This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Our attention has been called to an article in the January number of the Gardener's Monthly, written by P. D. Barnhart, of Banksville, Pa., in the course of which he gives a reply to the question asked on page 280, as to whether any one knows where the Teasel is cultivated in the United States. We can give a more definite answer than your correspondent above mentioned, for what is a "pest" in his section, the farmers in this part of New York State have converted into a useful and valuable article of commerce, which brings them annually about half a million of dollars. The two towns of Marcellus and Skaneateles in Onondaga County, produce all the teasels grown on this continent. They were first introduced here about fifty years ago, by the celebrated English pill doctor, John Snook. Having realized a large sum of money by the sale of his receipt for making his pills, he came to this country with the intention of raising teasels. He visited several different localities throughout the country, but could find no soil suitable to produce a perfect teasel, until he tried that of Skaneateles and Marcellus. His first attempts were successful, but such was the prejudice at that time against everything American, that he was obliged to sell his production as French growth, and it was not until about twenty years ago that the American teasel was admitted to be the best grown in the world.
The seed is sown about the beginning of May, and about one month afterwards is given its first hoeing. In another two weeks it is ready to thin out, which is done by hand, one plant being left every six inches in the row, and the rows three feet apart. In August the ground is again hoed for the last time in the first season. The second season we keep the horse cultivator at work pretty steadily for two weeks, and the plants that were formed from the seed the first year, throw up a main stalk the second year, and when about two feet high, a leaf makes its appearance, which gradually forms a cup around the stalk ; from the base of this other branches arise, and these in turn repeat the process, until the plant has from forty to fifty stalks. On the end of each stalk is a teasel. The cups act as reservoirs, with a capacity of from three to five quarts of water, and thus keep the plant supplied from one rain-storm to another. The main stalk teasel is called the " King," and is the male part of the plant. It blossoms first, beginning at its apex and gradually going towards the base, and while this is in operation, it sheds a fine pollen over the other teasels, called queens, by which they are impregnated.
They all blossom with a white flower, and as soon as this drops, they are fit to cut. When taken from the fields they are placed in drying sheds built for the purpose, and cured. When they are ready for market, they are bought by dealers, who take them into their factories, and prepare them for the woolen mills. The preparation consists in clipping off, by hand, the beard that grows at the base of the teasels cutting the stems to about three inches in length, sorting them into four different qualities, into eight different lengths, and gauging them by machinery into thirty-six different diameters. The different lengths, diameters and qualities are packed systematically in separate boxes, measuring 3½x3½x5 feet. There are seven different houses engaged in shipping, employing from twenty to fifty hands each, throughout the year, with trade extending from St. Jose, California, on the West, to St. Petersburg, Russia, on the East, including the Canadas and Mexico.