This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
The fig tree,Ficus Carica,Linne (N.O. Urticaceoe), is a native of Persia and the surrounding countries. Figs have long constituted an important article of food in Eastern countries; they have been found provided as food for the dead in Egypt as early as 2400 years before the Christian era; from Egypt the tree was probably introduced into Greece and thence into southern Europe. It is now cultivated in most temperate and warm climates, and even ripens its fruit in England.
The fruit, which is often cauline, is produced by the abnormal growth of a lateral shoot, by which a green, hollow, pear-shaped body is produced, having a small aperture closed with bracts. On the inner walls of this hollow body numerous small flowers are borne; the wall itself is then fleshy and contains laticiferous vessels which, when wounded, discharge a milky latex. In this condition figs are inedible. As the fruit ripens the latex disappears, the fleshy wall fills with sugar and becomes pulpy, and the taste sweet and agreeable. They are then eaten in the fresh state, or are collected and dried in the sun, being sometimes previously sterilised by sulphuring or by dipping in a boiling alkaline solution. The dried fruits constitute the figs of commerce. If, without further manipulation, they are packed loose, retaining more or less their original shape, they are called ' natural ' figs; but if subjected to a process of kneading by which they become supple and the skin translucent, they are called ' pulled' figs; the latter are usually packed into small boxes for exportation, and are considered the best. 'Pressed' or 'layered' figs are those which have been flattened by the pressure used in the packing.
The ordinary fig is too well known to need much description. The fruit, which is sometimes called a syconus, is a collective fruit formed from the enlarged, succulent, hollow, receptacle which bears on its inner wall very numerous, minute, one-seeded true fruits (achenes), commonly called the seeds.
The principal constituent of figs is sugar (dextrose), of which they may contain upwards of 50 per cent.
Eleme: exported from Smyrna either 'pulled' or 'layered,' or in wooden drums or barrels; they are distinguished by their thin skins and soft luscious pulp.
Spanish: from Malaga and Valencia, either 'layered' packed in boxes, or ' natural ' packed in mats.
Greek: generally of small size and threaded on strings or packed in barrels; they have thicker, tougher skins, and less abundant pulp.
Dried figs have agreeable demulcent, nutritive, and laxative properties, and are therefore sometimes prescribed as an article of diet in habitual constipation. They form one of the ingredients in confection of senna.