Ficus carica. Fig.
Nat. Ord. — Urticaceae ; Moraceae, Lindley. Sex. Syst. — Polygamia Dioecia.
The Dried Fruit.
Description. — The fig-tree is usually about ten or twelve feet in hight, but in warm climates rises to twenty-five and even thirty feet. Its trunk seldom exceeds seven inches in diameter, and is divided into numerous round spreading branches, covered with a coarse short down, and a brown or ash-colored bark. The leaves are large, palmate, three to five-lobed, or almost entire, lobes obtuse, coarsely serrated, deep green, shining, and rough upon their upper surface, pale green and coarsely downy beneath, and stand alternately on strong round petioles. The flowers are green, and situated within a turbinate, fleshy, closed receptacle, which is placed solitarily upon a short peduncle in the axils of the upper leaves. Male flowers, calyx three-parted ; female flowers, calyx five-parted. Stamens three; pistil one, lateral. The receptacle forms what is called the fruit, it is more or less pear-shaped, or almost round, succulent, sweet and pleasant to the taste. The numerous seeds which are attached to the internal surface of the receptacle, by fleshy pedicels, constitute more properly, the fruit.
History. — The fig-tree is supposed to have come originally from the Levant, but is now cultivated in all temperate climates. The structure of its fruit is peculiar ; at first it is nothing more than a fleshy receptacle ; but, as it advances to maturity, minute flowers form in a cavity, which occupies the center of the mass and communicates outwardly by a small round aperture at the summit, and these flowers are succeeded by many small roundish seeds. While young, the fig abounds, like the trunk and branches, with a milky, aromatic, acrid juice, destitute of sweetness ; but as it matures, sugar and mucilage are formed, and the acridity disappears. It is usually top-shaped, umbilicate at the large extremity, about the size of a small pear, of a whitish, yellowish, or reddish color, and when ripe, is sweet, high-flavored, and wholesome ; but if eaten to excess, occasions flatulence, pain in the bowels and diarrhea. When perfectly ripe, it is dried by the heat of the sun, or in ovens. Those figs which are brought to the United States, come chiefly from Smyrna, packed in drums or boxes. They are more or less compressed, and, in cold weather, are usually covered with a whitish, saccharine efflorescence, which melts in the middle of summer, and renders them moist. The best 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 seeds. Their chief constituents are sugar and mucilage.
Properties and Uses. — Nutritious, laxative, and demulcent. Used in some cases of constipation, as a laxative article of diet. Occasionally they enter into demulcent decoctions ; and when roasted or boiled and split open, may be applied as a suppurative cataplasm to boils, buboes, carbuncles, and to parts upon which an ordinary poultice can not be conveniently retained.