Tuesday, January 26, 2016

All figs fresh or dried are to be considered infested

The story of the fig and its wasp-All fresh & dried figs are infested.
Inside the rounded fruit of a fig tree is a maze of flowers. That is, a fig is not actually a fruit; it is an inflorescence—a cluster of many flowers and seeds contained inside a bulbous stem. Because of this unusual arrangement, the seeds—technically the ovaries of the fig—require a specialized pollinator that is adapted to navigate within these confined quarters. Here begins the story of the relationship between figs and fig wasps.
The queen of the fig wasp is almost the perfect size for the job—except, despite her tiny body, she often times will lose her wings and antennae as she enters through a tight opening in the fig. “The only link the fig cavity has to the outside world is through a tiny bract-lined opening at the apex of the fig, called the ostiole, and it is by means of this passage that the pollinating fig wasp gains access to the florets,” as described in Figweb, a site by Iziko Museums of Cape Town.
Once inside, the queen travels within the chamber, depositing her eggs and simultaneously shedding the pollen she carried with her from another fig. This last task, while not the queen’s primary goal, is an important one: She is fertilizing the fig’s ovaries. After the queen has laid her eggs, she dies and is digested by the fig, providing nourishment. Once the queen’s eggs hatch, male and female wasps assume very different roles. They first mate with each other (yes, brothers and sisters), and then the females collect pollen—in some species, actively gathering it in a specialized pouch and in others, accumulating it inadvertently—while the wingless males begin carving a path to the fig’s exterior. This activity is not for their own escape but rather to create an opening for the females to exit. The females will pollinate another fig as queens. The males will spend their entire lifecycle within a single fruit.
While this tree-wasp relationship may not be common knowledge to all fig-eaters, it is well-known to biologists as one of the most solid examples of coevolution.

After learning the story of the fig and its wasp, the most common question is, “Do we eat wasps when we eat figs?” The short answer is that it depends—that is, some figs are parthenocarpic, meaning they are seedless. According to a 2006 Science study, these domesticated sterile figs could be evidence of the first use of horticulture in human history. 

However, several commercially cultivated fig trees may be a female parthenocarpic variety of the ancient common fig (Ficus carica) and does not need pollination to produce fruit.

On the other hand, those species of fig trees that rely on wasps for pollination will likely contain bits of wasps in the fruit. In general, frugivores, like monkeys, birds and humans, are most attracted to the fruit once it ripens; at this stage, the wasps have already mated and escaped to find another fig. However, the wingless male wasps stay behind and die once they have mated and completed their tunneling duty. Therefore, animals, including humans, who eat figs that have not been commercially cultivated likely consume dead wasps.
Each species of Ficus has a corresponding specialized species of wasp that fertilizes it. Wasps that actively collect pollen in pouches have a responsibility to uphold in the mutualistic relationship. That is, scientists have found that there are consequences for the queen if she does not uphold her part in the relationship. “[I]n passively pollinated pairings, the tree almost never aborted its fruit, and the wasp always carried pollen,” according to a Cornell University press release of a recentstudy. “However…in actively pollinated pairings, where the wasp needs to expend energy to collect pollen, the tree dumped the fruit and killed the offspring when the wasps did not carry pollen.” In other words, if the pouched wasps did not deliver the pollen they are adapted to carry, the fig tree dropped those fruits—essentially killing the wasp eggs inside. If the fig did not get pollinated, the queen did not get the protection for her eggs inside the ripening fruit.

While wasps are required to pollinate fig trees, seed dispersal is another matter altogether. Birds, monkeys and other animals eat the tree’s figs and then move along to perch on other trees. When the animals defecate, the seeds stay behind in the branches and germinate. The roots of the fig tree grow slowly to the ground, and once they are anchored, the tree rapidly grows in size. The fig tree competes with the host tree for soil nutrients and strangles its canopy.
This particular fig tree was just big enough to allow one person to climb to the top. There, the roots split in a way that allowed the climber to look straight down the ravine. Starting its growth in the canopy of another tree enabled this strangler fig to reach incredible heights.
Thanks to Greg Goldsmith who shared the ecology of Monteverde, Costa Rica.
Photo Credit: 
Rainer Zenz (fig) and Greg Goldsmith (strangler fig)


Anonymous said...

We see in tanach and gemora that our ancestors ate figs. Yudel would not have eaten in any of their houses.

Anonymous said...

Wasps might not have been invading figs back then just like anisakis only recently started invading several fish species that they used to leave alone.

Shach on Shulchan Aruch says there is a mussag of nishtanu hativim.

Anonymous said...

to 9:02

What are your sources? anyone can make a statement concerning fish and figs, but if you want to be believed - state your source. This is not Daas Torah.

Worth Reading said...

Actually, same site says that fresh figs are NOT infested; wasps have already departed.

Anonymous said...

The torah calls the fig a peiri and not a flower

Anonymous said...

Not nogaya. If the wasps never left the fruit to crawl on the ground they are Kosher to eat. Gezaras hakasuv chulin 84