Florida Heritage Foods


Common names

Fig, Figure (French), higo (Spanish), 无花果 (wú huā guǒ Mandarin), अंजीर (anjeer, Hindi), ફિગ (phiga, Gujarati), Matunda ya Mtini (Swahili), تین (teen, Arabic)

Scientific Name

Ficus sp.


The fruit of the fig tree has been a significant source of food in the Middle East and Mediterranean region since prehistoric times. Archaeological evidence suggests it is among the first plants cultivated more than 10,000 years ago. It was prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the fig is mentioned numerous times in both Hebrew and Christian religious texts. Fig cultivation spread throughout Europe with the R oman Empire, and it remained an important food source during the medieval period. Spanish missionaries introduced figs to California in the 18th century, and they were popularized in the ‘Fig Newton’ cookie a century later. Fig trees are grown throughout Florida gardens and edible landscapes today because they do well in poor soil and tolerate hot climate and seasonal drought.

Historical Significance

Participants in the 'Rural Rehabilitation' program eat canned figs with dinner, Alabama (1939) Office of War Information. Library of Congress

Archaeological evidence suggests that the fig was among the first plants cultivated by humans. The fossilized remains of nine sterile-type figs was found in a Neolithic village in the Jordan Valley dating more than 10,000 years ago. Presence of the sterile type suggests that it was intentionally planted making it the first known evidence of agriculture. Figs were widespread throughout the Middle East, and they were a common food in Classical Greece and Rome. The ancient Turkish historical Herodotus highlighted the significant cultural role of figs in society in the 5th century BC, and Aristotle documented fig cultivation and anatomy in the 4th century BC. Fig cultivation spread as the Roman empire expanded throughout Europe, and cultivation continued during the medieval period. Spanish missionaries introduced figs to California in the mid-eighteenth century, and the ‘Mission’ fig remains among the most popular varieties today. Fig trees are popular in home gardens and edible landscapes throughout Florida because they tolerate well-drained poor soil and seasonal drought.   

Cultural significanceFig plant card

Figs have been an important food source in the Middle East and Mediterranean region since prehistoric times. They are mentioned numerous times in both the Hebrew Tanakh and in all four Christian Gospels. In the Book of Genesis, for example, Adam and Eve cover themselves in fig leaves, and in Deuteronomy the Promised Land is described as “a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees…’ In the Gospels the fig tree is often represented as a symbol of Israel and most notably as a barren fig tree cursed by Jesus. Fig Cakes were a common food in Palestine during the biblical period, and they have been eaten both fresh and dried for millennia. Today they are also processed into jam, such as Lebanese fig jam, rolls, biscuits and other types of desserts such as Italian fig cookies called cuccidati. Greek figs in syrup are called glyko sykalaki and Spanish fig cake is called pan de higo.  In the United States figs were initially popularized by the ‘Fig Newton’ cookie in 1891, and today they are also added to charcuterie boards, eaten raw or dried, wrapped in prosciutto or ham, cut fresh into yogurt with honey, or made into preserves. 


Cooking With Fig

 Figs are rich in fiber, vitamins A and B6, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, and copper. 

Fig Plant Card Photo
Fig Plant Card Photo

Growing Tips

Although there are many varieties of figs, those recommended for Florida are common types, such as Brown Turkey, that do not require pollination to produce fruit.  Trees can be planted in spring and fall via cuttings and transplants.  Harvest fruits in the summer months:  June through August. 

To plan, a heritage garden, download the ‘Planning a Florida Heritage Garden (PDF).’