The Mallorcan Fig (Ficus carica)
The so-called Common Fig tree (Ficus carica) is a temperate species from the Middle East. The tree is called Higuera in Spanish, or Figuera in Catalan. The fig fruit is commonly thought of as fruit, but it is properly the flower of the fig tree. It is in fact a false fruit or multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds grow together to form a single mass.
The Ficus carica is cultivated for its fruit. The fig season is starting now, at the end of summer, and figs are sold either fresh off the tree, or else, dried. The ripe fresh fig is full of heavenly sumptuous flavours.
The beauty of the Mallorcan fig fruit is found in its variety. There are white figs, green figs, red figs, blue figs, violet figs and black figs, plus dozens of in-between varieties. There are Hivernenca, Verdal, Martinenca, Coll de Dama Blanca, Coll de Dama Negra, Paratjal, Aubacó, Roja, La Reina, Galantiba, Bordissot Blanca, Cucurella, Morisca and Llimonenca varieties out of a total of some 175 different fig specimens. It is said that there are even too many fig varieties in Mallorca to be classified by European norms. The queen of all figs is aptly called La Senyora, which to my knowledge will not ripen until the end of September.
As early as 2900 B. C., in early Sumerian times, the medicinal use of figs was being stressed. Now as before, the fig offers a power-house of nutrition; a combination of fiber, minerals, and nutrients that are unequaled in nature. The figs are used in traditional medicine; they contain laxative substances, flavonoids, sugars, vitamins A and C, acids and enzymes. Fresh and dried figs have long been appreciated for their laxative action. Figs are skin allergens, and the sap is a serious eye irritant.
In Latin America, figs are much employed as folk remedies. A decoction of the fruits is gargled to relieve sore throat; figs boiled in milk are repeatedly packed against swollen gums; the fruits are much used as poultices on tumors and other abnormal growths. The leaf decoction is taken as a remedy for diabetes and calcifications in the kidneys and liver.
The fig tree is an all-important part of the traditional Mallorcan finca. The fig is a truly unique fruit.