This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Although this has been a great fruit year in the Highlands, grape-growers have been very much disappointed in the quality of their fruit, and many of my friends have disposed of their crops at ruinous prices, ranging from two and a half to five cents per pound for Isabella Grapes, which is the leading variety in cultivation. The immediate cause for this low price may be traced to the want of ripeness in the fruit, and, consequently, to the exceeding bad quality of that sent to market. As good fruit always commands a good price in your city, we must not suppose that it was the redundancy alone which depressed the market There are a few of us living in the Mountains who consider ourselves knowing ones. We "take the HORTICULTURIST, and read it;" we raise ripe fruit of good quality, and we get a good price for it, even in such a plentiful year as that of 1862. How then, me-thinks we hear some one ask, do you do it? This is what we are about to make known. We cultivate and ripen the wood, upon which our future ripe and good fruit is to grow, and we follow as closely as we can, and as near as our clever neighbors will let us, the instructions laid down in your journal, as to pruning, pinching, etc. It is true, we are pointed at as book-learned grape-growers, who will not profit by experience.
Experience of what? why, of those who will not consider these facts, but who follow Nature in the cultivation of the grape. Now Nature lets her vines grow wild, run great lengths, get into tall trees, and sometimes, though not very often, produces ripe, luscious fruit. Then Nature gets all the glory, and art, science, and skill are nowhere. Our answer to Friend Experience this year is, "We told you so;" and this will be, we think, the answer for many years to come. The principle of cultivating the vine so as to cause the sap to mature the fruit near the root, keeping the vine, a fruitful vine, away from Nature's tall trees; producing ripe, luscious fruit, and a good deal of it, is a triumph of skill over Nature, that even Nature's own advocates must sooner or later acknowledge; and if they profit by it, will show their good sense. With good culture, the Isabella grape may be ripened year after year, and no longer be a by-word or a reproach to its cultivators.
I began this with a view of making you a "model report" on grapes for the locality of Fishkill, Dutchess County, New York, and shall take them in the order of their ripening.
1st. Hartford Prolific 1st leaf, May 7; flower, June 10; fruit color, Augt. 7 to 16; ripe, Sept 10. Some branches hung on the vines to Nov. 5th, and were shrivelled and dried partially, like raisins. They sold readily at 12 cents per pound, and were complimented by dealers as the first Isabellas in market.
2d. Creveling, a much better variety than No. 1. A young plant bore one fine bunch, ripe September 15tb. This grape has great merits, and will doubtless become a favorite when better known.
3d. Early Northern Muscadine. Ripe, 15th September; leaf, 12th May; flower, 15th June; color, August 27. Hung on to 2d November, but dropped when touched; not otherwise.
4th. Clinton. Leaf, May 7; flower, June 3; fruit set, June 10; color, August 22; ripe, September 10; picked, November 2; and was then in fine condition for wine making, and by many admired for eating.
5th. Isabella. Leaf, May 12; flower, June 14; fruit set, June 20 to 25; color, September 1; ripe enough to market, 17th; fully ripe, 30th. One vine colored 20th August, but did not ripen. On examination it was found to be half girdled by mice at the surface of the ground. These berries were very large and showy, but not sweet, having the flavor peculiar to girdled grapes. Isabella grapes are often marketed before maturity. Unripe grapes on the 17th September sold for 8 cents per pound; those that were fully ripe on and after the 1st October brought 9 cents at wholesale. Common fruit was then selling at about 4 cents. An offer of 15 cents was made for the balance of the crop on 27th October, which closed the season. Truly, "the Isabella can not yet be dispensed with".
6th. Catawba. Leaf, May 14; flower, June 17; mildew and rot, July 20; color, Sept. 2; and on 22d some few berries were ripe, but a portion remained unripe to Nov. 2d. Some fine bunches were selected and exhibited at the New-burgh Bay Horticultural Society's exhibition on 24th Sept. After the rot commenced, I strewed the vines, fruit, and leaves with a mixture of one part sulphur and twenty parts air-slacked lime, which appeared to arrest it.
7th. Perkins. Leaf, 15th May; flower, 12th June; color, Aug. 26; ripe, Sept 23. Drops from bunch; has a strong flavor (odor?) admired by many, and would sell well in small quantities at 12 cents per pound. Handsome fruit of a grayish pink, buttery, with a tough, thin skin.
8th. Concord. Sets scattering, but produces beautiful, large bunches. Leaf, May 15; flower, June 20; color, Aug. 22; ripe, Sept. 26. Hangs well to 1st Nov., and does not then drop. This is among our fine grapes, worthy of cultivation. Sells for 12 cents in market. It is not a favorite after the Isabella ripens.
9th. Hyde's Eliza. Leaf, May 16; flower, June 19; color, Aug. 27; ripe, Sept. 26. Sweet, vinous, hangs well; keeps well; will dry as a raisin; desirable. For three successive years i have found it good. It is not of the Isabella variety, as reported by the Fruit Growers' Society Of Eastern Pennsylvania.
10th. Rebecca. Leaf, May 16; flower, June 25; color, Aug. 25; ripe, Oct. 16. Has the taste of a foreign grape, though less sweet. Is a feeble grower. One vine will generally suffice. Casts its leaves early.
11th. To Kalon. Leaf, May 15; flower, June 21; mildew, July 10; fruit rots badly; color, Sept 6; ripe, with inferior bunches, Oct 5th. Not desirable.
12th. Allen's Hybrid. This is the first season of fruiting, and, to my great disgust, was covered with mildew like the foreign gooseberry. Some few berries that escaped were ripe and sweet Sept. 26. I hope this is an isolated case. The appearance of the mildewed fruit is the same as that of the Chasselas and Gutedel, which we cultivated 25 years since in the open air.
13th. Garrigues, a very poor imitation of the Isabella, ripens later, and is worthless to the cultivator.
14th. American Hamburgh; similar to the last described, only a little more so. This must be the grape which a celebrated cultivator describes as having for its pulp a "hard lump which passes undigested into the stomach, and which has performed its mission," if it ever had any. Worthless.
15th. Diana. A good grape, if it only would ripen. Leaf, May 12; flower, June 18; has some rotten berries; color, Aug. 27; on Nov. 2 there were some sweet and palatable berries, but not ripe.
16th. Anna. Leaf, May 15; flower, June 21; rot, July 12; color, Sept, 26; not ripe, Nov. 5, though other varieties in the same ground, with the same treatment, ripened well. This must be classed among the most worthless.
17th. Delaware, though last, not least. You may say I have "kept the good wine (vine) until now." This is the most unexceptionable grape, as it always ripens, and has a delicious, sweet, vinous, agreeable flavor. Leaf, May 13; flower, June 20; color, Aug. 27; ripe, Sept. 20. Hangs well; holds to the bunch, and is always good with me, as long as it lasts, which is not long. We send none to market, feeling that the laborer is worthy of his hire, and that he who grows good grapes gains great glory, and is himself worthy to glean and consume the product.
[Still another model report, for which you have our thanks. You are unquestionably right in saying that well-grown grapes of good quality will always bring a good price. We have never known it to be otherwise. We feel a good deal flattered by the knowledge that you attribute your success to following our suggestions. We have been similarly complimented from a number of other sources; and we may say here, that he who faithfully works out our "Hints," can not fail to achieve success in grape culture. Your account of the Hartford hanging on is the most favorable we have yet heard. The fruit does not drop so much on old vines as it does on young ones. The Creveling, we think, is destined to become a popular early grape. It is a fruit of much better quality than the Hartford. In regard to the Isabella, fully one half of all sent to market are unripe. The same remark will hold good of many other kinds of grapes. We hope Allen's Hybrid will do better with you hereafter, for it is really a fine fruit. How far it will be subject to mildew can not be certainly known yet; but we hope for the best. Anna, we are sorry to perceive, has been wayward and coquettish with you. We regret this, because we are very much disinclined to believe any ill of one bearing such a pretty name.
Bear with and coax her yet a little while. Truly you have "kept the good wine until now." Whether mentioned first or last, the Delaware is sure to assert its pre-eminence. You may depend upon the Delaware when every other grape fails you. But it seems that it does not last long with you; somehow or other, it is just so with us. Model reports and Delaware grapes are always in order. - ED].