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(Ficus carica)

Other Names: Angir, Figue, Figo, Fico, Higo, Fikon, Vijg

The fig tree is 3 9 m high, with numerous spreading branches and a trunk rarely more than 17 cm in diameter. It contains copious milky latex. The root system is typically shallow and spreading, sometimes covering 15 m of ground, but in permeable soil some of the roots may descend to 6 m. The deciduous leaves are palmate, deeply divided into 3 to 7 main lobes. The blade is up to 25 cm in length and width, fairly thick, rough on the upper surface, softly hairy on the underside. It may be ovoid, turbinate, or pear-shaped 2.5-10 cm long, and varies in colour from yellowish-green to coppery, bronze, or dark-purple. Tiny flowers are massed on the inside wall. In the case of the common fig, the flowers are all female and need no pollination. The skin of the fig is thin and tender, the fleshy wall is whitish, pale-yellow, or amber, or more or less pink, rose, red or purple; juicy and sweet when ripe, gummy with latex when unripe. Seeds may range in number from 30 to 1,600 per fruit.

Fig are eaten mainly out of hand by first peeling the sken back from the stem end. Peeled or unpeeled, the fruits may be merely stewed or cooked in various ways, as in pies, puddings, cakes, bread or other bakery products. The fruits are sometimes candied whole or canned commercially.

The latex is widely applied on warts, skin ulcers and sores, and taken as a purgative and vermifuge, but with considerable risk. 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. Fresh and dried figs have long been appreciated for their laxative action.

In tropical areas generally, figs thrive between altitude 800-1,800 m. The tree can tolerate 10 to 20 of frost in favourable sites. It should have a dry climate with light early spring rains if it is intended for the production of fresh fruit. Rains during fruit development and ripening are detrimental to the crop, causing the fruits to split. The semi arid tropical and subtropical regions of the world are ideal for fig-growing if means of irrigation are available. But very hot, dry spells will cause fruit-drop even if the trees are irrigated.

The fig can be grown on a wide range of soils; light sand, rich loam, heavy clay or limestone, providing there is sufficient depth and food drainage. Sandy soil that is medium-dry and contains a good deal of lime is preferred when the crop is intended for drying. Highly acid soils are unsuitable. The pH should be between 6.0 and 6.5. The tree is fairly tolerant of moderate salinity.

Fig trees have been raised from seed, even seed extracted from commercial dried fruits. Ground- or air-layering can be done satisfactorily, and rapid mass multiplication by tissue culture has been achieved in Greece, but the tree is commonly propagated by cuttings of mature wood 2 to 3 years of age, 1 - 2 cm thick and 20 - 30 cm long. Planting must be done within 24 hours but, first, the upper, slanting end of the cutting should be treated with a sealant to protect it from disease, and the lower, flat, end with a root-promoting hormone.

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