Figs are one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. Remains of fig plants have been found in Neolithic excavations and are discussed in vivid detail on Egyptian papyri.
Some say Buddha gained enlightenment under a Wild Fig (Ficus religiosa) or “Bo” tree. Greeks narcissistically claim figs as a direct gift from the godess Demeter, and the later Romans, under the exhortations of Emperor Cato, were urged to conquer all of Africa in order to maintain an unbroken supply of figs.
Medieval scientists saw the fig tree was a sort of natural meat-tenderizer. Both Plutarch and Ariosto attest that sacrificed roosters hung upon a fig tree “will presently grow tender and fitter for the table”. The idea was that somehow the fig tree sent forth a hot and sharp vapor, that was “digesting”, and which “dries and concocts the flesh” .
The Spanish held figs in such high regard they brought fig plants with them to the New World where missionary fathers planted them up and down the California coast from San Diego to Sonoma during the eighteenth century.
Oh, and here’s a little fig tip. To add an intriguing flavor, try wrapping a few fresh fig leaves around a piece of salmon before grilling, or tossing a few fig branches onto the barbecue coals beneath a leg of lamb.