carica L. Common Fig. FICUS. N. F. FIG
FICUS. N. F. FIG
The genus Ficus yields a number of economic products. Many species possess a milky juice containing caoutchouc (see Elastica); some possess anthelmintie properties, as F. anthelmintica Mart.; some yield shellac (see Lac); and some are esteemed for their fruits, as F. Carica L., F. religiosa L., etc.
Ficus Carica, or fig tree, though often not more than twelve feet high, sometimes rises in warm climates twenty-five or even thirty feet. Its trunk, which seldom exceeds seven inches in diameter, is divided into numerous spreading branches, covered with a brown or ash-colored bark. Its large, palmate leaves, usually divided into five obtuse lobes, are deep green and shining above, pale green and downy beneath, and stand alternately on strong, round petioles. The flowers are situated within a common receptacle, placed upon a short peduncle in the axils of the upper leaves. This receptacle, the walls of which become thick and fleshy, constitutes what is commonly called the fruit; though this term is, strictly speaking, applicable to the small seed-like bodies found in great numbers on the internal surface of the receptacle, to which they are attached by fleshy pedicles.
Cultivation has produced in the fig, as in the apple and peach, a great diversity in shape, size, color, and taste. It is usually, however, turbinate, or top-shaped, umbilicate at the large extremity, of the size of a small pear, of a whitish, yellowish, or reddish color, and of a mild, mucilaginous, saccharine taste. The dried figs can be partially restored to their original shape by soaking. The fig tree is native to Western Asia. It was introduced at a very early period into various parts of the south of Europe, and is now very common throughout the whole basin of the Mediterranean, particularly in Italy and France. Large numbers of Syrian fig cuttings were planted in the Pomona Valley, California, in 1882, and California figs are now commercial articles. Many varieties of figs are now being cultivated throughout the coastal plain from Texas to the Carolinas chiefly for home consumption, canning and preserving.
For details of fig culture see Bull. 732 U. S. Dept. Agric., 1918. To hasten the ripening of the fruit, it is customary to puncture it with a sharp pointed instrument covered with olive oil. Caprification consists in attaching branches of the wild fig tree � or capriflg � to the cultivated plant. The fruit of the former contains great numbers of the eggs of a small wasp, Blastophaga glossorum, the larvas of which, as soon as they are hatched, spread themselves over the unripened receptacle of the cultivated fig, enter its hollowed interior through a narrow terminal aperture, and, by conveying the pollen to the inclosed female florets, hasten the impregnation of the latter, and cause to quickly come to perfection the fig which might otherwise ripen very slowly, or wither and drop off before maturity.
The chief commercial sources of the figs used in this country are Smyrna and California, They are gathered when fully ripe and dried in the sun or in ovens. Smyrna figs are imported in boxes or drums containing from � to 20 kilos, in which they are carefully packed, and also, in string clusters packed in sacks. The individual figs are more or less compressed, and are usually covered in cold weather with a whitish saccharine efflorescence, which softens in the middle of summer and renders them moist. The best or Suzini grade are yellowish or brownish, somewhat translucent when held to the light, and filled with a sweet viscid pulp, in which are lodged numerous small yellow achenes. They are much more saccharine than is the fresh fruit. Their chief constituents are grape sugar, and gum or mucilage.
Description and Physical Properties. � " Whole Fig.� Usually compressed, of irregularly rounded shape, from 2.5 to 5 cm. in diameter, fleshy, light brown to yellow, frequently with an efflorescence of sugar; apex with a small, scaly orifice; base with a sear or short stalk; internally hollow, with numerous small, brownish yellow, glossy, hard achenes. Odor distinctive, fruity; taste sweet, pleasant.
Structure. � Epidermal cells of receptacle thick-walled up to 0.020 mm. in diameter, some being modified into tapering, unicellular epidermal hairs with a rounded base up to 0.060 mm. in diameter and 0.300 mm. in length, others modified into broadly elliptical stomata up to 0.035 mm. in length; hypodermis consisting of several layers of small cells with thick walls frequently containing rosettes of calcium oxalate, the latter up to 0.020 mm. in diameter; remaining tissue of receptacle chiefly of large parenchyma cells containing sugar, branching latex cells and tracheae having spiral or reticulate markings. Achenes yellowish; broadly rounded at one end and rounded or straight pointed at the other, up to 1.550 mm in length and 1.400 mm, in width; pericarp characterized by outer layer of thin-walled cells and an inner layer of stone cells, the latter rounded or angular; seed-coat thin, yellowish; endosperm composed of thick-walled cells containing fixed oil, aleurone grains and few starch grains; embryo curved." N. F.
An average of several analyses of dried figs as quoted by K�nigs (Nahrungs und Genussmit-tel, 3te Aufl., Bd. i, 781) gives � water, 31.20; nitrogenous material, 4.01; sugar, 49.79; ash, 2.86. Reckoned on the weight of absolutely dry material, the nitrogenous matter amounted to 5.75 per cent, and the sugar to 72.26 per cent. According to Landerer, the unripe fig contains an irritant juice, which inflames the skin, and may even disorganize it. (See A. J. P., xxxiii, 215.) They are officially described as
Uses. � Figs are nutritious, laxative, and demulcent. In the fresh state they are considered, in the countries where they grow, a wholesome and agreeable aliment, and have been employed from time immemorial. They are prone, however, when eaten freely, to produce flatulence, pain in the bowels, and diarrhea. The latex of the fig has, been used as an anthelmintic against intestinal parasites. Their chief medicinal use is as a laxative article of diet in constipation. They occasionally enter into demulcent decoctions, and, roasted or boiled, and split open, are sometimes applied as a cataplasm to inflamed gums.
Off. Prep. � Confectio Sennae, N. F.; Syrupus Ficorum Compositus, N. F. (q.v.)
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