Is the fig really a mythical fruit? Its special features that you don’t know about


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There are over 1,500 varieties of figs in the world, for example the Solliès fig, which grows in the Var region of France (illustrative photo).
Anthony Kaczmarek Anthony Kaczmarek Weathered France 4 minutes

How well do you know the fig tree? Whether you prefer them fresh or steamed for the holidays, there are more than 1,500 varieties worldwide. Regardless of color, figs are rich in B vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Yet it is full of mysteries, even legends. And a surprising paradox: no, it’s not a fruit!

A very special kind of reproduction

Although considered a fruit when cooked, a fig is actually an “inflorescence” botanically: comes from the development of the ovary and flower receptacle fig. The fig is actually a kind of “shell with hundreds of flowers inside”, from which a number of small fruits will emerge when ripe, the proverbial “seeds” that crunch under the tooth.

If only female fig trees produce edible figs once or twice a year, what causes this “false fruit” to ripen? For fig trees not sold in garden centers (where figs ripen automatically and pollination is not required), small pollinating insects must intervene: a blastophage that transfers pollen from a male fig to a female tree.

A female blastophagus is born in a male fig, then flies to another fig to lay her eggs: if it is a female fig, small fruits may form inside the fig, which are edible and can therefore ripen. The fig is still a product widely analyzed by botanists, given the mysteries surrounding its reproduction, but not only.

The mythology of figs

Doubts appear in the Bible about the veracity of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden: was it an apple, grape or fig? In Latin, “pomum” means fruit, not apple, and the fig had a special symbolic meaning in ancient times. Cultivated in the Egypt of the Pharaohs, it was considered a gift from the gods because of its extravagance.

And that’s not all: the fig tree is also present in the myth of the founding of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus, who are said to have been placed next to a wild fig at birth before being discovered and fed by a she-wolf. The fig tree is also the tree of the gods Dionysus and Mars in Greek and Roman mythology.

Finally, the last surprising mystery: our liver, a synthetic organ of the human body responsible for cleaning and storage, is named after a fig. In fact, the Roman farmer Agicio fed his geese with figs: the result was a recipe for liver stuffed with figs, in Latin “jecur ficatum”. but only the adjective “ficatum” remained to designate our body. This fig is a wonderful “false fruit”..


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