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.
WE have in hand a copy of the doings of the Illinois State Horticultural Society for 1872. It is the Seventeenth Annual Report of the Society, forming a handsome volume well filled with the usual reports from the standing committees, discussions, and liberally spiced with well written papers upon various topics. The report upon utilizing fruits is of general interest, for who does not at the present day, use fruit, or its products in some form or other, even to hard cider. The work upon the report was divided among the. committee. Mr. Periam of the committee spoke upon the preservation of orchard fruits in their natural state, and of drying and canning. In treating this division of the subject Mr. P. said:
All that is necessary in order to keep fruits perfectly, in fresh or natural state, is to place them in a dry, pure atmosphere, at a temperature of thirty-five to thirty-eight degrees. This has been accomplished by the plan of Prof. Nyce, and also in Schooloy's preservatory, the essential features differing in no great degree. The plan adopted by Mr. Nyce was to keep the temperature of the room at thirty-four degrees, and the atmosphere dry by means of the refuse of salt works, chloride of calcium, commonly called "bitterns." It is thus stated by Prof. Nyce:
"In a room or any confined vessel when filled with fruit in the gradual process of ripening, carbonic acid and water are constantly being generated. Six pounds of carbon and one of hydrogen will take up all the oxygen contained in one hundred and twenty pounds of air. The oxygen, especially if the fruit be ripe and the room warm, will usually be consumed in forty-eight hours. The atmosphere is then made up of the nitrogen of the air, and carbonic acid. The former is destitute of all active properties, good or bad. The latter is not found to have any action on fruit immersed therein. Hydrogen and carbon then cease to be evolved from the fruit, as there is no agent to unite with them, in the same way that they cease to be evolved from a burning candle when air is removed. Decomposition ceases in both cases, from the same cause." It is simply the application of a principle laid down by Liebig who says: "Decay is much retarded by moisture, and by the substance being surrounded with an atmosphere of carbonic acid, which prevents the air from coming in contact with decaying matter."
From this it would appear that the more perfectly the fruit is ripened, the better it will keep, care being taken that it be not overripe; the process of after ripening being a purely chemical process, the starch being gradually converted into sugar, for however much starch a green fruit may contain, it is gradually changed-during the process of ripening, until not a trace of starch may be left; for again Liebig says: "The more starch the green fruit contains, the more sugar will be evolved during the process of ripening."
The same principle was used in the plan not long since promulgated, the invention being to place the fruit in water-tight packages, and fill the interstices with carbonio acid gas, but as a matter of course, the plan did not work except in theory.
The fruit houses of Mr. Nyce were two-story buildings, the upper chamber containing ice, the sides and floor being double, three feet thick and filled in,with some nonconductor, so that the fruit room should be practically air-tight. The fruit was placed on shelves or racks, to the depth.of two or three feet. I have had tomatoes preserved for three months in the house in Chicago, which came out in perfect condition. The Chicago house, however, did not pay, and it was soon, I believe, abandoned.
The elements, therefore, of a complete preserving atmosphere are a uniform temperature, just above the freezing point, dryness, purity, and the exclusion as far as possible of the great agent of the decomposition - the oxygen of the atmosphere. Whoever can secure these conditions most cheaply will best succeed in keeping apples, pears, and grapes, and with plenty of these fruits out of their natural season, there is a fortune to whomsoever succeeds in its accomplishment.
I think the best place for keeping fruits in their natural state is in fruit-houses with double walls, secure at the same time from frost and the constant changes of the atmosphere; for however cheap dried or canned fruits are in the market, first-class natural fruits will always command a remunerative price. A curious fact in connection with seasons of extreme plenty like the one just passed, is, that being plenty, so much fruit is wasted that a nearcity almost always follows.
Where the soil is perfectly dry to a sufficient depth, or capable of perfect drainage, a fruit-house may be readily built under a barn or carriage-house, provided no stock is kept in the barn. The walls should be seven feet high, and if three sides are under the ground, the other side may be exposed to the weather if the ventilators and windows are double.
To prevent frost entering through the upper floor, it will only be necessary to have the beams one foot deep, the floor to be made of common two-inch plank, the joists or beams to be covered with matched boards for the ceiling; if the inter-spaces are filled with sawdust, or some material of like nature, frost will not enter. A trap-door should be provided for taking out fruit, or entering the cellar in cold weather; and a chimney also, for ventilation in extreme weather. If the whole cellar is not wanted for fruit, it can be partitioned off and a part used for storing vegetables. If the fruit in a cellar of this description be kept in tight packages, the temperature may run down to twenty-eight degrees for several days together, next the wails, without injury to the fruit, provided the packages are tight,- and as an index to the temperature, a sufficient number of thermometers should be kept, at top and bottom, to indicate the degree of cold, so that when the frost once gets in the room, means may be taken to obviate it.