Native to the Middle East, The Fig Has Endless Varieties (PHOTOS)

fichi figs endless varieties speciesThe fig: over 750 varieties and native to the Middle East

The strong grey trunk, the wide velvety leaves, the sticky itchy white milk resin that leaks from the cracked leaves, its round crimson fruits with their bellies filled with honeyed goodness. In my opinion, nothing beats a fig tree.

The fig (which tastes great baked) is strictly native to the Middle East, specifically Syria and Anatolia. From there, the fig has been transported to North Africa, Spain and Italy, South America, Mesopotamia, Iran, India and most recently in California. The worldliness of the fig tree aided by the master of it all, the special pollinating fig wasp the Blastophaga psenes, have resulted in over 750 varieties, each with its own particular genetic print. Like a person, each fig has a different character: a taste, shape and color.

The names of many of the Middle Eastern fig varieties take root from descriptive words, for example the variety named Byadi originates from the Arabic word Abyad for white, and it can be found in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

In Italy, fig varieties are named after their place of origin like “Dei greci”, of the Greeks, or “Della Monaca”, of the nuns, alternatively they are named after the period in which they ripen such as the “Natalina”, Christmas period or “Tardiva”, the late comers.

Here is a sample of fig varieties from the Middle East:

lebanese fig
Lebanese red: Lebanese varieties found along the coast.

barada Honey flavored from the historic Christian village of Sidnaya
Barada: Honey flavored from the historic Christian village of Sidnaya outside of Damascus

byadi Mishtayeh in Syria
Byadi: From the village of Mishtayeh in Syria.

shtawi fig
Shtawi: Shtawi comes from the word Shitaa’ in Arabic which means winter. It ripens very late, usually in November into Christmas and it is a variety grown in Koura, Lebanon.

sumackie fig syria
Sumaki: Originally from Syria, it’s one of the finest tasting figs. It’s named after the Sumac spice.

syrian persian white fig
Persian white: Originally from Northern Iran.

rimaley open fig syria
Rimaley: Collected from Mishtayeh, Syria. Its a long fig with red interior.

Oh and by the way, the fig is not a fruit but a  flower “grown inwards”. To be precise, the fig is the infructescence or scion of the tree, in which the flowers and seeds are borne inside.  Here is how you can enjoy your infructescence 5 different ways.

Images of fig varieties via Trees of Joy

About Linda Pappagallo

Linda's love for nature started when at the age of eight she discovered, with her dog, a magical river in the valley of a mountainous region in Lebanon. For four years Linda and her dog explored along the river, until one day she saw construction scrapers pushing rock boulders down the valley to make way for new construction sites. The rubble came crashing into the river destroying her little paradise, and her pathetic reaction was to shout at the mechanic monsters. Of course that was not enough to stop the destructive processes.As she continued to observe severe environmental degradation across the different places she lived in the Middle East and Africa, these terrible images remained impressed in her mind.However, environmental issues where not her first love. Her initial academic and career choices veered towards sustainable economic development, with particular interest in savings led microfinance schemes.Nevertheless, through experience, she soon realized a seemingly obvious but undervalued concept. While humans can somewhat defend themselves from the greed of other humans, nature cannot. Also nature, the environment, is the main “system” that humans depend on, not economics.These conclusions changed her path and she is now studying a Masters in International Affairs with a concentration in Energy and the Environment in New York. Her interests lie on ecosystems management: that is how to preserve the integrity of an Ecosystem while allowing for sustainable economic development, in particular in the Middle East and Africa.

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