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.
Beside these, I saw on trees a large number of fruits, which are said to be excellent but I had no opportunity to taste them. But I must not, in speaking of fruits, omit to mention the sugar cane, which was voted by all our party to be the most invaluable discovery we thirsty travellers made on the Isthmus. It certainly is very palatable and very refreshing, a piece of it being better than a glass of ice-water to allay thirst.
When we ventured, in the face of the speculators in Sorghum seed, to ask what had become of the article in cultivation, we were called seriously to task. We had allusion to the original programme, which asserted that it was to supply the north with sugar. Soon it was reduced to molasses, and now doubters on that matter are increasing. H. Y., in the Rural New Yorker, says: "A few years since the production of silk was the popular hobby, and hardly any family ' with souls above buttons,' but what experimented in that mania, which was the universal topic of conversation and the trumpetings of the public prints: not a paper, daily or weekly, but what made this subject a constant theme, until silk worms and multicaulis ruined thousands. Where is the great speculation now? - gone to the tomb of the Capulets. There is great danger of a like result for the sugar cane. Its successful operation depends, on so many contingencies - so foreign to the habits and abilities of farmers in general - requiring strong, well-made iron crushing rollers and evaporating pans, differing from anything in common use, that well-grounded fears may be indulged that this valuable addition to domestic comforts, and even as a profitable crop, will be abandoned and sink into the dark waters of neglect and forgetfulness.
Abroad, we find in some cases that success still attends the cultivators of the sorgho - Chinese sugar-cane - in France."The plant yields there excellent sugar; a farina obtained from the seed makes good bread and chocolate; alcohol and an agreeable tonic wine are extracted from the stem and leaves, as well as certain dyes, of tints hitherto supposed to be peculiar to China; and the residue is convertible into paper. Truly, a most useful plant. We are glad to hear that it has been introduced into Australia, where, in the seasons of drought to which the colonies are liable, it is found eminently useful as food for cattle".
We observe that Dr. Sicard, of Marseilles, has formed an interesting collection of the products derived from the sorgho, the Chinese sugar-cane, which has been much talked of lately. The number, 423, is already surprisingly large, and comprises portions of the plant itself, with the spikes and seeds; various kinds of flour made by grinding the seeds, and mixing the meal with other kinds of flour; specimens of sorgho bread; of sugars of different qualities; of the juice; of beer, cider, vinegar, and brandy, all made from sorgho juice; sorghotic acid; various dyes, carmine, red, rose, yellow, lilac, slate color, and grey; besides other preparations. The doctor has, moreover, written and published two volumes concerning the sorgho, containing a description of the plant, and of the processes by which it is to be utilized.
A large portion of the central and southern portions of the state will produce the cane in greater perfection than any of the West India islands; for the frequent rains which occur in June, July and August, insure a luxuriant growth of stalk and foliage; and the succeeding dry months enables the cane to develop its saccharine matter in the greatest perfection. As a sugar producing region, it is superior to Louisiana; for in that state, the foliage of the cane is injured by early frosts, and the perfect development of the saccharine principle interfered with. Of this substance we annually import 1,457,512,299 pounds; costing at points of purchase $79,146,974. Of this amount we annually pay Cuba about $50,000,000. It seems strange that we possess the climate and soil to produce sugar in perfection, and yet our population rush to our grain fields of the west, and raise wheat at a figure that gives them a bare subsistence.