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 while Greeks narcissistically claim figs as a direct gift from the godess Demeter. The Romans, under the exhortations of Emperor Cato, were inspired to conquer Africa in large part to maintain their unbroken supply of figs.
Medieval scientists once imagined the fig tree as 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 somehow “digesting“, and which “dries and concocts the flesh“.
The Spanish have long held figs in such high regard that they brought fig plants with them to conquor the New World. There missionary fathers planted them copiously up and down the California coast from San Diego to Sonoma during the eighteenth century.
Oh, and here’s a little figgy tip. To add an intriguing flavor to grilled fish, try wrapping a few fresh fig leaves around a piece of salmon before grilling, or perhaps tossing a few fig branches onto the barbecue coals glowing beneath a leg of lamb.