The Scientific name of fig is Ficus carica which is a species of flowering plant in the genus Ficus. The tree grows to a height of 3–6 meters, with smooth white bark. Its fragrant leaves are 12–25 cm (4.7–9.8 in) long and 10–18 cm (3.9–7.1 in) across, and deeply lobed with three or five lobes. Native to the Middle East and western Asia and has been sought out and cultivated since ancient times, and is now widely grown throughout the temperate world, both for its fruit and as an ornamental plant.
The common fig tree has been cultivated since ancient time and grows wild in dry and sunny areas, with deep and fresh soil; also in rocky areas, from sea level to 1,700 meters. It prefers light and medium soils, requires well-drained soil, and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. The common fig tree is mostly a phreatophyte that lives in areas with running water, grows well in the valleys of the rivers and ravines saving no water, having the strong need of water that is extracted from the ground. The deep-rooted plant searches groundwater, in aquifers, ravines, or cracks in the rocks. The plant can tolerate seasonal drought, and the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean climate is especially suitable for the plant. All species of fig trees require wasp pollination of a particular species of wasp (Blastophaga psenes) to produce seeds.
The history of the fig
The edible fig is one of the first plants that was cultivated by humans. The fig is mentioned frequently in the Bible, the Koran, and the Torah as well. Figs also found in cultural and historical stories such as “Romelus and Remus”. Ancient evidence shows that Sumerians and Assyrians used figs. The home of fig is probably in ancient Persia, but today the fig is cultivated in western Asia and Asia Minor and Mediterranean.
Estahban valley in the 777 km south east of Tehran in Fars province, 54 02'30" E 29 07'45" N, +1760M high. The soil and climate in the Estahban valley are ideal for growing figs. Figs thrive in Valley's hot and dry summer and mild winter since this plant is not resistant against very cold weather.
The old trade caravan routes spread figs far and wide, although possibly not as far and wide as the bird population of the world has managed to do over the centuries, with their propensity for eating the seeds through one end and popping them out of the other end with a little dose of fertilizer to ensure their survival in a new place.
Figs plants are easy to propagate through several methods. Propagation using seeds is not the preferred method since vegetative methods exist that are quicker and more reliable. However, those desiring to can plant seeds of dried figs with moist sphagnum moss or other media in a zip lock bag and expect germination in a few weeks to several months. The tiny plants can be transplanted out little by little once the leaves open, and despite the tiny initial size can grow to 1 foot (30 cm) or more within one year from planting seeds.
Main vegetative propagation, or spring propagation: before the tree starts growth, cut 15–25 cm (6–10 inch) shoots that have healthy buds at their ends, and set into a moist mix of soil and peat-moss located in shade for the first time, buried 3/4 of their length. Larger diameter stems are better – intermediate cuttings on branches can be done too (up to diam. 3/4") – but in this case the upper side must be cut inclined, thus marking the upper part, to avoid planting upside-down. Grow one year in a nursery, in a pot or in-ground spaced one foot apart, till winter. Before the plant starts growing, plant it in the desired final location. This is the most common method in Estahban for propagation.
An alternative propagation method is bending over a taller branch, scratching the bark to reveal the green inner bark, then pinning the scratched area tightly to the ground. Within a few weeks, roots will develop and the branch can be clipped from the mother plant and transplanted where desired.
Two crops of figs are potentially produced each year. The first crop develops in the spring on last year's shoot growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the current year's shoot growth and ripens in the late summer or fall. The main crop is generally superior in both quantity and quality to the first crop.
Different Kinds of Figs
There are basically three types of edible figs:
Persistent (or common) figs have all female flowers that do not need pollination for fruiting; the fruit can develop through parthenocarpic means. This is a popular horticulture fig for home gardeners. Dottato (Kadota), Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Brunswick, and Celeste are some representative cultivars.
Caducous (or Smyrna) figs require cross pollination by the fig wasp with pollen from caprifigs for the fruit to mature. If not pollinated the immature fruits drop. Some cultivars are Smyrne (Estahban Fig, Lob Incir in Turkey) - (Calimyrna in the Great Central Valley USA), Marabout, Inchàrio, and Zidi.
Intermediate (or San Pedro) figs set an unpollinated first crop but need pollination for the later main crop. Examples are Lampeira, King, and San Pedro.
How Fig is dried
Fig drying could be done in various ways. The first and common method is using sunlight. Figs should be allowed to ripen fully on the tree before they are picked. They will not ripen if picked when immature. A ripe fruit will be soft and starts to bend at the neck. Harvesting should be done after fig dried naturally on the tree. They take 3 - 5 days to dry completely under the sun.
Sun dried is the most common way of drying for fig in Estahban. In this method fig fruit remains on the tree until half drying. After falling fruit and collect them under the tree, they decanted in pre-built special place. These places are known as “Ashpeng” in Iran and of course they have other local names too.
Ashpeng need to be made expose to sunlight all day long. Required time for Ashpeng to dry figs depends on the sunlight and temperature and primary figs water content. Generally, it could be state that fig drying in Ashpeng longs 3 to 5 days. Also, figs collection should be done in early morning before sunrise. Because with its warm, fruits become soft and storage might be difficult. If collected figs are not dried sufficiently and kept inaccuracy, they might be discolored gradually and lose their first quality. Dried figs can be stored for 12 months.
Fig trees are productive with or without heavy pruning but it is essential only during the first years. Trees should be trained according to a use of fruit, such as a low crown for fresh figs. Since the crop is borne on terminals of previous year's wood, once the tree form is established, heavy winter pruning, which causes loss of the following year's crop should be avoided. It is better to prune immediately after the main crop is harvested, or with late-ripening cultivars, summer prune half the branches and prune the remainder the following summer. If radical pruning is done, whitewash the entire tree. To stimulate new growth, thin out older trees which grow very little each year. Thinning also increases fruit size. Prune the trees enough to stimulate approximately 1 foot of growth each year. Remove all weak, diseased or dead limbs each dormant season.
Existence of gravelly alluvial deep soils in the Estahban plains and flood waters from upstream high lands, provides favorable condition for uptake of water by soil and retaining moisture. Figs can be grown in different soils including light texture sand, loamy sands, loamy clay to heavy clay soils. It can even grow in relatively saline and alkaline soils of PH 6 to 7.8 of good drainage.
The best soil for fig production is a combination of clay, sand and silt (in equal quantities) with good drainage. Soils with 1.2 meter depth are suitable for figs cultivation. Figs can be also raised in slope lands. In Estahban figs are grown in lands with slopes ranging from 40 to 80 percent. Figs are also tolerant to soil salinity.
In some parts of the world, to fertilize figs regularly is essential but in Estahban valley due to the fertile characteristic of soil and also not doing irrigation is summer, growers usually don’t use any fertilizer. No chemical fertilizer is used for growing figs, but every year the soil under the trunk is replaced with fertile soil, and therefore, the fig products are considered organically grown.
Figs can be eaten fresh or dried and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked dose not keep well.
The Egyptians, being preoccupied with their digestion, had a habit of fasting. The fig having mild laxative properties appealed to them as food which was delicious as well as healthy. Figs are rich in iron, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Vitamin C and the B group vitamins are also present in small quantities. They are also a good source of fiber. Figs have the highest overall mineral content of all common fruits. A 40 gram (1/4 cup) serving provides 244 mg of potassium (7% of the DV), 53 mg of calcium (6% of the DV) and 1.2 mg of iron (6% of the DV). Figs are free from fat, sodium, and cholesterol. The health benefits of figs include promoting healthy bowel function due to the high levels of fiber. Figs are among the most highly alkaline foods, making them useful in balancing the pH of the body. Figs are high in natural and simple sugars, minerals and fiber. Dried figs contain an impressive 250mg of calcium per 100g, compared to whole milk with only 118mg. Figs are among the tastiest and most versatile of fruits, happy in company with honey, sugar, thin prosciutto, sweet spices such as ginger, cinnamon and cloves and the sharpness of lemon and orange.
In the Book of Genesis in the Bible, Adam and Eve clad themselves with fig leaves, after eating the "forbidden fruit" from the Tree of Knowledge of God and Evil. Likewise, fig leaves or depictions of fig leaves, have long been used to cover the genitals of nude figures in painting and sculpture.
The Book of Deuteronomy specifies the fig as one of the Seven Species, describing the fertility of the land of Canaan. This is a set of seven plants indigenous to the Middle East that together can provide food all year round. The list is organized by date of harvest, with the fig being fourth due to its main crop ripening during summer.
The biblical quote "each man under his own vine and fig tree" (1 Kings 4:25) has been used to denote peace and prosperity. US President George Washington, writing in 1790 to the Touro Synagogue of Newport,Rhode Island. extended the metaphor to denote the equality of all Americans regardless of faith.
Buddha achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree, a large and old sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa, or Pipal).
Sura 95 of the Qur'an is named al-Tin (Arabic for "The Fig"), as it opens with the oath "By the fig and the olive." The fruit is also mentioned elsewhere in the Qur'an. Within the Hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari records Muhammad stating: "If I had to mention a fruit that descended from paradise, I would say this is it because the paradisiacal fruits do not have pits...eat from these fruits for they prevent hemorrhoids, prevent piles and help gout.
In Greek mythology, the god Apollo sends a crow to collect water from a stream for him. The crow sees a fig tree and waits for the figs to ripen, tempted by the fruit. He knows that he is late and that his tardiness will be punished, so he gets a snake from the stream and collects the water. He presents Apollo with the water and uses the snake as an excuse. Apollo sees through the crow's lie and throws the crow, goblet, and snake into the sky where they form the constellations Hydra, Crater, and Corvus.
In the course of his campaign to persuade the Roman Republic to pursue a third Punic War, Cato the Elder produced before the Senate a handful of fresh figs, said to be from Carthage. This showed its proximity to Rome (and hence the threat), and also accused the Senate of weakness and effeminacy: figs were associated with femininity, owing to the appearance of the inside of the fruit.
Since the flower is invisible, there are various idioms related to it in languages around the world. In a Bengali idiom as used in tumi yēna ḍumurēr phul hay.ē gēlē (তুমি যেন ডুমুরের ফুল হয়ে গেলে), i.e., 'you have become (invisible like) the fig flower (doomurer phool)'.
There is a Hindi idiom related to flower of fig tree, गूलर का फूल (gūlar kā phūl i.e. flower of fig) means something that just would not ever see i.e. rare of the rarest.