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.
I was quite interested in Mr. E. P. Powell's article in your March number, on "How to Save your Apples." It is a matter in which I am deeply interested, and which I have been writing about. With your kind permission I will repeat what I too have said, for I am anxious to disseminate as widely as possible what I deem of vital importance in apple keeping. Who would not adopt the very best method known to store apples through the winter? Nearly every one relishes apples. These are the most generally used of all our native fruits. A larger business is done in them than in any other. They are the most profitable and reliable. They can be most depended upon. There are more "apple years" than of any other fruit. It is claimed that they are the most wholesome fruit, and the ones that would be the most missed. Now, it is of the first importance, Mr. Editor, to ascertain and to make use of the best and safest way of keeping so valuable a fruit. Improvements are being made in many things nowadays. Have we been in error in the mode of keeping apples? Is there a better way? Formerly, a perfectly dry air, and a receptacle entirely free from moisture, were considered indispensable requisites by the generality.
It is now clearly established that these conditions, so far from being absolutely necessary, are a disadvantage. Old fruit men would doubtless ridicule the idea of keeping apples enclosed in a box at the bottom of a canal, the water even to freeze hard. And yet it was discovered by accident that a certain variety of apples not only kept perfectly under similar circumstances, but their season was prolonged several months. I quote from Dr. T. H. Haskins: "A friend of mine being in Montreal says that seeing some very fine Fameuse apples exposed for sale in that city, he inquired how they were kept. He learned that they were part of a cargo of a canal boat which had sunk in the canal, and was frozen before it could be raised. When this was effected in the spring, it was found that the cargo of apples which would not have kept much longer than January in the air, had been preserved perfectly in the water. An old custom of burying apples in the ground, the same as roots for winter storage, also demonstrates that moisture in contact with apples does not necessarily cause rotting. In Russia, I understand that apples are preserved in tight barrels with water, in the way practiced in this country with cranberries.
What, then, is the essential requisite for the safe winter keeping of this fruit? Simply, I believe, the preservation of a low, uniform temperature, as near the freezing point of water as possible. This can be maintained in dry cellars, but much more easily and perfectly, I think, in wet ones. The moisture does no harm to the apples. The presence of water has a controlling power over the variations of temperature near the freezing point, as all know who have had to keep water in a cold cellar to keep it from freezing. Moisture may even be a direct benefit in preventing evaporation from and consequent withering of the apples, though this evaporation is very slight at the low temperature necessary in fruit cellars for success in keeping apples over until spring."
A correspondent of the Massachusetts Plough-min, who purchased in spring nearly 500 barrels of apples, kept during winter under various conditions, reports as follows: " Those stored in damp, dark cellars were brighter, firmer and less decayed. In one cellar in Woodstock, there were some eighty barrels; in this cellar there was a spring; the water was some three inches deep; the barrels of apples were not headed up, they were just above the water on stones and timbers; Russetts, Greenings, English Beauties and Baldwins. In some of the barrels there was not a single specked or decayed apple. They were the best of all I bought. The others varied in firmness and bright appearance. A dark, damp cellar in every case proving the best."
An experienced fruit buyer said that whenever on entering a cellar, he was compelled to walk on boards to keep out of the water, he was sure to find the fruit in good condition. The well-known English horticulturist, Mr. Gottsome, writes to the London Garden: "My own experience of fruit rooms is that they are generally too dry and over-ventilated, for I do not think that a really sound apple will rot so readily as some seem to fancy. From having observed during the last few winters how sound and plump apples keep when left under the trees, covered with fallen leaves, I am inclined to think that if our fruit rooms were more after the style of cellars, or partially sunk under ground, their contents would keep better than lofty, airy structures, which do not answer the purpose for which they are intended so well as humbler buildings. We store large quantities in thatched houses in large heaps for winter and spring use, and I am certain they keep far better than when laid in single layers on shelves, with the dry air acting upon them and shriveling them up long before they would be if kept in a moister atmosphere."
Pits should be dug separate from the dwelling houses, and thus avoid the unpleasant effects in the living rooms. In Canada, apples are rarely stored for keeping in house cellars. A special cellar is made, deep, with thick stone walls laid in mortar. These walls rise above the surface only about ten inches - to allow of small windows for ventilation and light. There is a double floor above filled in with moss or sawdust. This floor is covered by a roof-like attic, and the apples are then kept until the approach of severe frosts, when they are sorted, barreled and rolled and lowered into the cellar through a trap-door, which is then closed, and packed in the same way as the floor. At times during the winter, when the weather is not freezing, this cellar is opened and the fruit removed for sale. When properly done and managed, there is little or no loss in this way of storing winter apples. I quote from Dr. Haskins, a high authority. With your approval, Mr. Editor, I will continue the subject in a future number. [Please do. - Ed.]
In my last communication I treated of winter keeping of apples. I would continue the subject. I deem it an exceedingly important one. Soraner holds that the intact skin of an apple is its chief protection against decay. He found that apples whose waxy coating had been left unharmed, did not decay for a long time after he had smeared them with mold, although they were left all the while in a moist and warm place. Siill other experiments were made to test the question whether there is any advantage in packing apples, layer by layer, with straw or sand. Four kinds of apples were packed away in glass vessels, half of each lot in chopped straw, and the other half in dry sand. It appeared not only that the sand was decidedly preferable to straw, but that the use of straw is not to be commended. Although there was no loss through decay of the apples packed in the straw, they nevertheless shriveled more than apples which were lying free in the cellar, and they acquired a musty taste from the straw as it became damp.
The use ot dry sand, on the other hand, seemed to be advantageous, since the fruit packed in it retained an uncommonly fresh appearance and excellent flavor, and promised to keep in good part, until July. The sand-packed apples lost only about half as much water by evaporation as those which were lying free upon the shelves. They were almost wholly free from moldiness; and when one of them happened to decay it did infect the others. Even those apples which had been bruised, did not decay more rapidly than the sound fruit, provided that the skin had not been broken. Other apples were wrapped in tissue paper and compared with those left uncovered, both in a dry chamber and in the cellar. No advantage was derived from the paper, excepting in a dry room; for in the cellar, mold developed itself more rapidly upon the apples wrapped in paper than on those which were lying free. These experiments, Mr. Editor, are entitled to most careful consideration. The Germans are very accurate and thorough in their tests. We should profit by the discoveries of scientific men. Say what they may, " book-farming" will tell.
One reason American agriculture is so deficient generally is, because farmers will so rarely listen to students and experi-mentors. To recur to apple-keeping, says the Indiana Farmer, " Every farmer who raises apples may have this fruit in using condition the whole year. Select the best keeping varieties in your possession, prepare barrels or boxes of a convenient size to store the spring stock. The fresh fallen leaves furnish the best packing materials. Finely-cut straw is a good substitute. Carefully select your apples, rejecting all that are bruised, or in any way defective. Place a layer of leaves or cut straw in the bottom of the barrel or box. On this set a layer of apples and packing. Head the barrel; or, if it be a box, nail a tight cover over it, and the fruit is ready for storing. Freezing will not materially injure them. A space now in the barn, where they can be covered with straw, is a good storage room." Says the Massachusetts Ploughman: "Two years ago this spring I advertised for 500 barrels of apples, and purchased nearly that many, and noted carefully the result of the various storing. Those stored in damp, dark cellars were brighter, firmer, and less decayed.
In one cellar in Woodstock there were eighty barrels; in this cellar there was a spring; the water was some three inches deep.
The barrels of apples were not headed up; they were just above the water on stones and timbers - Russets Greenings, English Beauties, and Baldwins. In some of the barrels there was not a single specked or decayed apple; they were the best of all I bought. The others that I bought varied in firmness and bright appearance; a dark, damp cellar in every case proving the best." There is a careless way of storing apples altogether too common; the heaping together of short-keeping and long-keeping varieties. The first beginning to rot at or near the expiration of their season, communicates the infection to the second. System must be observed in the preservation of apples. Farmers, as a rule, are sadly deficient in it. When will they become more methodical?