This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Lake of Canandaigua, in western New York, is famous not only for its beauty, but for its historical association. The region in which it lies was once the home of the Senecas, the most numerous and powerful tribe of the Iroquois confederacy. One of their favorite council grounds was the fine declivity which slopes down to the foot of the lake from the northwest, and which is now the site of a handsome town. As early as 1G56 the Jesuit, Chaumonot, visited the Senecas as a delegate, from the Onondaga mission, and wondered at the beauty of the country, the multitude of wild pigeons and rattlesnakes, and the abundance of fish for fast days, and of venison for days of feasting. In 1078 La Motte and Hennepin, sent forward from Kings. ton to Niagara, by La Salle, visited the same tribe, at a place now called Victor, but a few miles from the lake, and met there two Jesuits from Canada, one named Rafficx the other Julien Garnier. Passing last summer on a point of land which projects into the lake, about three miles from its head, I was naturally struck with the changes which had occurred since the early days when Chaumonot and Hennepin explored or visited that region. The Iroquois were gone.
So far as the casual observer could determine, there was not a trace of them left, except what is to be found in the nomenclature of lake, hill or river. Their place is supplied by another race. The inhabitants of the neighborhood and the visitors at the point were descendants of Germans. Anglo-Saxons and Gauls. The animals were the descendants of immigrants. The horses were derived from England or Normandy, the cattle from Durham, Devonshire or Holland, the poultry from China. There were two dogs, one of whom traced his lineage to the Isle of Skye and the other to the Monastery of St. Bernard.
The very trees and flowers were chiefly of foreign descent. Not, to be sure, the great Elm, which is the chief glory of the place, nor the Limes which, as in the days of Virgil, attracted the industrious bee, nor the maple that stands above the upper boat-house. But far more numerous the Apple tree came from Kent, most likely; and so did the Cherries, the Plums, and Pears from France; and the Peaches - it is said they came from Persia, with the Aryan race following in the pathways of discovery, of conquest and of civilization, until at last then descendants crossed the Atlantic and took their place in the gardens of North America as a favorite fruit.
Among these Peaches at the Point is a variety whose name is suggestive of this long descent. It is called the Malacatune, and according to Webster this spelling is permissible. Some of the farmers call it Malkatoon. and in so doing, come nearer, I think, to the real origin of the name. Some botanists call it Melocoton, and tell us, with an appearence of learning, that the name is derived from the Italian Melocotogne, or Quince-tree, and that, in turn, from the Latin Malum Cotoniune, or Malum Cydonium. to wit: the Apple of Cydonia in Crete. They might have, added that the Cretans were proverbially inaccurate in their statements, and that perhaps this verbal pedigree was a little doubtful.
Now this Malkatoon Peach is very handsome. When the poet said of his love, Her cheek is like a Oathrine Pear, The side that's next the sun, he might just as well have used the Peach in question to illustrate the beauty of a brunette, in so lovely a manner are red and brown mingled in its coloring.
I desire to offer another theory in regard to the derivation of its curious name, a derivation which comports extremely well with the history of the fruit, coming as it has from those mountains, valleys and table lands of Central Asia.
The recognized founder of the Ottoman Empire was Othman or Osman, the son of Ertoghoul. It is after him that the Turks call themselves Osmanlis, the only national name they recognize. In the year 1288 he succeeded his father as the chief of his race. He is sometimes called the first of the sultans, but neither he nor his two immediate successors ever assumed that title. He was an independent emir, reigning over a principality in Asia Minor, corresponding at first with the ancient " Phrygia Epecte-tos, " but greatly extended during his life of war and conquest. His name being translated, signifies Bone Breaker and Royal Vulture, and he justified its cheerful meaning by many naughty deeds.
It seems that when Othman was young, a pious and learned shiek, named Edebali came to live at Itbourouni, a village near Eskircheed. The young emir used often to visit this holy man. doubtless to talk theology, and after a time he discovered that the saintly shiek had a fair daughter. In a moment Othman fell in love, and prayed for that daughter's hand. The holy father, prudently thinking that the station of the young prince was too high for that of the maiden, refused his consent, and Othman was plunged into the deepest dejection. The Bone Breaker was like to break his heart. Seeking to console himself in the society of his neighbors, he described the charms of the young woman so eloquently that one of his princely companions, the chief of Eskircheed, fell in love with her himself on mere hearsay, and demanded her hand from the father.
This was also refused, and so alarmed did the old shiek become at these importunities that he quietly removed from the neighborhood.
The chief of Eskircheed and Othman were sworn rivals, and hated each other in good old fashioned style. One day while Othman was visiting at the castle of a friend, his rival suddenly appeared with a considerable force and demanded his surrender; but while the parley was going on, Othman and his brother, with a few companions made a sudden sally, and with such success that he drove the enemy from the field.
He had not yet seen the maiden of his heart. For ten years longer he pined without avail, but at last, while visiting at the old sheik's house, (for the old man, though he denied his daughter, could not refuse an Oriental hospitality) Othman dreamed a dream.
He saw the full moon, typical of the maiden's face, rise from the father's breast and sink upon his own. From it sprang a mighty tree, which overshadowed all that portion of the world. The Crescent shone through its branches, and underneath was many a goodly city with minarets, whereupon orthodox Muezzins called the faithful to prayer. Every leaf of this tree was shaped like a scimetar, and at last there came a mighty wind, which turned their points straight towards Constantinople. That city, placed at the junction of two seas and two continents, seemed to the dreamer like a diamond, set between two sapphires and two emeralds, to form the most precious stone in the ring of universal empire. As he was about to place this ring upon his finger, he awoke.
Of course, this dream did the business. There was no resisting a candidate for matrimony who could see such visions as that. The pious sheik gave his consent, the maiden gave hers, and Othman was married. His fair wife bore him two sons, Oiclean, his successor, and Aladdin, the celebrated vizier. Her grandson was Amu-rath the first.
Othman lies buried at Brusa. His banner and his terrible saber are preserved among the regalia of the empire, the girding of that saber on a new sultan being the equivalent of a coronation. His character was fierce, his conquests bloody; but around the story of his life, like a wild rose springing from the battle-field, will ever bloom the episode of the fair woman whom he wooed with so much devotion and to whom he was as faithful as any Turk could be.
Perhaps you think we have wandered rather far from the Peach-orehard on Canandaigua Lake. Not so very far. The name of the maiden whom Othman married was Mahlkatoon. It signified Treasure of a Woman. So sweet and beautiful, would it be surprising if her name was given to one of the fairest of the Peaches that grew on her native hills, and that the farmers of Western New York, when they praise the Mahlkatoon Peach, are unconsciously celebrating the memory of Othman's bride, and perpetuating the fame of Amurath's grand-mother?