57. The Fig

It is one of the oldest cultivated trees known to mankind, a time-honoured companion to the olive and the vine, a species that boasts several references in the Bible. Fossilised cultivated figs dating to 9400BC from the Jordan valley are proof of their long association with man.
The humble fig (Maltese: tina) is a widespread and common tree in the Mediterranean region, not least in the Maltese Islands, where it was probably introduced by the first settlers.
Today the familiar fig is found grown in habitats ranging from agricultural land to sheer cliff-faces and even among cracks in fortifications. Although a relatively small tree, its wide, palmate bright green leaves are attractive and unmistakable in summer, and the tree is equally impressive when it sheds its leaves in winter and exposes a forest of white branches that look like bleached bones and knuckles of a hundred fingers reaching for the sky.
The delicious fruit (strictly speaking they are not fruit, but it's a long story!) come in various shapes, colour, sizes and taste, all with corresponding Maltese names like tin, farkizzan and bajtar ta' San Gwann.

Text by Victor Falzon, photo by Joe Sultana.

Copyright to Birdlife Malta.

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