The cultivation of figs in Mallorca

The fig tree is indigenous to Mallorca. The parcelling out of rural land in the nineteenth century created the conditions for a boom in its cultivation, and it became one of the most widely cultivated trees on the island, second only to the olive tree; it was especially prevalent on small and medium-sized plantations.

The fig season starts at the end of summer, and once they have been collected they are sold on for human or animal consumption, either as fresh or dried fruit. The drying process enriches the sugar content of the figs and helps preserve them at the same time. In the past, figs were spread over a sequer, which is a wattle screen, and left under the sun to dry. At night, they had to be brought inside or piled up so that the dew didn’t spoil them. This process was carried out over seven or eight days until they were completely dry. During the drying period, the figs were turned and flattened, and the best ones were selected and set apart. If the weather turned bad, the drying would be finished off in an oven.

Figs that were for human consumption were flattened down until they attained the desired round and flat form, and they were then stored in wooden boxes or clay recipients. For special occasions, such as the festival of the slaughter of pigs, figs were prepared with anisette and sugar inside glass or clay recipients. Fig bread was another product made on the island, this was made with ground figs, liquor and aniseed. These products can still be found, but they are no longer part of the everyday diet. The fall in daily consumption of fig products, together with a decline in the use of figs in animal feed, due to the excessive build up of fat in animals that live off this, has led to a recession in the cultivation of figs.

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