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The fig, the only one among all the pomes, hastens to maturity by the aid of a remarkable provision of Nature. (19.) The wild-fig,1 known by the name of "caprificus," never ripens itself, though it is able to impart to the others the principle of which it is thus destitute; for we occasionally find Nature making a transfer of what are primary causes, and being generated from decay. To effect this purpose the wild fig-tree produces a kind of gnat.2 These insects, deprived of all sustenance from their parent tree, at the moment that it is hastening to rottenness and decay, wing their flight to others of kindred though cultivated kind. There feeding with avidity upon the fig, they penetrate it in numerous places, and by thus making their way to the inside, open the pores of the fruit.3 The moment they effect their entrance, the heat of the sun finds admission too, and through the inlets thus made the fecundating air is introduced. These insects speedily consume the milky juice that constitutes the chief support of the fruit in its infant4 state, a result which would otherwise be spontaneously effected by absorption: and hence it is that in the plantations of figs a wild fig is usually allowed to grow, being placed to the windward of the other trees in order that the breezes may bear from it upon them. Improving upon this discovery, branches of the wild fig are sometimes brought from a distance, and bundles tied together are placed upon the cultivated tree. This method, however, is not necessary when the trees are growing on a thin soil, or on a site exposed to the north-east wind; for in these cases the figs will dry spontaneously, and the clefts which are made in the fruit effect the same ripening process which in other instances is brought about by the agency of these insects. Nor is it requisite to adopt this plan on spots which are liable to dust, such, for instance, as is generally the case with fig-trees planted by the side of much-frequented roads: the dust having the property of drying up5 the juices of the fig, and so absorbing the milky humours. There is this superiority, however, in an ad. vantageous site over the methods of ripening by the agency of dust or by caprification, that the fruit is not so apt to fall; for the secretion of the juices being thus prevented, the fig is not so heavy as it would otherwise be, and the branches are less brittle.

All figs are soft to the touch, and when ripe contain grains6 in the interior. The juice, when the fruit is ripening, has the taste of milk, and when dead ripe, that of honey. If left on the tree they will grow old; and when in that state, they distil a liquid that flows in tears7 like gum. Those that are more highly esteemed are kept for drying, and the most approved kinds are put away for keeping in baskets.8 The figs of the island of Ebusus9 are the best as well as the largest, and next to them are those of Marrucinum.10 Where figs are in great abundance, as in Asia, for instance, huge jars11 are filled with them, and at Ruspina, a city of Africa, we find casks12 used for a similar purpose: here, in a dry state, they are extensively used instead of bread,13 and indeed as a general article of provision.14 Cato,15 when laying down certain definite regulations for the support of labourers employed in agriculture, recommends that their supply of food should be lessened just at the time16 when the fig is ripening: it has been a plan adopted in more recent times, to find a substitute for salt with cheese, by eating fresh figs. To this class of fruit belong, as we have already mentioned,17 the cottana and the carica, together with the cavnea,18 which was productive of so bad an omen to M. Crassus at the moment when he was embarking19 for his expedition against the Parthians, a dealer happening to be crying them just at that very moment. L. Vitellius, who was more recently appointed to the censorship,20 introduced all these varieties from Syria at his country- seat at Alba,21 having acted as legatus in that province in the latter years of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar.

1 The Ficus Carica of Linnæus. It does bear fruit, though small, and disagreeable to the taste.

2 This insect is one of the Hymenoptera; the Cynips Psenes of Linnæus and Fabricius. There is another insect of the same genus, but not so well known.

3 Fée observes that the caprification accelerates the ripeness of the fruit, but at the expense of the favour. For the same purpose the upper part of the fig is often pricked with a pointed quill.

4 "Infantiam pomi"—literally, "the infancy of the fruit."

5 Fée denies the truth of this assertion.

6 Frumenta.

7 A mixture of the sugar of the fruit with the milky juice of the tree, which is a species of caoutchouc.

8 Capsis.

9 See B. iii. c. 11. The Balearic Isles still produce great quantities of excellent dried figs.

10 See B. iii. c. 17.

11 Orcæ.

12 Cadi.

13 Ground, perhaps, into a kind of flour.

14 Opsonii vicem. "Opsonium" was anything eaten with bread, such as vegetables, meat, and fish, for instance.

15 De Re Rust. c. 56.

16 Because they would be sure, under any circumstances, to eat plenty, them.

17 See B. xiii. c. 10.

18 These were so called from Caunus, a city of Caria, famous for its dried figs. Pronounced "Cavneas," it would sound to the superstitious, "Cave ne eas," "Take care that you go not."

19 At Brundisium.

20 A.U.C. 801.

21 Alba Longa. See B. iii. c. 9.

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