Multiple figs cut in half
If A Fig's Not A Fruit, Then
What Is It?
By Elaina Friedman
When ripe, the inside of a fig appears to contain tons of seeds peppered throughout a network of sweet, juicy flesh bordered by a soft, greenish pith. However, those little things are clusters of tiny flowers, not seeds, which means that a fig is not a fruit but an inflorescence.
The fig wasp is the only pollinator small enough to weave through a fig’s dense interior of inverted flowers, and its entire purpose is to fertilize the bulbous inflorescence. Figs are the only fruit-like flower with their own personal pollinating wasps, but they aren’t the only edible inflorescence.
Mulberries, which are pollinated by wind and resemble elongated blackberries when ripe, are also technically clusters of inverted flowers. Other members of the flower family that you might find at the farmers market include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, artichokes, and capers, which are treated as veggies but are immature flower buds.