In the Search for the Perfect Fig, Take 2

Three years ago I published the first Single Note Exploration post about fig note in perfumes and learned from comments that it wasn’t actually fig fruit that had a scent reproduced in perfumery but fig twigs and leaves. Since then I assaulted a couple of fig trees and can confirm: those twigs are very fragrant. Did you know the source of the scent?

Fig

Recently I learned another fascinating fact about figs. It started as a chat with a co-worker about fruits. I mentioned that I liked to eat figs. She looked at me with disbelief and asked with a faint trace of repulsion:

– You do know that those crunchy things inside are wasp eggs?
– ???
– You know, those seeds inside figs are not just seeds – they are eggs that wasps lay inside figs.

I’d never heard anything about that before so I didn’t believe her and went to consult a trusted source – Internet. What I found enthralled me. If you are familiar with the subject skip a couple of paragraphs – there will be a perfume-related bit in the end. For those who – same as I – somehow missed that and doesn’t want to do a full investigation, here’s a short* version.

A mature female wasp crawls through the opening into a fig where she deposits both her eggs and pollen she picked up from her original host fig. Since on her way in, having to force her way through a very tight opening, she loses her wings and antennae, after completing the mission the wasp dies. Eggs hatch, develop into larvae and then mature. Mature male wasp, which doesn’t have wings, mates with a female wasp and then digs a tunnel out of the fig through which the females escape. Once outside a fig a male wasp dies and a female flies to another tree, where she’ll pollinate another fig on her way in. The cycle repeats.

Fig

Now, when I know all that, will I stop eating figs? Nope. The only thing that bothers me in all that is that I’ve never heard about it before. Of course, figs weren’t widely available where I grew up but neither was salmon – and still we learned at school about them moving upstream to spawn and die. And we all heard about sexual cannibalism of mantises. But nothing about fig wasps.

Even though from the set of perfumes I tested for the first post I already had two favorite fig perfumes – Fig Tree by Sonoma Scent Studio and Wild Fig & Cassis by Jo Malone, since I like the note, I kept testing fig-centric perfumes and found several worth mentioning.

There are two nice budget choices for those who would like to wear a fig scent a couple of times in summer but doesn’t want to invest much into it: Mediterranean Fig by Pacifica (read Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) review here) and Fig Leaf & Sage by Kiehl’s (Ayala (Smelly Blog) reviews it in the post on sage note).

I’m on the fence about Premier Figuier Extrême by L’Artisan Parfumeur. It is a very nice, and said to be the very first, fig-centric perfume. But, like many other perfumes from the brand, it’s not tenacious enough to justify a full price purchase. Luckily, it’s not that hard to find a better deal for it (~$115/100 ml) online. And it’s one of those perfumes 100 ml of which might not be too much: even though it’s marked as eau de parfum concentration it wears as eau de toilette. Since I have a soft spot for interesting bottles, I couldn’t resist a fig-shaped Special Edition bottle. For reviews read: Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) post and Portia’s (Australian Perfume Junkies) guest post on Perfume Posse.

L'Artisan Premier Figuier

Finally, I did get to test a perfume, lemmings for which were created by a very persuasive review from Gaia (The Non-Blonde) – Figuier Eden by Armani Privé. I like-like-like it! But I’m not paying the price: not because Figuer Eden isn’t good enough but I don’t think there can be any fig perfume that can justify that price.

– Did you know that wasps lay eggs in figs I asked my vSO when I got home the day of the conversation with my co-worker.
– ???

He didn’t believe me…

Images: my own

* The detailed picture is even more complex and covers fig trees/flowers’ gender, not pollinating wasps and much more. You can start from this Wiki page and then follow links.

Advertisements

44 thoughts on “In the Search for the Perfect Fig, Take 2

  1. These wasps are news to me! I will continue to eat figs despite the wasp eggs. BTW I too bought the fig shaped bottle of Premier Figuier Extreme. Love the bottle and the scent. Thank you for this very interesting and fun post.
    Azar xx

    • I wore Premier Figuier Extreme yesterday and enjoyed it. And that bottle is very unusual. I wish I could find a blackberry one. I don’t even need the perfume, I want the bottle itself!

  2. I wish I had never heard anout the wasp-fig connection. To be honest, it significantly dampens my appetite for figs, which I (used to) like very much.
    As for fig perfumes, I enjoy Diptyque Philosykos the most and when layered with body products it lasts all day.

  3. I had no idea about the wasp situation either. The eggs do not bother me, but the thought of living wasps crawling around inside the fruits does feel bothersome. I love fresh figs and I won’t stop eating them, but I will cut them up and check for wasps before.

    In perfume, fig is a difficult note for me, I like it in theory but it doesn’t develop too good on my skin. I do love Premier Figuier Extrême and there is a fig cologne I like that Portia sent me a sample of named “Figs and Olive” from an Australian bath product company that I can’t remember the name of. Otherwise I mostly stay off fig scents.

    • You don’t have to cut them: any wasp that crawls inside and dies in there will be long processed by enzymes by the time you eat a fig since it all happens in fig’s early development stage.

      Portia was kind to send me a sample as well but I can’t really smell fig in that one. Maybe I waited too long to test or I’m anosmic to this perfume’s ingredients.

      • Aha, then I’ll just think of the wasps as a protein boost, a great thing as I tend to eat less and less meat nowadays ;)

        About Figs and Olive, the fact that it does not smell very much of fig is probably the reason I like it so much :)

    • Not all wasps though! Most are (if you ask me ; -) ) useless mean creatures. Those are special fig wasps. And each type of those can “work” only on specific types of fig trees. That’s why growing figs outside of their native habitat created sterile plants.

  4. WOW!! What a wonderful post Undina. I NEVER knew about the wasps and now I will feel a bit bad if I’m eating baby wasp houses, or not, I’ll tell you after I have been confronted by a fresh fig.
    That Fig & Olive is by The Perfume & Skincare Company in Australia Sigrun, they are ridiculously well priced perfume strength frags.
    Thanks too for the link love.
    Portia xx

  5. I was freaked out when I first read your post- but now I am beginning to be fascinated by the process and details. [Since I generally eat figs from the Farmer’s market and generally not from department stores- I am still a little freaked out at the thought of eating a fig again]

    “Mature male wasp, which doesn’t have wings, mates with a female wasp and then digs a tunnel out of the fig through which the females escape.”
    So in addition to eggs in Figs- does this also mean incest??? Or do multiple female wasps lay eggs in a single fig?
    Off to read in greater detail. Thanks for the Wikipedia link.

    • If I got it right, the wasps that laid eggs initially (yes, multiple ones, some of them of not-pollinating types) either left the way they came in (it should be easier on the way back) and die outside or die in the developing fig and is completely processed by the fig as it grows. The newly born male wasp(s) inseminate female wasp(s) (here I’m not clear on how many insects one fig hosts) and then organizes the great escape.
      I find it all fascinating! Can you imagine the evolution of this process?!

  6. Count me in the freaked out camp. I can’t unread – just writing this is giving me goosebumps.

    On to perfumes! My next SSS purchase will likely be Fig Tree (and I really ought to find my sample of Sienna Musk as scent twin Lucas loves it so). My fig perfume collection includes Jo Malone Wild Fig & Cassis, Diptyque Philosykos, Pacifica Mediterranean Fig and Hermes Un Jardin en Mediterranee…in the whole scheme of things, kind of underrepresented. I tried to like Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio but alas, it just wasn’t for me. The Kiehl’s did not work out either nor did the L’AP Premier Figuier Extreme (and all its previous incarnations).

    • I like Sienna Musk. What I like about SSS’s perfumes: you can get 2.5 ml sample or 5 ml purse spray and those will last you for a long time.
      Are you sure you don’t like Premier Figuier Extreme? I wore it yesterday and it was very pleasant (while Ninfeo Mio didn’t work for me as well). Maybe you need to try it again, sprayed? (hint-hint)

      Hm… So many people found the information disturbing… Maybe that’s why it was omitted from the school curriculum? I think if you read more about the subject you’ll see it more like a curious fact. Just think of the complexity of this evolutionary process!

  7. Having recently had an unpleasant encounter with more dead and dying wasps than I care to mention (thanks to a nest somewhere in the roof space between the living room and my bedroom), I was interested – or morbidly fascinated rather! – by this post. It’s an absolutely extraordinary saga, yet Nature is full of such stories I suppose, so I shouldn’t be that surprised.

    Another fig perfume I really rate is Jardins de Kerylos by PG. That is more your juicy style of fig note. My friend Gillie has a fig tree in her garden, so I will be sure to sniff both leaf and twigs next time I visit!

    • You definitely have to try breaking a twig or two the next time: you will be amazed how well some perfumes replicate that scent!
      As to wasps – I hate them! But, I suppose, these ones are of a different kind – they are working wasps ; -)

      I’ve heard many good things about Jardins de Kerylos starting from the previous post on the topic but this line isn’t easily accessible here so I never got a chance to test it yet.

  8. Um… I have to check my calendar to make sure it isn’t April Fool’s Day. I love figs too, and happily crunch those “seeds”. I’m freaked out by this for the same reason you are, Undina– why didn’t I know about this before? What other things do I eat that might shock me with gruesome factoids? But like you, I won’t stop eating them. So I guess figs are not vegan by nature, then, huh? That’s okay, I’m not vegan. :)

    Anyway, I mostly came to share this link with you:
    http://thesagelifestyle.com/products/peridot-roll-on-oil
    Sage Machado just did a revamp of her Peridot fragrance, in which the original fig note is enhanced. I love her perfume oils, and I have the original Peridot in a blend with Onyx, which makes an incredibly well-balanced incense perfume. I suppose that will be changed now too with the reboot. Anyway, thought you might like to know! The announcement of the fragrance and packaging redesign were just announced today.

    • Hi Carrie! It’s nice to see you here : -) Thank you for the link. I saw that you posted about the brand recently and I read good things about the brand in general and Onyx in particular on Another Perfume Blog not that long ago. Now with two perfumistas recommendations I’m curious. I subscribed to their updates and will browse the site.

      Good thing we’re not vegan ; -) (love figs!)

  9. I knew about the wasp eggs but didn’t know the whole story – how cool!! It is a little bit freaky, but I’ve always tried to not let it bother me too much figuring that there are probably plenty of other kinds of insect eggs in and on other things we eat. So long as there are no wiggly squiggly bits as I’m trying to enjoy my figs it’s fine with me!

    Fig was one of my gateway notes back when I was first getting into fragrance. I don’t wear fig fragrances much anymore (moving from San Diego to San Francisco might have something to do with that) but I still love them. I always liked Jo Malone’s Fig & Cassis and actually prefer it to Diptyque Philosykos or the L’Artisan. From memory, Jardin de Kerylos is my absolute favorite – it is so very beautiful. It was out of my budget when I discovered it as a student – I’ll definitely have to revisit it at some point. I am lucky enough to have a bottle of Satellite a la Figue! which is a delightful juicy ripe fig over a beautifully polished iris-cedar. The drydown is rather dry but reminds me of Diptyque’s bath oil which I also love. Another of my favorite figs is the Hermes Jardin en Mediteranee. It’s short-lived and the drydown gets a little bit scorchy but the opening is so pretty and fun and reminds me of vacationing on the Greek Isles. It’s one of the few “summer” scents I have left (seeing as SF has no summer, really). If you can find any, Royal Apothic Fig is utterly delightful. It is uncomplex with no lasting power whatsoever but it smells just like biting into a cold, juicy green fig. I like to spritz it on top of other figs to give them a little extra oomph at the beginning. Yay fig! :)

    • I learned a new brand – Satellite. Before today I haven’t heard about them. I’m curious if they still produce perfumes – their website doesn’t mention any and luckyscent.com has just one of their perfumes.
      You don’t have to tell me about summer in San Francisco: from time to time our friends who live in the city drive 20 miles south to visit us and see some sun ; -) But even here it’s usually very mild – which I like. But I feel a little left out when everybody starts talking about the best perfumes for summer.
      If you haven’t tried yet, you should definitely get a sample of Sonoma Scent Studio’s Fig Tree (their shopping cart will be up soon): it’s not a summer fig, one can easily wear it now or even when it gets colder.

      • Oh fun! Yes, Satellite is quite an obscure brand. I got my sample of a la Figue! from a fishbone69(?) in a fig sampler years and years ago (8 ish?) and even then it was hard to find and track down. I got super lucky and found a basically new bottle for swap on Makeupalley years ago. From what I have heard from others, there’s a boutique in Paris and you can buy the fragrances there, but they don’t really do international distribution.

        Haha yes! I saw Wicked in San Jose last week and was utterly floored by how nice it was! A whole 20 degrees warmer and nary a cloud in the sky! You forget sometimes, here. ^^;; Most of the time I love the perpetual Fall, but I totally agree – I feel utterly left out when people start talking about their summer scents. My body temperature is a bit on the low side naturally and I run quite cold (or at least I am freezing pretty much always) so all the fun summer scents have 0 projection on me whatsoever. On the flip side, I can wear LDDM year round, so I suppose it’s a decent trade.

        I swear I must have a sample of Fig Tree somewhere. If not I’ll have to order another sampler from SSS. I love Laurie’s stuff and have been meaning to try some of the new things and desperately need some Cocoa Sandalwood! :)

        • I can wear LDDM year round too!

          Laurie promised to have a cart up soon. Cocoa Sandalwood is very pleasant – at least as far as all-natural scents go (can you tell I’m not a big fan of natural perfumes? ;-) )

      • Padparascha! I mean, sorry, I’m breaking into your convo. :) An old perfumisto buddy of mine sent me a sample of Satellite Padparascha and I fell in love with it. I still know next to nothing about the brand, but Luckyscent still has it. It’s very nom-nommy.

  10. Ooh, figuir eden sounds nice, although normally fig is not a love note for me. That might come at some point of course… I love dried figs, but I must say that your description of the wasps eggs should have come with a HUGE warning sign, it did cause a battle between common sense and wasp-fright emotions. I think common sense won, but I haven’t had a fig yet… But, it’s intriguing as you say, that it isn’t common knowledge, since it’s actually quite extraordinary.

    • I hate… no HATE wasps. But I think of these as of a special kind – working wasps (which feels almost like an oxymoron).
      I didn’t realize that there would be so many people who hadn’t heard about it before – otherwise I might have thought of warning my readers. Though I didn’t experience any negative emotions myself – only an amusement. And one more of my co-workers to whom we told the story reacted in a similar manner: “No, never heard of it! Well, I’ll still eat figs…” So I didn’t expect people to freak out, I think. Sorry :)

      • Yes, you’re right of course, no need to freak out. And a great point actually, that I always thought that wasps had no use at all, but if at least the ‘make’ figs, then perhaps I can stop hating them quite as much. Although, there are no fig trees in Denmark, so I can still hate Danish wasps ;-)

  11. There are lots of figs in Mississippi , I have a fig tree on the side of my house, and I Love figs. Because of my love of figs I thought I would love the note in perfumes, what I have discovered is that I don’t like perfumes where Fig is the dominating note- what I do love is a whisper of fig and my most recent favorite perfume featuring fig is, Yesterday Haze by Imaginary Authors. I also have a sample of Incanto by rouge bunny rouge that I enjoyed in the spring

    • I think I have a sample of Incanto… I need to look for it and try it. Imaginary Authors aren’t on my radar but I’ll give it a sniff the next time I come across it.

  12. Your comments about figs are only part true. The great majority of figs eaten and sold in the U.S. are NOT of the type that require the wasp to produce the fruit. “Common” figs like we see all over the world do not. Only in parts of California can the “Capri” (needs wasp) types be grown in the U.S. as it is the only place that has the required species of wasp

    So don’t worry about bugs and eggs. Common type figs such as the ones sold at a home improvement store and almost all nurseries are the most popular varieties like Brown Turkey, Celeste, Black Mission and Kadota and are are wasp free.

    FYI, a fig in an inside out flower…..common types are self pollinating inside the fig. “Capri” types have male and female trees and require the wasp to carry the pollen. Enjoy your figs….the odds of even finding a “Capri” fig in the US is slim! And if you do, any “wasp” parts have long since been consumed by the fig!

    • Hi John!
      It’s very kind of you to share that re-assuring information with… Well, I’m not exactly sure with whom: you see, the fact is that i knew that a year and half ago while publishing this post (you can see it in my reply to the second commenter of the post), as to the possible future readers – they’ll probably skip the comments altogether, the same way you did ;) And they will be right: it was just a story – a little bit about figs, a little bit about perfumes. It wasn’t intended to educate fully on the subject or present it in a comprehensive manner.

      But thank you anyway! I appreciate the time you spent – even if nobody but I will ever read it.

      • Well, more on your subject. My wife’s favorite fragrance was “Flirt” but was discontinued years ago……found some on Ebay a few years ago. Any clue as to what may be similar on the market now?

        • I’ve never heard of this perfume before so it would be hard for me to suggest anything. But you should try looking for it on Fragrantica: usually people share there what it reminds them, so you might be able to look for something similar. Though, if your wife actually loved that specific perfume, “something similar” might work worse than “something completely different”. So I’d recommend going to a good perfume counter and trying 10-15 new scents. Or get her one of those subscription service boxes, and she’ll figure out what she likes (you can read the comparison of the services here).

      • :-) Dear Undina, I still get notification of new comments and I am always interested in reading comments to your posts — they can go in different directions but hey, it’s what makes the world interesting.

        • And I really appreciate that :) Perfumes aside (sacrilege, I know :) ), some stories – like this one, for example, were good on their own, and I wish some of my new friends would get to read them since I’ll probably never tell them again or have a reason to link to them.

What's on your mind? (I encourage posting relating links to your posts)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s