It was a Friday evening. Years ago in Palmerston North, New Zealand. On my way back to the address I was boarding I bought myself a bag (serious size) of dried figs to help me through the weekend while swatting for exams coming up the next week. As soon as I got through the door the bag was open and in spite of exercising all the will power I could muster it lasted all but an hour and a half. FINITO!
Tried it again a few years later in Opotiki. Faced with a weekend by myself I got hold of another serious sized bag with dried figs. Took one…another….then another and then I remembered what happened to the first bag. Soooo… I put the bag in a cupboard in another room, safe…I thought…not for long …….before I found the bag.
Some figs later I placed it behind a stack of plates so that I would have to go down on my knees in an awkward position in order to get to that bag. That I did and lo, surprise, I found those figs again. Anyway it figures that in spite of all my heroic efforts those figs did not make it long enough to see the end of the early evening news that Friday.
I just LUUUUVE figs. Dried, fresh, in brandy, with vanilla ice-cream, whatever.
Now we live in the South of France with four very good producing fig trees on the property. It wasn’t long before Cassy, our Labrador, parked himself under the fig tree. He took care of anything up to about one meter twenty. The birds took care of anything we couldn’t reach and we had what was left. Some years we are plagued by flights of starlings, not murmurations for sure, who in no time go through the crop like a dose of salts.
With fig smeared around my mouth and dirty fig fingers I decided to plant a few more. We have now some late fruiting varieties as well. It all equates to fig heaven.
Apart from some interesting facts like; its name “Ficus carica” (the plant itself is totally unaware of its name. No one ever told it by what name it grew in this world of ours), it is curious fruit, a “syconium”, like a sack with a tiny hole at the end through which tiny, tiny wasps, called “fig wasps” crawl inside. Those are the females of the species. The males come to life within this syconium and seek out the females and fertilise them. In doing so, the tiny flowers inside this sack get fertilised as well. The female somehow gets out again leaving a dead male behind. Thus the male never gets to see daylight at all as it comes to life within the syconium and than dies after producing offspring. His body becomes part of the mush after a bit of hydrolysis. Those wasps are so small that they can literally crawl through an eye of a needle. They live in perfect symbiosis with this amazing plant.
If you want to satisfy your curiosity there are many articles on the net covering a lot more information and history surrounding this plant and it’s all really very interesting.
I spent some time in the sun making a drawing of a nice looking branch. From the sketch I chose the part I wanted to make a print of.
All images photos and print are strictly copyright © to A.C.W.ten Broek
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