Is eating a fig like eating a dead wasp?

Verified on 05/08/2022 by PasseportSanté
Manger une figue, c'est manger une guêpe morte ?

Do you know the story of the fig tree? Depending on its variety, it may need a wasp… which it will eventually kill.

The fig is a special fruit

As uninstinctive as it may sound, the fig is not a real fruit, but an inverted flower. It blooms inside a pear-shaped pouch, and some varieties require pollination.

While the domestic fig tree, the most widely cultivated in France, is propagated by cuttings, we’re talking here about natural fig trees. It’s with the latter that the main character of our story enters the scene: the fig wasp or blastophagus, present in the Mediterranean region.

The latter, smaller than the wasp we all know, is inseparable from the natural fig tree, as it is she who enables its flower to receive pollen, and thus become the fruit we know.

Female and male figs

However, we don’t eat all figs. Only female figs are edible for humans. There are several stages in the pollination of natural fig trees, as described in detail by Patrick Mioulane, journalist and author specializing in gardens, and Roland Motte, passionate gardener, in a video posted on their YouTube channel.

Firstly, when she enters the flower in spring, the fig wasp breaks her antennae and wings, leaving her trapped. She then lays her eggs, and it’s her daughters who emerge alive, fertilized by the new males.

Then, this new generation of blastophages sets off to conquer new figs. Unfortunately for them, the season has changed and the summer figs, now different, no longer allow them to lay their eggs.

They try to lay eggs but can’t, and having rubbed against the previous flower to extricate themselves, they have in fact caught pollen. They then pass it on to the new figs, which also trap them, and in which there are no eggs. These are the ones we eat.

So we’re eating a dead wasp?

No, don’t panic, the fig completely dissolves the insect thanks to an enzyme, which transforms it into protein. What’s more, this phenomenon only affects wild figs.

So we don’t actually ingest any wasps, but this phenomenon is enough for some vegans to decide to stop eating them.