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.
4th. There is much talk of using native Grapes for making wine. The fact is, that the Isabella and other Grapes which will ripen fairly, will not make wine (true wine) at all, and the common domestic wine, from any Grape, is wretched stuff. Good wine can not be made in this careless and unskillful way.
5th. The common, badly cultivated, ill-ripened native Grapes, are not only unpleasant to the taste, but positively indigestible and dangerous to delicate children and persons of feeble digestion. Sudden and violent deaths have been produced in the vineyards at Cincinnati from eating rather freely of the Catawba. The pulp of the native Grape is very indigestible, and the seeds often prove very irritating to the intestines.
One gentleman stated, in reply to me, at the meeting referred to, that he had eaten five pounds of native Grapes per day during the height of the season, in addition to his other food, I suppose. Now, the rations of a soldier, under heavy marching, consist of only two pounds and a half of solid food in twenty-four hours; hence, I think we must set down the case of this gentleman as one of depraved alimentiveness. I am quite sure that five pounds of native Grapes, such as are generally produced and sold at Philadelphia, would kill any ordinary human being, if eaten in one day.
Thus much for the general tenor of my remarks at the Brooklyn Horticultural Society. My main point was, that any person who desired good grapes, and could afford to plant an acre of vineyard, had better put up a grape-house, and grow the foreign kinds under glass. I said that the vineyard culture of native grapes had not been successful or profitable at Philadelphia. I think so still. I have made diligent inquiries of the best informed persons, and have yet to hear of a successful vineyard which has been planted within five or six years. Ten years, or more, ago, when native grapes retailed at twenty-five cents per pound in our market, there was some money made by raising native grapes at Reading; but not much lately.
The nonsense put forth by the writer, under the signature of "Brooklyn," in the Horticulturist, is almost unworthy of a reply. I did not speak as a rich man, who could afford to have costly grape-houses, nor with contempt of the "simple pleasures of the poor." I was only comparing the relative cost and product of extended grape-culture in the vineyard and under glass. So all his sarcasms are as pointless as a bad joke, with the laugh taken out.
The writer in the New York Evening Post must not misstate me too boldly. It would take half a number of the Horticulturist to answer him in detail. Suffice it to say, that I have seen acres of native grapes on a place cultivated by that writer, in September, not very far from New York, some two years ago, in a partially ripe condition, (as ripe as they ever would be,) and when I inquired why he did not pick them, and sell them, he replied, it would not pay him to pick them; he was too busy with other things to pick and market them, or have them picked. This was no doubt true; if they grew wild, it would not pay a man in decent business to hire help to pick and market common native grapes, at com-mon prices. The writer referred to should not misrepresent me, and then attempt to disgrace me for what I have not said. Nor should he attempt to put down my method of culture by unfair statements. He is too easily known by his style. One who never speaks or writes on the grape without using the phrase "vinous refreshment," which nobody else does use, can not expect to employ his usual style in anonymous attacks upon any member of the Horticultural fraternity, without being discovered.
Fair play is of as much value as the Delaware grape.
In conclusion, I wish to be understood in this matter. I am not opposed to native grape culture. I cultivate these grapes extensively, and as successfully as others do. But I do not think them generally profitable, or very useful, or very gratifying to the taste; and compared with foreign grapes, raised under glass, they are unworthy of much labor or expense. A few native vines, in a sheltered situation, or on an arbor, may be found useful on any country place; and persons who can not afford to have a vinery of any size, or who could not manage one, may be much gratified with a few vines of natives. But those who for any purpose grow the natives extensively, near Philadelphia, I think are doomed to disappointment in the result I think the Delaware a fine grape, quite satisfactory to the taste; but it will scarcely produce a profitable return, in vineyard culture, until vines are to be obtained of better quality, and cheaper than those now offered. I confess myself a victim of the native grape mania; but it is not on account of my lack of skill in culture, nor in consequence of the system of culture pursued, as the writer in the Post would lead the reader to suppose; for the same skill and the same system prove eminently successful in the more difficult culture of the hot-house.
Dr. Grant is reported in the December number of the Horticulturist as saying to the Brooklyn Society, that " the vineyard affords a more remunerative pecuniary return, than tan, by any other branch of culture, be drawn from the bosom of our blessed mother earth" All I have to say is, that at Philadelphia, "our blessed mother" don't treat us in that way. Here "the fathers have eaten sour [native] grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." As to the pecuniary profit of vineyard culture, we are in the condition of the famous Lord Dundreary, when a cruel joke is made at his expense, we " don't see it".
[The length of the Doctor's article precludes us from any extended remarks; and as both he and the reader are familiar with our opinion on the subject, they will not be missed at present. The Doctor's remarks and our reply are fairly though very briefly given in the October number, in the proceedings of the Brooklyn Horticultural Society. We can not conceive of any satisfactory reason why native grapes can not be well and profitably grown around Philadelphia; and if this controversy shall develop any such reason, we shall not regret that it has taken place, for it would certainly develop a very remarkable fact in horticulture. In regard to eating five pounds of grapes a day, (good ones of course are understood,) nearly twice that weight per day is common in the "grape cures" of Europe; a friend recently from Italy assured us that he ate over eight with great benefit. We will undertake to grow fat on good grapes, native or foreign. We are now ready for the other side. Eat freely, but speak moderately. - Ed].