Figs are one of the oldest of all cultivated crops- predating even wheat. The remains excavated in Jordan Valley of the Middle East were discovered to be around 11000 years old. Figs are typically a semi-tropical genus of tree or large bush, where its iconic thick, lobed leaves drape pleasantly around its grand, luscious pith.
Throughout history, the fig has had an especially sacred association. It appears frequently in the bible, including symbolically concealing Eve and Adam’s private bits. Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment under the shade of a fig tree, and Hindus and Jains have also credited it as relevant to their spirituality.
Although most commonly found in North America dried when sold, certain varieties of figs in fact can be grown in Canada. Of the over 850 varieties of figs, the Giant Sycomore tends to stand out (over 20 metres high at times) as the Queen of trees. In fact, BBC released a documentary with such a title specifically about the incredible specimen.
Why classify her as a Queen? The Sycomore, with its massive girth and abundance of nutritious fruits and leaves provides food and shelter to a myriad of animal species- including primates, birds, bats and insects. Figs perform a mutually codependent symbiosis with wasp species, and are in fact further protected by other insects that call the trees home, such as ants.
Figs are therefore a keystone species in rainforests, supporting the diversity of such life-teeming Ecozones.
During the Spring, an initial crop of figs known as the Breba propagates, while the fall produces what is simply the main crop, when the larger harvest can be collected. Ripened fruits are identified by their brownish-purple tints, softer exocarp and slightly bent connecting branch.
Figs can’t be picked immature, and have a very fleeting shelf life of around 2-3 days, resulting in being commonly sold directly at markets or being dried to ship and sell.
Nutritional content of figs is multitudinous, including vitamins A, E, K and B complexes, iron, calcium and potassium. Figs alleviate constipation, reduce risk and conditions of diabetes with their good, natural sugars, and strengthen bones.