Most wild fig trees require pollination. However, there are natural genetic changes that result in a few wild trees that do not require pollination. Reproducing these mutant fig trees can only be done by taking cuttings and intentionally re-planting them. Thus, evidence of fig cultivation has been found that dates this fruit among the earliest crops planted and harvested by humans.
The Fig has many Biblical ties because it was cultivated in the areas in which events from the Bible took place. It took on symbolic significance when Adam and Eve used fig leaves as the first clothes. Figs are mentioned throughout the Bible over fifty times.
Ficus Carica is most likely indigenous to Asia Minor, part of what we presently know as Turkey. From there, it developed and became widely cultivated throughout the Mediterranean region. Greek and Roman civilizations esteemed figs so highly that their love of the fruit influenced the invasion of Greece by Xerxes and the destruction of Carthage by the Romans. Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, writes a short explanation of the caprification process, whereby the Smyrna type figs are pollinated, in his “History of Animals”. Romulus and Remus are pictured nursing from the mother wolf while underneath a fig tree.
Greeks and Romans helped spread the cultivation of figs to other countries under their influence. At various times, figs abounded in Africa, Portugal, Spain, France, and had even made their way to the Isle of Britain. Turkey has remained a center of fig cultivation and production since the earliest times of the fig. Figs did not make the trip to North America until Franciscan Missionaries from Spain founded Missions in California. Fresno eventually became the center of California fig cultivation and production, and is currently the only region in the US where figs are grown on a large commercial scale.