Fig, the name of an economically important fruit and of the plant that bears it. The fig plant is of the same genus as the rubber plant, the banyan tree, and the pipal. Figs, which grow only in a hot, dry climate, are widely cultivated in Turkey, Greece, and Italy. In the United States, they are grown mainly in California. Cultivation of figs dates back more than 4,000 years; figs are mentioned many times in the Bible.
Fig plants are trees or shrubs that grow to a height of 30 feet (9 m). They bear two or three crops of figs each year. The fruits are pear-shaped and when ripe may be green, yellow, brown, dark purple, or blackish. Fresh figs are very perishable and therefore most figs are marketed dried, candied (dried and coated with a thin syrup), or canned. Fig paste, made of ground dried figs, is used in cookies and other pastries. Figs contain sugar, calcium, vitamin A, phosphorus, and potassium.
Although the fig is commonly regarded as a single fruit, it is actually composed of hundreds of tiny individual fruits contained within a syconium, a hollow fleshy receptacle. A fig plant never appears to be in bloom because the numerous small flowers that precede the fruits in development are concealed within the syconium.
There are hundreds of varieties of fig plants, of which the most widely grown are the common fig, the caprifig, and the Smyrna fig. The common fig bears fruit partheno-genetically (without pollination).
Caprifigs are fig plants whose inedible fruits provide a home for the gall wasp. A small hole at the top of the fig provides a passageway for the gall wasp, the only means of pollination for the fig flowers. The wasp is extremely small, about 1/12 of an inch (2 mm) in length. Caprifigs are always grown near Smyrna fig plants (which bear only female flowers) so that the gall wasp will pollinate the female flowers with pollen from the caprifigs. (This type of cross-pollination is called caprification. )
All fig varieties are of the species Ficus carica of the mulberry family, Moraceae. The gall wasp is Blastophaga psenes of the family Cynipidae.