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Figs From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

Figs From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

From Adam and Eve to the Zibad variety, all about the many types of figs in the world: from their history to the benefits of figs, 26 facts and fitures to know.

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Adam and Eve. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve used fig leaves as a type of ‘bikini’. And they are not the only famous couple associated with this fruit…

Baked. In the United States, the consumption of fresh figs has regained popularity in recent years. Fresh figs are not only eaten fresh, but also used in bakery. For example in a cake made from goat’s cheese or as a topping for a type of flatbread together with Parma ham and rocket leaves.

Cleopatra. The Egyptian queen loved them so much that she died for them: the asp that killed her was carried in a basket of ripe figs.

Djebba. The Figs of Djebba, named after this region of Tunisia, received the CDO controlled designation of origin in 2012. One of the most vigorous varieties of figs, 'Bouhouili' as they are called, have a bright blue-purple coloured skin.

Eight hundred and fifty. This is the number of tree varieties belonging to the Ficus species. The common fig tree, cultivated for its fruit, is the Ficus carica.

Fruit. Figs are not actually a fruit, but an edible, complex structure called 'syconium', a false fruit which grows out of a mass of tiny unisexual flowers.

Growth. Potentially, a fig tree can bear fruit twice a year. The first crop develops in spring on the previous year's shoot growth. The main crop is generally more abundant and ripens in late summer or fall.

Hog Island. The figs of Hog Island, a barrier reef Island eight miles from Virginia are a caramel coloured treat whose leaves resemble human hands. The few remaining trees which feature on Slow Food International's Ark of Taste, were included in the endangered food registry last September.

Italian black. Black on the outside and bright red inside, this beautiful fruit is ideal for making jam.

Jordan Valley. Figs originally came from Mesopotamia. In 2006 archaeologists found them in the excavations of the village Gilgal in the Lower Jordan Valley: they dated back 11,400 years. Kadota. This is a popular variety of a creamy amber colour and a light delicate flavour. Large and very sweet, they are often used in industrial preserves and in the preparation of fig rolls.

Lawrence. The English writer and poet David Herbert Lawrence wrote a poem dedicated to “Figs”. It is part of the Birds, Beasts, and Flowers collection. ‘There was a flower that flowered inward, womb-ward/Now there is a fruit like a ripe womb’ – he wrote of this 'very secretive fruit'.

Meat. An enzyme extracted from fig tree latex, called ficin, is widely used in the food industry as a coagulant in the production of cheese and primarily to tenderize meat.

Newton. 'Fig Newtons' were the first industrial cookie containing figs. These fig rolls were launched on the US market in 1892.

Oldest. Historians believe that figs were the first ever fruits to be cultivated by mankind. Pippal. The ficus religiosa, or Pippal, is said to be the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. The sacred fig tree is also known as the Bo Tree – from the Sanskrit word 'Bodhi', meaning 'wisdom'.

Qur'an. Sura 95 is named 'The Fig” as it opens with the oath “by the fig and the olive'. In the Hadith teachings and prophetic traditions, Prophet Mohamed says of the fig: “If I had to mention a fruit that descended from paradise, I would say this is it…”

Romulus and Remus. The founders of Rome were breastfed by a she-wolf under a wild fig tree growing close to the Tiber river.

Spirits. Not just for eating: figs make a delicious ingredient for preparing cocktails and liqueurs. Their sweetness teams up well with practically all liqueurs. They are perfect with bourbon.

Third Punic War. The last of the wars between the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean Sea was sparked off by a basket of figs. The Roman Cato, who had been sent on an exploratory mission to the city-state, brought it back with him from Carthage. The fruit arrived in exquisitely fresh condition inside the Senate, to prove just how close Carthage was, as well as being economically prosperous and blessed with such competitive products.

Uterus. The symbolic nature of the fig is ultra feminine; its fruit represents abundance, fertility and sweetness.

Vitamins B and K. Thanks to a high content of these two vitamins, figs make an excellent antioxidant punch. And that’s not all: they are also rich in potassium, calcium and minerals such as magnesium and manganese.

Wasp. Figs are pollinated by the tiny female fig wasp, Blastophaga psenes, which only lives two days. The commercial varieties, however, are parthenocarpic cultivars, which means that they do not require pollination.

Xishuangbanna. Figs are a key component of tropical forests and their ethnobotanical importance is widely known. A scientific study published in September 2014 revealed that ethnic groups of the Xishuangbanna province in south west China are those which make most use of the young leaves and buds of edible Ficus varieties.

Year 1520. This is the year in which figs were first imported to America, carried by the Spanish who reached the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola.

Zibad. The mountain fig – 'Anjeer Koki' in Persian – is a wild variety growing on the rocky mountains of Iran, particularly those of Zibad. It withstands extreme temperatures and is mainly eaten dried.

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