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If you are squeamish and like figs, this may comfort you.

According to a comment in the original post, majority of commercial ones do not contain insects:

"Only some kinds of figs (so called 'Smyrna' types) are pollenated by wasps. The vast majority of figs eaten come from varieties that produce fruit parthenocarpically. It is highly unlikely that the fig you ate at the supermarket was of a variety pollenated by wasps: most north american commercial figs are not."


I chose to believe this explanation :)

More on parthenocarpy, a word I did not know existed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parthenocarpy

Essentially a mutation that gets trees to produce useless fruits that don't have actually developed seeds and don't need pollination. While that sort of mutation would normally be selected against, since the trees can't reproduce via seeds and are expending energy on producing fruit for no reason, it's deliberately selected for by farmers who artificially reproduce the trees via planting cuttings, or grafting them onto rootstock.

(Though I guess really the "naturally" versus "artificially" distinction is a bit, erm, artificial, if you just think of humans as another species, since lots of natural selection is influenced by relationships between species, like the wasp-fig relationship in this article. So trees evolving to please humans isn't really different in kind from trees evolving to work well with wasps.)

> (...) the "naturally" versus "artificially" distinction is a bit, erm, artificial, if you just think of humans as another species (...)

"Aritificial" means "man-made", and is a (man-made/artificial) word invented to describe things that are done by humans, not other animals. By definition, everything a farmer makes is artificial.

Well, yes, I meant more the philosophical assumption that there's a difference between "natural" and shall we say "unnatural" things, rather than viewing humans as just another part of nature. If "artificial" is just a shorthand for "the part of nature strongly influenced by Homo sapiens", then that's fine with me.

One of the more interesting consequences of this line of thought (of course depending on definitions of the words at hand) is that you can make a reasonable statement that man is utterly incapable of doing anything unnatural - since by definition, since man is a part of nature, everything man does is also what nature does.

Personally, I find this set of words (artificial, unnatural, etc) to have way, way too much baggage, so I prefer to just define them as nonsensical (i.e. it's impossible to do anything unnatural) rather than assume that they are useful tools for communication like other words (since most people will have varying definitions of what is unnatural, which aren't rationally guessable).

Holding this line of thought also allows to instantly come across as an annoying smart-arse in parties (and online too, I suppose).

Most of the commercial figs grown in California are wasp pollinated. If a fig is crunchy, it contains seeds, and if it contains seeds, the flowers inside it were likely pollinated by at least one wasp.

Here is a great article with more details :)


Luckily the wasps are not the wasps most people think of, from the article: "The tiny wasps are only two millimeters long."

They are correct. Most of the figs, at least the fresh ones you would buy in the US, are parthenocarpic. Dried figs, or what might be in a fig newton, well... you're on your own on that one.

There is an amazing amount of wildlife in a wasp pollinated fig. If you break one open, all sorts of interesting stuff crawls out, not just immature wasps, but also a lot of organisms that prey on the wasps.

Dried figs, or what might be in a fig newton, well... you're on your own on that one.

err, that's what I was most interested in... I've eaten an entire pack of fig newtons in one sitting.

The fig filling in fig newtons is crunch because it contains seeds. ;)

I always used to wonder why they would make the filling contain the hard crunchy part, which I really didn't like.

"I've eaten an entire biological micro-ecosystem in one sitting."


Glad I don't like fig newtons. :)

You are a biological micro-ecosystem. So eating one shouldn't really squick you out.

"I've eaten an entire biological micro-ecosystem in one sitting."

Tastes like ... victory.

Just don't ever look at the germs in your mouth or the rest of your digestive system.

Cookies are a weakness of mine. It will be interesting to see if this puts me off of fig newtons... probably not. :)

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