The Simple Joy of Figs
The fig tree is about as iconic as flora can become (right up there with roses and palm trees) and its mystical charm has truly endeared it to humanity. Perhaps it’s the velvety, plump fruit with its bright interior bursting with sweet nourishment that makes it such a treasure to us. Or perhaps it’s the strong, smooth branches with those wide, fuzzy leaves that offer us shade to rest beneath and inspire us to dream.
From the tree that witnessed Buddha’s enlightenment to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the favourite fruit of Cleopatra, the fig tree has been central to the evolution of our civilization for longer than we even know. As a symbol of fertility, abundance and peace it was the perfect choice for women’s month. This August we’re exploring the simple joy of figs.
Originating from the middle east and western asia, the deliciously edible fig is actually a member of the mulberry family and one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. A discovery of nine fig trees dating back to 9400 BCE was made in an early Neolithic village in the Jordan Valley, not far from Jericho. Some believe the find could be evidence of the origins of human agriculture as it predates the domestication of grains and legumes by at least a thousand years.
Pick a fig leaf and the stem cracks with a drop of sticky milk. In some old Mediterranean folk practices, this milky sap was used to soften calluses and remove warts, but it wasn’t until 1994 that fig was used as a central note in perfumery.
One name is synonymous with the crafting of fig perfume – Olivia Giacobetti. She set the perfume world ablaze when she created Premier Figuier for L’artisan Parfumeur in 1994. Giacobetti marked an important milestone in the history of perfumery as this was the first ever fragrance created around the fig note, and it is still highly regarded as one of the very best.
Born in 1966 in Boulogne, France and encouraged to take up the arts from an early age, Giacobetti decided on perfumery at the age of 17 and trained at Robertet before starting her own firm. Since Premier Figuier, she has been prolific in her field, composing niche classics such as the emblematic ode to the fig trees of Greece, Philosykos for Diptyque.
Greece was significant in the history of perfume, where the ideals of beauty, harmony, proportion and balance played a fundamental role not only in art, but also in everyday life. Interestingly, every inhabitant of Athens, including Plato, was a philosykos, which literally translates to “a friend of the fig”. The legendary Philosykos fragrance combines green fig leaves with coconut and white cedar to create a playful and seductive olfactory journey. The scent is soft, warm and buttery with a woody base, paying homage to languid days in Greece under the sun-warmed fig tree.
Have you ever noticed that a fig tree never flowers? The reason for this is that the fruit isn’t actually fruit at all. Figs are inverted flowers! Fig trees don’t flower like oranges and apples, instead their flowers bloom inside the round pod which later matures into the fruit we eat. Who knew that after so many millennia you could learn something new about our friend, the fig tree.
Milky and green, yet powdery, the bittersweet fig leaf note is blended with fresh, uplifting neroli to create our delightful Constantia Heights fragrance available in soap, lotion, candle and scented sachet. The fresh green and floral notes are reminiscent of the fertile and densely overgrown slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, the only part of South Africa to share a Mediterranean climate.
Figs are the rich source of skin-friendly minerals and vitamins, including copper, phosphorus, Vitamin A, C, and E which help in rejuvenating and refreshing the skin. So by all means, eat plenty of them, but you can also use our Constantia Heights soap and lotion for an epidermal taste of this decadence.
As Giacobetti says about the creation of perfume, perfume is a mystery, “a language, a world of symbols which touches the unconscious, a mode of communication that is both emotional and fundamental”. And to her we say that we cannot live without perfume and the simple joy of figs.
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