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.
Your leading article, in the last number of the Horticulturist, is on a subject of great importance, in my opinion, and in itself is a host of information. Bat as you ask others' experience, I will take the liberty of sending you some of mine. Some six or eight years ago, I was called upon to graft a Pear tree, belonging to a neighbor, who stated that the tree bore nothing but worthless fruit. The following autumn, chancing to pass by the tree, I noticed some very fine looking Pears on the branches that had been left ungrafted; asked for, and obtained a few. I took them home, and ripened them in the house, and they got quite good, - the owner called them first rate. Last summer I obtained a few English Jargonelle Pears from a neighbor, that were so green as to be considered worthless. I told him that we would see about that. About ten days after, when in company with him, I handed him one of the Pears, and had to assert very earnestly that they were the same ones, before he would be convinced. In my notion there is no Pear that is so much improved as the Jargonelle by house-ripening; for under proper treatment it can be made quite good; but if left ripen on the tree, I consider it a vile fruit.
Yesterday I purchased two bushels of Pears, on the tree, for which I paid twenty-five cents per bushel, as the owner said they were not good for anything. It is a Pear quite common about here, but universally left laying under the trees to rot, or converted into cider. My calculation is wrong if I don't make a good Pear out of it about January or February.
Now about the ripening of Pears. Summer varieties have always done well with me, taken from the tree about ten or fifteen days before they might be ripe upon the tree, carelully hand picked, laid into a drawer which should not be closed quite tight, and my word for it, many Pears that are not worth picking up when fallen ripe from the tree, will be found to prove of good quality.
As to winter Pears, my plan is to pick them carefully, lay them on the floor of a northern room for two weeks (the room nearly dark), with only enough air through the windows to prevent the dampness from settling upon them in cool nights. I then pack them in a box pretty close, and leave them in as even a temperature as possible, until I want them for use; then put a small quantity in a warm room, in a box or drawer, and in ten or twenty days they will begin to ripen. How to eat a good Pear in winter no one need be told.
Summer and fall Apples are not only benefitted, by being taken before folly ripe, bat their time may be greatly prolonged. I have kept the Summer St. Paradise until Christmas, by taking them a little green, wrapping each one in paper, and packing them in the bottom of a cheSt, under some clothes.
Peaches, with us, ought to be very nearly ripe before taken from the tree - at least the early varieties; the later ones will bear taking off greener. The Heath Cling, if taken at the proper time, can be kept until near the end of the year, by taking them from the tree before they are at all soft, wrapping in paper, and put into a close drawer or chest.
Cherries are not fit (at least, most kinds) to be eaten after they have been picked fifteen hours; but the great error here, is, three-fourths of them are taken nearly a week before ripe. I have for years endeavored to persuade some of my customers to leave the Black Tartarian until ripe, but of no avail; they will pick them whan half ripe, and then complain that I sold them a red Cherry, instead of a black one.
Strawberries, above all, I think should be fresh from the vines. We never think of keeping them over night for market, but generally send them to the town within three or four hours after gathering. They are at once picked into quart boxes, handled carefully, carried two miles in a spring wagon, and look as when plump and fresh almost as on the vines. A lady from Philadelphia once saw some of my Strawberries in town, and remarked that few came to the city market in as fine order. While upon the subject, I will state that with me, the Hovey's Seedling, Burr" New Pine, Longmorth's Prolific, and British Queen, are my favorites among some dozen varieties that I have experimented upon.
In Plums my experience has been small, as the Cureulio saves me the trouble of learning how to keep them. However, some fine Columbia, Jefferson, Princes Imperial, and Washington Plums have borne. Samuel MilLEr. - Calmdale, near Lebanon, Pa.