This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In connection with this department of work let me call your attention to the importance of raising the standard of quality of our market fruits, not only for our own markets, but for exportation which is hereafter to be one of our most important branches of commerce. True, we have many varieties whose combined characteristics render them very important and useful, like the Wilson strawberry, the Concord grape, and the Baldwin apple. These, however, are not of so high a quality as we could desire, but until we can produce others of superior merit, in this respect, they will still be of great value. But can we not retain their good points for transportation, and unite them with better quality? I think we can. The same elements which have given us the Iona grape, the Sheldon pear, and the President Wilder strawberry, can give us others of equally good quality, and at the same time productive and adapted to transportation. These are stepping stones upon which we are to rise to higher excellence, and I doubt not that we shall now, if we have not already in possession, numerous varieties as good as those named, and with the other qualities that make them valuable for distant markets.
If we can put into the market alongside of the Wilson strawberry another variety as productive and as good a carrier as that, but fifty per cent, better in quality, there can be no question that the Wilson would be no longer supplied. Other illustrations might be drawn from grapes - apples - and from pears like the Beurre Clairgeau, beautiful, but of poor quality. There is no doubt varieties combining size and beauty, vigor, productiveness, and profit, with fine quality, will be produced, and we must make this our aim, and not give up until we reach it. If we can get another pear of as fine quality, healthy constitution, and general adaptation, as the Beurre d'Anjou, and ripening earlier, or, what is still better, ripening later, it will be an invaluable acquisition to our list, though already long extended. Ninety per cent, of our export of apples are Baldwins; but if we can get another with the color and the enduring spirit and vivacity and ease of culture of that variety, combined with the greater refinement and delicacy of the Northern Spy - and we can - it will be another invaluable acquisition.
Why should we not have another pear as fine as the Dana's Hovey, or Seckel, but of larger size? Is there a limit to the amount of flavor that can be put into the pear, so that when diffused through a large fruit it is not so high flavored? The Wilson strawberry, the Concord grape, the Baldwin apple, can be grown by everybody, but we want grapes, strawberries, pears, and apples for the million, possessing all the properties that have made these such universal favorites.
"There is a wide field open to the originator of hybrids," says John J. Thomas. "We want another pear as hardy as the Duchess, free from blight, as handsome as the Clairgeau, and as good as the Seckel, outbearing the Bartlett, and a month later; another apple as good in other respects as the Baldwin, but better in quality, aa the Swaar. We should not be satisfied with a currant less in size than the Delaware grape and as reliable as the Red Dutch, or until we acquire a strawberry with the general adaptiveness of the Wilson, and of the quality of the President Wilder."
And while upon this branch of our subject let us not forget the importance of maintaining a proper regard to other characteristics of a good fruit. So long as we raise fruit to eat we can have no hesitation in giving the first place to its eating qualities. Next in importance is durability, or keeping; that is, the property, whether early or late, of remaining sound after being gathered. The third requisite is size; but while we desire those of liberal size we should not forget that one of monstrous proportions is neither desirable for the market nor for table use. But whether large or small, a variety should be uniform in size. Beauty, color and form, will always be regarded as of great value. Brilliant colors will charm the eye, although they may not gratify the taste, but a misshapen, ugly form will never be tolerated by any one of cultivated taste. I have dwelt upon this branch of our subject - and I would, if possible, enforce my views upon it still more strongly - not only because I desire to see the quality of our fruits raised, but to save the American Pomological Society from the reproach of recommending fruits, otherwise unworthy, because " there is money in them."
I have spoken of the latter point with some reluctance, but from the belief that too much regard is being had to the size without regard to the form or beauty of fruit. If it be deemed advisable to give premiums to enlarge the size of products, as for instance, the biggest strawberry, squash or other monstrosity, let it be done for size without regard to form, color, or quality, and not for the "largest and best," as is generally the custom. In considering perfection of form and quality before monstrous size, the growers of vegetables are in advance of pomologists. It is our duty to correct public taste by our example, and not to encourage the growth of monstrosities or misshapen fruits which, if applied to the apple, pear, or even the potato or turnip, would not be worthy of cultivation. Well has Mr. Meehan in his recent monthly said, in regard to these ill-formed fruits, twisted and deformed to an outrageous extent, "May the time soon come when beauty of form shall be regarded as important as beauty in color."