Have you ever pondered the crunch in your fig? The answer may be more surprising than you think.
Figs, curiously, are actually inverted flowers. Within each fig lies hundreds of tiny buds that blossom internally. These blossoms in some edible varieties yield a fruit-covered seed, creating that characteristic crunch. They're technically aggregate fruits. In essence, each fig is born from numerous tiny fruiting flowers.
Most of the figs in our local British supermarkets are self-pollinating, so they don't need a little insect friend to help them. But some varieties, like the Calimyrna, have a unique relationship with fig wasps.
This age-old dance between fig and wasp is both wondrous and dramatic. A female fig wasp, tiny but determined, makes her way into a male fig to lay her eggs. The journey is so arduous that she sacrifices her wings in the process, leaving her trapped. If she's fortunate enough to enter a male fig, she lays her eggs, and the life cycle continues. If she mistakenly burrows into a female fig, she pollinates it but cannot lay her eggs, resulting in her solitary demise.
But fret not, fig lovers! Any wasp that does find itself in a female fig is broken down completely by an enzyme before the fig ripens. So, those crunchy bits? They're seeds, not remnants of wasps.
This relationship between the fig and its pollinator wasp is ancient and vital. They've been partners in nature's dance for around 80 million years. Their interdependence is a marvel of nature, a perfect example of mutualism where each benefits from the other.
Figs play a vital role in our ecosystem, nourishing countless animals throughout the year. Their year-round growth means that they provide sustenance to creatures when other sources might be scarce.
So, the next time you savour a fig, think of the fascinating history and nature's wonder packed inside. And don't worry, those crunchy bits are just seeds. Enjoy your figs, and here's to the tiny fig wasps that play a part in their story!