NewsFigs are not vegan - in each fruit there...

Figs are not vegan – in each fruit there is a dead wasp that is eaten

Created: 10/14/2022 1:36 p.m

Feigenfrüchte aufgeschnitten und ganz
Strictly speaking, figs are not vegan. Because wasps die in the flowers during the pollination process. © Z Jan/omago images

Even if figs are a fruit – not every variety is vegan. The reason for this lies in the fertilization method.

Stuttgart – Anyone who likes to eat fresh fruit knows the danger: Inhabitants can have nested in unsprayed fruits such as apples, cherries and the like. Just the thought of biting an insect makes many people’s hair stand on end. Fans of figs in particular will be shocked, because the fruit is anything but vegan: if you eat figs, you are also eating dead wasps. The reason is the pollination process of the fig tree.

Wasps die while pollinating the flowers of the fig tree

Insects play a major role in the pollination of flowers. In the case of figs, it is wasps that ensure that the pollen of the flowers is carried from plant to plant. But how do the insects get into the fruit? To understand this, the pollination process needs to be explained in more detail. The so-called edible fig has only female flowers. In order to reproduce, the edible fig depends on the pollen of the inedible goat fig. The fig wasps grow in the blossoms of the fig.

Feigen an einem Feigenbaum
Many fig tree varieties rely on wasp pollination. © IMAGO/Rene Traut

When they are fully grown, the female fig wasps, capable of flying, leave the flowers to lay their eggs in other fig flowers. If the female wasps fly out of a male flower, pollen sticks to their bodies. The female wasps fly into both the female flowers of the fig and the edible fig. Since the opening of the inward-facing flowers is very narrow, the females lose their wings. Although this pollinates the flower, the wasp dies in it.

Vegan or not? Some fig varieties do not require wasp pollination

The flower eventually ripens into a fig, the insect is digested by an enzyme called ficin in the fruit, and the wasp completely disintegrates. What remains is a by-product of the dead wasp. So is the fig not vegan at all? Strictly speaking, the fruit can still be considered vegan. After all, no dead animal can be found in the finished fig, just a decomposition product of it, as in other foods. However, other arguments say that the death of the wasps is a prerequisite for the fruit to grow at all. What might come as a surprise to many: With regard to insects, avocados, pumpkins and almonds are also not vegan.

Whether you want to continue eating figs as a vegan or vegetarian is therefore up to you. If you want to be absolutely sure, you can use alternatives. In addition to the common fig and the buck fig, there are also fig varieties that do not depend on the fig wasp for the development of the fruit. Varieties such as “Brown Turkey”, “Negronne” or “Valle Negra” can pollinate themselves and are vegan figs in this sense. Such varieties are particularly common in regions where fig wasps do not occur.

There are now vegan alternatives for many foods. A Rewe market in Kaarst (North Rhine-Westphalia) has a special offer for its vegan customers. Customers celebrate the market for its vegan meat counter.

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