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 believe that full three-fourths of all the summer fruits consumed in this country, reach the hands of consumers in a totally unfit state for the use of human beings who are not prepared to commit suicide. So alarming has this traffic become, and more especially in cholera times, that the humane and enlightened public authorities of such well-regulated cities as Rochester have actually published an ordinance prohibiting the sale of fruit, thus placing it on an equal footing with the very worst of public nuisances 1 The man who offers fruit for sale at his door, is considered as great an enemy to the public welfare as he who would let a mad dog loose in the public streets. Is not this something to be surprized at, and regretted Frutsi, which should be the most healthy and refreshing articles of human food, and especially during the sultry season of the year, (when strong animal food is out of the question,) forbidden, as though they were poison! It is high time, surely, for some reformation in the manner of preparing and offering fruits in the market Green Apples, rotten Pears, and fermented Peaches, will not much longer be tolerated by law anywhere, even if permitted by the necessities and ignorance of the public.
Those who grow fruits for market must therefore make up their minds at once that they must prepare them properly, just as farmers do their grain, beef, pork, or poultry. All these things must by common consent be dressed and put in fair marketable condition before being exposed for sale, and why not fruits I Look at the economy of the matter. One man comes into town with a few bushels of nice, selected, ripe Apples, or carefully hand-picked and house-ripened, delicious Pears, and without any peddling about the streets he disposes of them at his own price; while another, who has shaken some fruits off his trees, thrown them into a wagon box, and brought them into market, is shunned and driven out of town with his load, as though he were freighted with a plague.
All the fruits that are grown, and ten times as many more, would not be enough to supply the public wants in this country, were they properly ripened. Carelessness is largely at the bottom of the abuses that prevail in these matters. Fruit-growing, with a great majority of those who supply the markets with fruit, is not a regular profession, but a sort of subordinate incidental one; other branches of their pursuit are considered more important, and the fruits are passed hurriedly and negligently through their hands, the object being to get rid of them with the least possible waste of time. There is a great field open to those who will embark in this business systematically and thoroughly. We remember, at a conversational meeting of fruitgrowers and those interested in the subject, at Saratoga, last year,* some statements being made, showing the advantages that resulted from the exercise of skill and care in gathering, ripening, and assorting fruits for market It was stated that Bartlett Pears, gathered at a proper time, and matured in the house, sold for three or four times as much as others carried from the tree direct to the market; and that, by assorting them into grades, a few of the very finest sold for as much as the whole would have brought if offered in promiscuous order as they came from the tree.
This will hold good everywhere, even with public taste in these matters crude as it is.
The management of fruits at all seasons requires constant care and watchfulness, beside an amount of knowledge in regard to the process of ripening in the different fruits which can only be acquired by minute observation. Some fruits roust be allowed to attain perfect maturity on the tree, and be consumed as quickly as possible after being gathered. Of this class are Strawberries and Cherries.
Strawberries should be perfectly ripe, but not overripe, as the fine flavor and healthiness are gone the moment fermentation commences. They should always be gathered the same day they are used. The present mode, which is generally followed, of picking on one day the fruit which is to be carried to market the next, and kept the whole of that in the stalls of the fruiterer, should not be tolerated; as the fruit must thus be nearly two days gathered in warm weather, and therefore in an incipient state of decomposition before it reaches the table of the consumer. It is almost impossible to get a dish of really fresh Strawberries at the verv best hotels. It would involve greater expense to gather early in the morning the fruit for that day's use, but they should, and we believe would, sell for an advanced price, at least to intelligent purchasers.
Cherries are seldom seen in the markets or on tables of public houses in a perfectly mature state; and, as far as our observations have extended, but few who grow and gather for their own use, take pains to have them completely ripe and perfect. Black Cherries are very seldom seen black; and until a Cherry is quite ripe, no judgment can be formed of its flavor; and while ripe Cherries, fresh and sound, are healthy and refreshing, unripe ones are detestable. Cherries should be always picked with the stalks on, and in the morning of the same day they are to be used; and if cooled with ice before being placed on the table, they will be much more refreshing and agreeable.
Raspberries should ripen perfectly on the plants, and there is but a short time in which they are exactly right. Before fully ripe, there is an absence of that delicate flavor and perfume which constitute the excellence of this fruit; and every hour they are allowed to remain after maturity, is injurious to a greater or less extent The color of the fruit and the readiness with which it parts from the core, are reliable indications of maturity. Those who are charged with the direction of such matters, should make themselves familiar with the peculiar appearance of the different fruits when ripe, and should make numerous experiments in gathering, until they find they have mastered this point Many fruits look ripe when they are not, and others the reverse; so we can not rely upon appearances.