Figs are very juicy and sweet, but does that mean they are automatically fruits? In this article, we solve the case once and for all!
Is fig a fruit? Technically a fig is not a fruit and is, in fact, an inverted flower. Fig trees don’t have traditional flowers like apple trees. Instead, their flowers bloom inside pods that mature and become edible. However, as figs also contain seeds, they have been dubbed false fruit.
Why is fig a false fruit? Fig is a false fruit because it is made up of the plant’s ovary and features seeds, but at the same time, it contains flowers and tissue from the receptacle (near the end of the reproductive stem). Any fruit that features an ovary and other plant tissue is a false fruit.
Is Fig a Real Fruit?
Figs definitely taste like fruit with their succulent flavor and high sugar content! But let’s see what the experts have to say!
Is fig a real fruit? According to botanists, a fig is not a real fruit but an inflorescence (complete flowerhead of a plant). So when you are biting down on that sweet fig, you are mostly eating small flowers contained in a pod.
Botanists have classified figs as a false or accessory fruit because technically, fruit should only contain seeds and seed-bearing structures (the ovary of the plant). In contrast, a fig contains the ovary, flowers, and part of the reproductive stem.
Which Type of Fruit Are Figs?
The fig is an edible fruit from the Ficus carica tree from the Moraceae family. The fig is originally from the Mediterranean and western Asia and was particularly popular among the ancient Greeks and is now widely grown throughout the world.
A fig tree is a small deciduous tree that grows up to 10m (33 ft) and features distinct white bark. Fig trees are known for their large leaves, which feature as many as five deep lobes. Figs are green, but as they ripen, they take on a purple or brown color. They are typically around 5cm (2.0 in) long and contain a red inside with lots of seeds.
Figs are quite robust – they can handle small amounts of frost and even thrive in hot summer temperatures. Figs can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways, including:
- Eaten fresh or dried
- Made into jam rolls or biscuits
- Added to desserts for flavoring
How Do Figs Become Fruits?
Figs are not your standard fruit, that’s for sure! This false fruit has a unique way of developing that takes an edible pod and turns it into one of the sweetest and must-try flavors in the world!
How do figs become fruits? Figs become edible fruits when the flowers inside the fig pod bloom and then mature. Every single flower in the pod produces a seed and hard fruit known as achene. Figs feature numerous achenes, which give the fruit its crunchy texture.
As fig flowers bloom inside pods, they can’t use a standard pollination process. They can’t transmit their pollen via the wind or bees. Instead, they enlist the help of wasps! Wasps play a crucial role in the survival of the figs as they help them spread while at the same time the wasps use the figs as a safe place to lay their eggs.
A female wasp will burrow itself inside a male fig and begin laying its eggs inside the pod. Unfortunately, the female wasp becomes trapped inside the fig as it enters, and the male children are tasked with burrowing out of the pod while at the same time mating with their sisters! Once the males have created an escape route, it is their sisters who fly out of the fig and spread the fig’s pollen.
Sometimes a female wasp will make a miscalculation and end up in a female fig. Unfortunately, there is no room in these figs to lay their eggs, and they are unable to escape as their wings are broken upon entering the fruit pod. The wasp then starves to death but brings vital pollen, which helps the fig ripen, making them edible. The female fig can digest the wasp, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally eating one!
10 Interesting Facts About Figs
Figs are an incredibly fascinating fruit, and we continue to learn more the deeper we research. Check out below 10 of our favorite fig facts!
- Did you know 98% of the US’s fresh figs come from California?
- Ancient Greek athletes used figs as a power snack during grueling workouts, they were particularly popular among runners and wrestlers.
- Ancient Romans believed figs were an effective anti-aging treatment!
- Figs are loaded with potassium and fiber even more than bananas and prunes.
- Turkey is the largest producer of figs, cultivating 305,450 tonnes per year.
- The USA is the 7th largest producer of figs, cultivating 31,600 tonnes per year.
- Figs are actually mostly made of flowers and therefore are technically not fruit.
- Buddha became enlightened while sitting under a fig tree.
- Figs were one of the first fruits ever cultivated over 11,000 years ago!
- Fig trees are self-pollinating, so a single tree can produce amazing figs!
Wrapping Things Up
So there you have it, a fig is technically not fruit because it features the ovary of the fig tree in combination with flowers and parts of the reproductive stem. Due to these additional features, a fig is known as a false fruit. The next you take a bit of fig, remember you are mostly eating flowers!
Do All Figs Have Wasps in Them?
Most commercial figs have been engineered to ripen without pollination and do not rely on wasps. And figs that are ripened with wasps have a special enzyme called ficin that completely breaks down and absorbs the wasp into the fig, so you can’t taste or see them!
Why Do Vegans Not Eat Figs?
Vegans don’t eat figs because for a fig to ripen and become edible, a female wasp has to spread the pollen inside the fig. During this process, the female becomes trapped inside and starves to death. Fortunately, most commercial figs can ripen without the use of wasps.
How Big Is a Fig Fruit?
Fig fruit is between 3–5 centimeters (1.2–2.0 inches) long and about 2 centimeters (0.8 inches wide. Figs have a teardrop shape and are considered medium to small size fruit.
Is It Safe to Eat Raw Figs?
Not only is it safe to eat raw figs, but this is also the best way to eat them to get the most health benefits. To maximize their flavor, you should eat raw figs directly from the tree while warm from the sun. You can eat the whole fig, including the skin, flesh, and seeds. We recommend gently washing them and drying them before serving.