Did you know that figs are not a fruit? They are a flower with dead insects inside

Figs have a very curious history. In the first place you should know that technically they are not a fruit but an infructescence (a set of fruits) . And second, they need a sacrificed wasp to reproduce, an insect that dies inside the fig. Yes, what you eat is likely to contain wasp carcasses.

In simple words figs are a kind of inverted flowers that bloom within that large dark pod with reddish tones we know as fig. Each flower produces a single hard-shelled fruit and a single seed called “achene.” The fig is formed by multiple achenes, which are what give it that characteristic crispy texture. Therefore, when we eat a fig, we are eating hundreds of eggs.

But what is most surprising is the special pollination process that figs need to reproduce. They can not depend on the wind or the bees to get them the pollen as other fruits so they need a species known as the wasps of the figs . These insects transport their genetic material and allow their reproduction. On the other hand, the wasps could not live without the figs, because they deposit their larvae inside the fruit . This relationship is known as symbiosis or mutualism.

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This is how the process works:

The female wasp gets into the male fig, quiet this is not eaten, to lay eggs. The male fig has a special shape to house the eggs of the wasp inside. The incredible thing is that while the fig is introduced, the wasp usually loses its wings and antennae so it has no way of leaving and will die in this fruity coffin . That’s why then it’s the kids’ turn to continue the cycle. The male wasp hatchlings are born without wings because their only function is to procreate with the female wasp pups, technically with their sisters, and tunnel out of the fig. Finally, the female offspring leave the fig taking the pollen with them to continue with this cycle in a new fig tree.

If a wasp accidentally enters a female fig, like the ones we eat, instead of a male fig, it has no space to reproduce inside and since it can not come out, it will die inside. A tragic but necessary consequence, because in this way the pollen is transported.

But before you decide to stop eating figs you should know that the bodies of the wasps are broken down inside the fig thanks to the work of a fruit enzyme called ficin that transforms the insect into protein.

And if it serves as a consolation you should also know that today the vast majority of the producers of this fruit no longer need the sacrificial work of the wasps. The majority of fig varieties for human consumption are parthenogenetic. This means that they always bear fruit in the absence of a pollinator

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Source: nuevamentes, mothernatureworks

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