Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tamed 11,400 years ago, figs were likely first domesticated crop | Science Blog

Tamed 11,400 years ago, figs were likely first domesticated crop | Science Blog
The scientists compared the ancient figs to modern wild and domesticated variants and determined that they were a mutant selectively propagated by humans. In this variety of fig, known as parthenocarpic, the fruit develops without insect pollination and is prevented from falling off the tree, allowing it to become soft, sweet, and edible. However, because such figs do not produce seeds, they are a reproductive dead end unless humans interfere by planting shoots from the parthenocarpic trees.

'Once the parthenocarpic mutation occurred, humans must have recognized that the resulting fruits do not produce new trees, and fig tree cultivation became a common practice,' Bar-Yosef says. 'In this intentional act of planting a specific variant of fig tree, we can see the beginnings of agriculture. This edible fig would not have survived if not for human intervention.
The neighboorhood I grew up in Fresno is called Fig Garden, because in the early 1900s, a crazy farmer/developer had an idea to plant 10,000+ acres of fig trees in the area that is now north Fresno. When the trees didn't produce good fruit (because of the soil -- he had to blast through the hardpan with dynamite to plant the trees), he switched it up and marketed the land as residential lots. In backyards or on roadsides you can occasionally see a wild fig baby fig tree pop out of the ground from a long dormant root.

No comments: