figs produce only a summer crop. Common and San Pedro figs, may also produce a spring, or breba, crop that require caprification.

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