What we grow - Biodiversity



The common fig (Ficus carica – Moraceae family) is a tree that produces the fruit of the same name. The specific epithet “carica” refers to its origins which are traced back to Caria, a region of Asia Minor. Evidence of its cultivation already exists in the first agricultural civilizations of Palestine and Egypt, from which it subsequently spread throughout the Mediterranean basin. If by definition it is called “Mediterranean fig”, it is considered native and common to the regions of the southern Caucasian areas. After 1492, the fig spread to America and, later, to South Africa, China, Japan and Australia. The term fig, used for the fruit of the fig tree, is used in almost all Italian dialects, while in the south, declined to the feminine, it carries a strong sexual connotation corresponding to the female genital attribute (Literary references based on this parallel are innumerable, starting with Aristotle, around 350 B.C.). It derives from the Syrian (Phoenician) “pequ”, noun for the female sexual attribute (In the sense of passage, slit). So the name of the fruit is attributed by analogy. 


The fig tree is a xerophilous and heliophilous plant, long-lived (It can become centuries-old), even if it is of weak wood and subject to fatal infections, deciduous and broad-leaved trees. It is a tree with a short and branchy trunk that can reach heights of 6-10 meters, with a finely wrinkled gray bark, while the sap is milky white. The branches are rich in pith with sharp terminal buds covered by two green scales, with large, rough, oblong leaves, roughly lobed with 3-5 lobes, dark green on the upper part, paler on the lower part. What is commonly considered the fruit is actually an infructescence (Syconium) of medium size, fleshy, pear-shaped, rich in sugars when ripe, green-reddish-purplish, sunken, inside which the unisexual, very small flowers are enclosed; a small apical opening, called ostiole, allows the entry of the pollinating hymenoptera; the real fruits, which develop inside the inflorescence (Which therefore becomes an infructescence), are numerous small achenes. The pulp surrounding the small achenes is succulent and sweet, and constitutes the edible part. The species has two botanical forms that can be defined as male plants (“Caprifig tree”, an individual that produces pollen with non-edible fruits, also called wild fig tree) and female plants (“Fico vero tree”, which produces edible fruits with the seeds contained inside). People has selected a great variety of edible figs with possible “parthenocarpic” ripening (The binomial Blastophaga-Ficus carica is an obligatory symbiosis: on the one hand the insect survives only in the fruits of the caprifig tree, and on the other true fig tree has no no possibility of producing seeds without the insect), which therefore occurs even if fertilization has not occurred, an important condition, given that it allows fruit to be obtained even where the Blastophaga wasp does not exist (The wasp does not survive in winter temperatures below -9°C). In fact, the fig plant in a warm, dry environment with good lignification of the vegetation in summer can instead easily survive temperatures around -18°C in winter, extending the possibility of cultivation in colder environments (Although some varieties must be obligatorily fertilized), only where the presence of the life cycle of the pollinating insect is perfectly ensured, the agaonid hymenoptera Blastophaga psenes: pregnant females swarm from the “fruit” of the caprifig to lay their eggs in ovaries of other fruits. The action occurs indiscriminately in all fruits (Caprifig and true fig tree), but while in the caprifig the ovaries are on the surface, easily accessible for egg laying, in the true fig tree the inoculation points are inaccessible, while they expose the stigmas on which the wasp ends up depositing pollen on its own body, taken from the stamens near the ostiole of the caprifig tree. The action against the caprifig trees therefore allows only the wasp the perpetuation of its own species, the one against the true fig trees allows only the reproduction (Production of seeds). Outside the “Ficus carica” ​​species, it should be noted that each species of “Ficus” has its own species of insect with which it has formed a similar system of almost obligatory symbiosis, given that the condition that one species of insect fertilizes two species of “Ficus” it is quite rare. In the edible fig, we have three types of “syconia” which annually give distinct fruiting:

  • “Fioroni”, or “fioroni figs”, which are formed from buds of the previous autumn and ripen in late spring or early summer;
  • “Figs” (“Fòrniti” or “pedagnuoli”), which are formed from buds in spring and ripen at the end of the summer of the same year;
  • “Cimaruoli”, produced from top buds in summer and ripen in late autumn, limited to regions with long summer times and particularly hot weather;

Varieties with triple fruiting are very few, substantially irrelevant. For obvious reasons of climate, usually the “fòrniti” have the characteristics of excellent juiciness and sweetness; the “fioroni”, on the other hand, have the advantage of being early ripening. The caprifig tree develops three types of syconia:

  • “Mamme” or “cratiri”, containing only female flowers, they form in autumn and ripen in late spring;
  • “Profichi”, with male and female flowers, they form on the same branch as the “mamme” (“Cratiri”) in spring and ripen in summer;
  • “Mammoni”, with long-styled male and female flowers, they develop in summer and ripen in autumn.

The fruits of the caprifig tree are leathery, not sweet, not succulent and while not toxic, they are practically inedible. Apart from that, most likely if colonized by Blastophaga, they contain its larvae in the galls inside the fruit.


Figs are highly energetic fruits, in fact they provide 47 Kcal/100 grams of product. Water constitutes 82% by weight. The fig has a high carbohydrate content (11%), about 2% fiber, 1% protein and very little fat (0,2%). Figs are a concentrate of mineral salts, in particular potassium, magnesium and iron, but antioxidant vitamins also play an important role. It has emollient and expectorant, mineralizing, bechiche, laxative, caustic properties. The fruit is used not only for fresh consumption, but also for the preparation of jams and pastry. Furthermore, a very widespread traditional practice, especially in the regions of Southern Italy, consists in drying, which represents an excellent technique for preserving food, with all its variants (Inserted within the classic “rows”, or covered chocolate or filled with almonds or other types of nuts, both whole and chopped).


The fig tree is a species typical of the warm environments of the south, in which the temperature is constantly maintained above 15°C. However, the plant is able to withstand even intense winter colds, especially if the wood is well lignified. This condition is obtained by avoiding nitrogen excesses in fertilization, limiting it to the reintegration of the organic substance with natural amendments such as compost or mature manure. The fig tree is also a typical species of coastal environments and resists saline winds very well, it also adapts to different types of soil, as long as they are sufficiently drained, as it does not tolerate water stagnation. Furthermore, being an arid-resistant species, it does not need a lot of irrigation water. However, for small plants, in the first years after planting, it is advisable to provide emergency irrigation, especially during particularly dry summers, while for adult plants it would be ideal that it does not rain in abundance in the two weeks preceding the ripening of the fruits. it is to the advantage of their flavor and quality, as it could cause them to rot.