A true emblem of the Mediterranean basin, the fig (originally from the Middle East), has origins dating back 11,000 years. It is therefore not surprising that several researchers consider it to be the first fruit to be cultivated by man. But is it really a fruit and is it true that when you bite into a fig, you swallow a dead wasp with it? We lift the veil on this mythical and mystical plant.
Is eating a fig eating a wasp?
The fig – fruit or flower?
In order to understand what a wasp would potentially do inside a fig, one must first begin with the fact that this is not a fruit per se. Indeed, the fig that we eat is nothing but an inverted flower. Unlike the rest of the fruits, these blossom on their own, inside a rigid shell. We can then say that the red veins that you can observe by cutting a fig in half, are in a way its petals. Or to be precise, the petals of several flowers. Because you see, a fig flower grows from a single seed. If we can identify several seeds in a fig then, it is because a fruit is composed of several flowers.
The fig – one of the most beautiful edible flowers
The fig wasp, do you eat a dead wasp
As you are no doubt aware, without pollination, life on the planet would practically not exist. It is for this reason in particular that today, we do not stop discussing the danger of the disappearance of pollinating animals, including the wasp first. By feeding on the nectar in the flowers, the latter “takes a bath of pollen” – these small seeds allowing plants to reproduce. By taking flight, the insect spreads the pollen on other plants, which guarantees their survival.
The fig wasp – a very useful little animal
The female flower of the fig tree (because we have already mentioned that it is not a fruit strictly speaking) is fertilized by the fig wasp – a singular insect of its own. It is a very small animal of about 1.2 mm which can only pollinate this inverted flower by entering its interior. To do so, the little wasp must contort itself to the point of breaking its wings and antennae, without which it cannot get out, nor survive. So it dies inside and yes, when you eat a fig you also swallow a wasp. Except, don’t expect to find his little corpse inside. Over time, the fig wasp breaks down and turns into protein. Avoid acting out dramatic scenarios in your head. Chew without remorse this succulent flower that would not exist without the sacrifice of the wasp.
How does the wasp enter the fig?
Difference between male and female fig?
However, this sacrifice is not in vain. There exists between the fig and the wasp a small pact of complicity where the interest is mutual. In reality, it is inside the male figs that the female wasp comes to lay her eggs. If then the plant needs the insect to reproduce, the reverse is also true. Since the wasp will not be able to come out again, however, it will die again, leaving a generation with a very important and particular role. Even before the small female wasps have grown very large to emerge from the male fig, they will leave it to go pollinate a female fig or to go and lay eggs in a male fig. The little miracles of Mother Nature!
Fig and wasp – a natural complicity