This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
WHERE there is a demand for ripe fruits as early in the year as it is possible to have them, it is of the greatest importance to make such selections of Pines, Grapes, Peaches, Nectarines, Strawberries, etc, as not only bear forcing well by artificial means from midwinter onwards, but which also come the most rapidly to a state of ripeness. In both these respects there are very marked differences in the different varieties of these fruits. No experienced forcer who wanted to present new Grapes at table in April or May would select for this purpose the Muscat of Alexandria, although it has probably more good qualities than any other white or even black Grape. Nor would the Barring-ton or late Admirable Peaches be selected, though these are noble varieties in their proper place. Of Strawberries, no one would select British Queen for ripening early in March, although it is probably yet the finest late or midseason Strawberry in existence. In their respective classes these are all first-class fruits, but they are totally unfitted for very early forcing.
Among Grapes, Black Hamburg has yet no rival for early forcing as a black variety; Buckland Sweetwater and Foster's Seedling are popular white sorts for early work, and no doubt they bear forcing well and ripen early; but it seems strange that such very superior flavoured Grapes as the white and grizzly Frontignacs are so seldom met with in early vineries. They are both Grapes that stand forcing remarkably well, are sure croppers, and come early to maturity. Indeed for our own choice we much prefer Royal Muscadine, and one or two other varieties of Muscadine, for flavour, to either Buckland's »Sweetwater or Foster's Seedling. Where mere appearance is appreciated in preference to flavour, the two last-named may perhaps be preferable.
The popular early forcing Peaches have been, and are still to a great extent, Royal George, Abec, Early York, Stirling Castle, etc. No doubt these varieties have answered the purpose of early forcers well, and they are good when ripe, and until recently have been found among the quickest to arrive at a state of maturity. They are now, however, completely out-distanced for earliness by such varieties as Early Louisa, Early Beatrice, Hales's Early, and Early Rivers. But we fear the two first-named are too small ever to become so acceptable as they otherwise would be. Hales's Early is a large, fine-flavoured, handsome Peach. On these points there cannot be objections raised against it. Its earliness is very remarkable. We have before us a ripe handsome fruit of it from a Peach-house at Chatsworth. From the warmest end of the same house we have, for comparison, a fruit of Elruge Nectarine, and from the middle tree of the house, a fruit of Royal George Peach. The difference is more remarkable than in any similar comparison we have ever seen. Neither the Peach nor Nectarine from the warmest end of the house have finished the stoning period, while Hales's Early Peach is perfectly ripe, juicy, and luscious.
The valuable qualities of Hales's Early Peach for early forcing and ripening is thus most strikingly manifested, as against one of the most popular early Peaches of the older class. We believe that Early Rivers is a Peach equally early, rich in flavour, and of large size. There can be no doubt that, whatever may be the fate of the lesser-sized early Peaches, Early Rivers and Hales's Early will take a prominent position in the supply of early Peaches.
What is now wanted to match these two early Peaches is a Nectarine that will ripen nearly about the same time. For long Elruge Nectarine has held a first position as a fine forcing variety, and most deservedly so. It is a fine high-coloured sort, and a sure cropper. Hunt's Tawny is, of course, an earlier but not so good a Nectarine otherwise. It strikes us from what we have seen of Lord Napier that it must ultimately take a high position as an early Nectarine. It ripens about a fortnight before Hunt's Tawny, and (Lord Napier) is perhaps the largest Nectarine in existence, and is excellent in quality; but how it will stand forcing from the end of November onwards through the winter has not, so far as we are aware, been yet well tested. As a midseason fruit it is one of the most free, and it is reasonable to suppose that it will also succeed for winter forcing.
In all seasons early ripening varieties of fruits are of much importance, and they have perhaps never been more so than this year, when early forcing has been found more of an uphill business than perhaps for half a century. Any information that can be conveyed or received on this important matter cannot fail to be both useful and interesting, and we shall be very glad to receive any notes on fruits that our correspondents or readers have proved to be useful, and that excel in the quality of early ripening.