Saturday, March 11, 2006
There's a wasp in my Newton!
So it's probably a good idea that you don't know everything that's in the food you're eating. Like back in junior high when I learned how hotdogs were made and I stopped eating meat for a couple of years. Or maybe the fact that most food that is dyed red is actually made from a certain type of squashed bug. Well if it weren't for that darn Discovery Channel trying to "teach" us stuff, I never would have been swayed away from what once had been a delectable "fruit and cake" treat.
The now infamous show featured figs and the pollination of fig trees. A certain type of wasp would come down and lay their eggs in the figs, fertilizing the fig flower at the same time, and then the baby larvae would grow inside the fruit and use it as subsistence until they hatched. Now that show was on years ago, but I got it into my head that when you bite into a fig Newton, those little crunchy things I thought were fig seeds were really WASP eggs. I stopped eating them all together. Luckily in recent years those clever people at the Newton factory came up with new flavors like strawberry, raspberry, and apple, so we could potentially be back in the fruit and cake business someday soon.
So flash forward to when I meet my husband, who happens to love love love his Newtons and it is then I remember the wasp egg factor. Of course no one really wants to believe me, so I jump on my trusty internet research ban wagon to search out the truth. Guess what? I'm RIGHT! Sort of. Each fig plant needs it's own special wasp to pollinate it. The female wasp squeezes into the fruit, lays her eggs, loses her wings in the process, fertilized the fig, then dies IN the fig. Then the wasp larvae grow eating off the fig and the wingless males are born and mate with the females who do have wings. The males die (in the fig) and the females fly off with their home fig pollen stuck to themselves to go find another fig to pollinate and start the whole process over. Those crunchy little pods (or nullets/galls) are formed by wasp pollination. So the wasp larvae eat off the fig to survive and in turn, the fig digests the dead wasps to produce the energy to grow into figs. The female wasp and half her offspring give their lives so you can enjoy a fresh Newton snack cake. Mmmm Tasty. Now don't say I never taught you nothin'...
Web links for wasp-fig relations below: