Term of the Week: Fig Wasp

I have a friend who refuses to eat figs because she’s heard of fig wasps. And I’ve also heard that some vegans count figs out because of the little pollinators. But I find it fascinating that figs and their wasps have such a symbiotic relationship.

It seems that figs are pollinated by little wasps that climb inside looking for a place to lay their eggs. If it’s a male, or inedible fig, they do just that and little wasplets are the result. If it’s a female, or edible fig, the lady wasps can’t get back out and perish inside, but provide essential pollen to form the fruit. The developing fig dissolves the wasp body, leaving no trace of it for us to eat.

Figs are such an incredibly luscious fruit, with their pink insides and crunchy seeds. I love them black or green, dried or fresh. I recently picked several pints to make the Fig Spread with Black Pepper and Toasted Sesame Seeds from Heidi Swanson’s book Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking. It’s great on toast or a turkey sandwich.

Learn more about the mutualism of figs and fig wasps at Figweb and How Stuff  Works.

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