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The history and biology of the fig: the fig, mankind, wasps... and me

There are endless questions, gardening questions and also ... let's say: other questions concerning the fig. Why does the fig I brought back from my holiday not produce fruit? Where and how does the fig flower? Does the fig need a pollinator? What are common figs?

And then there are, as I said, other, so to speak concealed fig questions. What you always wanted to know, but never dared to ask...And the one question I didn’t know that I wanted to know?

- Is the fig a carnivorous plant and unsuitable for vegans?

Why does the fig also arouse many sexual associations, of which the fig-leaf (or that which it conceals) is only a first beginning?

- How does sex work with figs? What role does the fig wasp exactly play?

Could it have been a fig that led Eva into temptation?

All this left me no rest, and so I went on a fig journey this past winter. That fits well: outside it was cold, and indoors it got warm when I thought about figs. My (unfortunately, only virtual) journey into the history of figs begins at the very beginning, on the Arabian Peninsula, probably in Yemen and it leads quite far to America. If – as with the fig – a plant, an animal and mankind meet together and if sugar and desire play a role, then it is almost always quite exciting. The borders are blurred.

- Does the wasp use the fig to secure its own survival? Man cultivates the fig in order to secure the sought-after fruits, the sugar, and probably also the material from which the dreams are made, the alcohol. Or maybe it works exactly the opposite way: the plant manipulates us all, animals and mankind. It draws us into its spell, leads us into temptation and makes us its slaves.

Now you are probably thinking this: what has Markus just drunk? Yes, it is said that, in some cultures, after eating figs, the massive collection of figs can lead to intoxicated conditions. Could it be that the intensely intellectual task of writing about figs caused a type of perceptual disorder?

Or maybe it is a different perspective that puts things in the right light? There will be more to learn about figs in future newsletter articles and then you will know more about what I have been talking about here…

Markus Kobelt


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