A small, soft, pear–shaped fruit with a sweet pulpy flesh full of tiny edible seeds. The fig probably originated in the Middle East and is one of the most ancient of cultivated plants, playing an important part in ancient mythology. Fig leaves were mentioned in the Bible story of Adam and Eve and they were regarded by the Greeks as a symbol of fertility. Figs were recorded as growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, where they were covered with hot sand to dry and preserve them. High in sugar, figs were originally used as a sweetener for food. There are over a hundred varieties of figs, and these vary in colour from pale green and golden yellow to brown, red or purple. Some of the varieties of fig include the Caprifig, Smyrna, San Pedro and Common fig. Figs are available fresh, dried, in syrup and in olive oil. When buying fresh figs, select firm, unblemished fruit that yield to gentle pressure. Peel the fruit (some thin–skinned varieties may be eaten with their skins on), cut off the stems and eat raw; slice and add to a cheeseboard or fruit salad; or lightly poach them. As an antipasto, figs may be wrapped in a slice of prosciutto or filled with cream cheese. Because they are highly perishable, they are often dried or crystallized/candied. These are much sweeter than fresh, and can be eaten as a snack or added to cakes, puddings or compotes.