"Figs or Pigs, Fruit or Brute?" is the title of a little book on fruitarianism which I have in my possession. The question is a pertinent one and its correct answer is freighted with increased health and happiness for everyone. Dr. Alcott declared, and this at a time when the regular profession declared fruit to be practically without food value, that; "The purest food is fruit. Fruit bears the closest relation to light. The sun pours a continuous flood of light into the fruits, and they furnish the best portion of food a human being requires for sustenance of mind and body."
Botanically, fruits are the edible parts of plants that result from the development of pollinated flowers, such as peaches, oranges, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, nuts, beans, peas, etc. Although, scientifically, beans, peas, nuts and other such articles of food, are classed as fruits, popularly such seed, because they do not possess an edible capsule (we do eat the green pods of the bean), are not considered as fruits. Botanically, the wheat grain or other cereal is a fruit. We shall here consider under the term of fruit, however, only those foods that possess the edible capsule surrounding the seed and shall consider nuts and cereals in separate chapters.
The soft, delicious pulp of the peach, pear, plum, apple, orange, etc., constitute fine food and is prepared by the plant especially for export purposes. Primarily, seeds are produced for reproduction. Secondarily, they are produced in great over abundance, that some of these may be used as export products. Some fruits, such as the banana, pineapple and the seedless orange, do not surround a seed. Other fruits, like the pomegranate, are largely seed, with but little edible pulp.
Edible fruits exist in greater variety than any other form of foodstuffs; over 300 different edible varieties are known. The tropics are especially abundant in them. Long before Bichat proved, by comparative anatomy, that man is naturally frugivorous, the race had recorded this fact in a thousand ways. The very word frugal refers to fruit. Dr. Oswald tells us of the Romans of the Republican age that, "in their application of the word, a frugal diet meant quite literally a diet of tree-fruits."
Ancient peoples realized the great importance of fruits. The Bible is full of references to fruits and vineyards. The same is true of other ancient literature. Moses exempted the man, who had planted a vineyard, from military service. The pagans consigned the olive tree to Minerva, the date to the Muses and the fig and grape to Bacchus for protection.
"And the Lord God planted a paradise eastward in Eden and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; And God took the man and put him into the Garden of Delight to dress it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat'."
In these few words the writer of Genesis explains to us that man was originally a gardener or rather a horticulturist and lived upon the fruits of the trees. In this, many of the ancient myths, legends and tradition agree perfectly with Moses. These also picture man as living in a state of perpetual bliss with health, strength and a very long life, so long as he remained on his fruit and nut diet and as becoming depraved, weak, short-lived and diseased when he forsook this and took to a diet of meat. This early age of man was called the "Golden Age."
The tradition of the deluge has it that the first thing Noah did after the waters of the flood had subsided was to plant a vineyard. The account of the spies sent by Joshua to investigate the land of Canaan tells us that they brought back "unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land."
The Latin poet, Ovid, pictures for us, a Golden Age when "Western winds immortal spring maintained," and when man lived on fruits, berries, and nuts. He says: "The teeming earth, yet guiltless of the plough, and unprovoked, did fruitful stores allow." During this age there was no vice and crime. Then, after describing the horrible cruelties inflicted upon animals, in order to appropriate their flesh as food, he says:
"Not so the Golden Age, who fed on fruit,
Nor durst with bloody meals their mouths pollute."
Referring to a subsequent "Silver Age," Ovid says:
"Then summer, autumn, winter did appear,
And spring was but a season of the year;
The sun his annual course obliquely made,
Good days contracted, and enlarged the bad.
The air with sultry heat began to glow;
The wings of winds were clogged with ice and snow;
And shivering mortals, into houses driven,
Sought shelter from the inclemency of heaven.
Those houses, then, were caves, or homely sheds;
With twining osiers fenced, and moss their beds,
Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful furrows broke,
And oxen labored first beneath the yoke."
Geology proper knows only one climate--a universal spring-like climate which reigned from pole to pole. Then, there came a great change in earth's climate. Ovid describes man before and after this change. He pictures agriculture and dwelling in caves and houses, as succeeding the Golden Age. Almost without exception, the poets, philosophers and historians of antiquity picture the diet of primitive man as being very simple and consisting largely of fruits and nuts. Porphyry, a Platonic Philosopher of the third century, after carefully investigating the subject of diet, tells us that "the Ancient Greeks lived entirely on the fruits of the earth." Making all allowances for the accretions of time and the loss of accuracy which time brings to traditions, these ancient myths embody important truths. They were not manufactured "out of whole cloth." They are not only important as blurred pictures of a more remote antiquity, but are also important as indications of the importance the peoples of less remote times attached to fruits and nuts. The myth of Promethus, who first stole fire from heaven, points back to a time when man did not cook his food; when he was not a deformed, sickly, suffering creature as we see him today, but a long-lived, healthy, happy being.
The Greeks always served two courses of fruits, while the Romans, if they ate breakfast at all, had a fruit breakfast. The third course of the principal daily meal of the Romans consisted of a super-abundance of fruits from their own orchards. Rich Romans planted fruit trees on the tops of high towers, and on the tops of their houses. The ancient Gymnosophists, of India, lived entirely upon fruits and green vegetables. It was a part of their religion to eat nothing which had not been ripened by the sun, and made fit for food without any further preparation.