This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
This society held a very successful annual meeting at Reading. Mr. Josiah Hoopes, President, being unwell and absent, Mr. Henry M. Engle, of Marietta, Vice-President, presided. Valuable information was contributed by Caspar Hiller on apple culture in Lancaster County, by Judge Stitzel, on that of Berks County. Various members paid their respects to the curculio on the plum and cherry. Messrs. Zew, Garrettson, Punk and Miller discussed fertilizing and fruit growing; Merceron gave his experience in grape culture, and Satterthwaite on pear culture. Mr. Engle on vineyard management. The chief feature of the meeting was the great number of new members who gave their experiences, and in this way there was much going out of the way of beaten paths in opinions, and much more new "food for thought " thrown in than is usual. The Hon. Judge Stitzel gave the following very interesting essay on fruit preserving houses :
Many of the finest fruits, says Judge Stitzel, naturally undergo speedy decay, and those most highly esteemed are often only to be enjoyed by those who produce them, and cannot be put into market except for immediate consumption. This decay has been found to take place most rapidly when the fruit is exposed to considerable or frequent changes in temperature. We know that certain kinds of grapes, packed in saw dust were imported to this country from warmer climates; we found that unripe berries could be preserved in their natural state a long time in bottles or jars, filled in with dry sand or saw-dust and the jars corked or sealed and placed in the ground a considerable depth to preserve an equable temperature. This method could be employed with many fruits as well as vegetables. Pears, the finest kinds of which are apt to rot immediately after maturity, were found capable of preservation for months by being closely covered in stone jars and kept in a cool place. Similar experiments revealed the fact that an evenly cold temperature was a reliable preventive of decay in fruit and have led to the construction of the modern fruit house.
The value and convenience of this quite recent improvement will be apparent when we consider the great advantage in keeping fruit until the next ripening season, thus enabling us to get the very highest prices for what we have to sell, after the market has become bare of such fruit as has been kept in cellars, or shipped from other localities, besides the advantage of having it for family use all the year round. I may say without fear or contradiction that fully thirty-three per centum of all fruits stored in the ordinary way, annually go to waste; this would of itself more than pay the interest upon the cost of a modern fruit house. This is true of the apple crop itself, and the same may be said of pears. I am satisfied that if pears are properly handled and put into the fruit house until the market becomes bare of those varieties sold out of the orchards, twice the amount of money can be made out of them. They should be carefully picked when matured, but before too ripe, and they will improve in flavor when allowed to ripen fully in the fruit house.
In this way such varieties as the Buerre Easter, Columbia, and Vicar of "Winkfield will keep until the following April. That many kinds of vegetables, berries and stone fruit can be preserved a greater length of time than in the ordinary way, has been demonstrated by the use of the fruit house. Cider will also keep sweet much longer than when kept in cellars where the temperature is constantly varying. The temperature in a well constructed fruit house can easily be kept within a variation of eight degrees, say between 32° and 40°, and proper care should always be taken in regard to ventilation, as it is to this that we can attribute the main success in preserving fruit. A refrigerator or fruit house can be constructed at a very little cost, say from $250 to $500 that would admit of storing one thousand bushels of fruit; this would accommodate a half dozen neighbors who might club together and erect one at their joint expense, or one of their number might build one and by a charge for storage of ten or twelve cents per bushel, receive more than the interest upon his investment, besides the cost of stocking it with ice.
I will now describe a fruit house built on a larger scale, having a capacity of 4,000 bushels, which has been in very successful use for twelve years. It is fifty feet square and built of stone and is twenty-eight feet high. The fruit room is on the first floor and is eight feet high with an enclosed space four feet in width, on the four sides filled with ice from above. The ice house, proper is on the second story and is eleven feet high, which with the spaces referred to is filled with ice. There should always be at least one foot of saw-dust or some other non-conductor of heat between the ice and the outer walls. The floor must be water-tight with pipes or some other means of conveying the accumulating water to the ground beneath the building. The third story floor is about three feet below the square; this room is intended to secure ventilation and should be covered with some non-conductive material to prevent any heated air from entering the building from above. There is a room or space about three feet deep below the floor of the fruit room, which is filled from the surplus of unmelted ice that remains in the second story, and this must be done before stocking with fruit in the Fall. Ventilation is secured through four box ventilators twelve inches square, leading from the fruit room through the ice room and extending into the vacant space above the third floor.
These box ventilators are provided with valves or stops by means of which the temperature in the fruit room may be easily regulated. The fruit is stored in common boxes containing two bushels each, the bottom of one box forming a cover of another, and these boxes are piled in tiers or sections with spaces between to of admit passage and free circulation. Access to the fruit room is secured through a kind of vestibule with outside and inside doors, both lined with non-conductive material-hatters' waste wool has proven an excellent non-conductor for this purpose. The two doors, an inner and an outer door, are necessary to prevent the admission of air when persons pass in and out.
The cost of this building when erected was about $2,000 and it requires about 1,000 tons of ice to fill it properly, about two-thirds of which is annually consumed by the heat. Ever since the completion of this building it has been used for the storage of various kinds of fruits, and has proven an entire success, and the owner has realized a handsome profit upon his investment.
There is another large refrigerator or fruit house in Reading that is constructed upon a somewhat similar plan which has been used for preserving tropical fruits and storing eggs, etc., for which purpose it has proven very successful. There is still another large refrigerator or fruit house in this city, quite recently completed and stocked with ice, which will be ready for the storage of fruits, etc., the coming season, and which will prove a great convenience to fruit growers as well as consumers of this place".