WHETHER THEY’RE IN classic bar form or wrapped in bacon, stuffed with goat cheese and cooked, figs are a healthy and flavorful addition to any diet. But figs have something else going for them that gives them an edge over other foods, a deep and nefarious backstory. Jesus famously cursed the fig tree for being barren before driving the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem, and it withered away the following day — the act was considered to be one of his miracles. And the intrigue doesn’t stop there. Spanish missionaries brought over Smyrna figs from Syria in the late 1700s, and while the trees thrived in California’s Mediterranean climate, they never bore fruit. It actually took farmers more than 100 years to realize the importance of a tiny creature that was responsible for pollinating the trees — the fig wasp. This fig variety requires pollination by a specific female wasp that crawls into the flower through a hole, loses her wings while doing so, and gets trapped inside. What happens next depends on the sex of the flower. If the wasp goes into a male fig she lays her eggs, and they hatch, break through, become wasps and carry pollen along. If she ends up in a female fig she pollinates it but, unable to lay eggs, dies inside alone. Enzymes in the fruit completely dissolve the wasp. Be sure to include figs in your holiday spread and be ready to teach a little biology and history while you’re at it.
Kasia Pawlowska loves words. A native of Poland, Kasia moved to the States when she was seven. The San Francisco State University creative writing graduate went on to write for publications like the San Francisco Bay Guardian and KQED Arts among others prior to joining the Marin Magazine staff. Topics Kasia has covered include travel, trends, mushroom hunting, an award-winning series on social media addiction and loads of other random things. When she’s not busy blogging or researching and writing articles, she’s either at home writing postcards and reading or going to shows. Recently, Kasia has been trying to branch out and diversify, ie: use different emojis. Her quest for the perfect chip is never-ending.