This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
"No part of the diet in any season is so healthful, so natural, and so agreeable to the stomach as good and well-ripened fruits".
Thus Sir Wm. Temple taught (About Beautiful Gardens, 1685). "I can say it for myself at least, and all my friends, that the season of summer fruits is ever the season of health with us, which I reckon from the beginning of June to the end of September; and for all sicknesses of the stomach (from which most others are judged to proceed) I do not think that any who are like me (who am most subject to them) shall complain whenever they eat thirty or forty cherries before meals, or the like proportion of strawberries, white figs, soft peaches, or grapes perfectly ripe. Now whoever will make sure to eat good fruit must do it out of a garden of his own; so that for all things out of a garden, either of salads, or fruits, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none. The best fruit that is bought has no more of the master's care than how to raise the greatest gains; his business is to have as much fruit as he can upon a few trees, whereas the way to have it excellent is to have but little on many trees".
"Health is preserved" (Treatise on Fruit-trees, 1653) "by wholesome meats, and drinks, all the yeare from the garden of fruit trees. These dishes, and drinks from orchard fruits are both alimentall, and physicall; they cure disease, and preserve health. Now the garden of fruit trees is profitable to the body for long life, first by the bodily organs, secondly by the affections of the minde; the sweet perfumes of fruits work immediately upon the spirits for their refreshing; such healthfull ayres are speciall preservatives to health, and are therefore much to be prized." The flavour fruits are chiefly eaten for the sake of their agreeable tastes, but they are also of service by reason of the vegetable salts of potash which they furnish. The food fruits contain a large proportion of special sugar which gives them a high nutritive value. This sugar is laevulose, and better suited to delicate, or gouty digestions than dextrose (or cane-sugar). It may be utilized even by diabetic invalids without detriment, being given in such fruits as apples, green gooseberries, cherries, and green currants, before the sugar is fully matured therein.
Or, this "laevulose "can be obtained as a sugar from certain grocers, being a white crystalline article, of which two ounces may be safely, and profitably used with the daily food. The value of fruits as food does not lie in their nutritious constituents nearly so much as in their mineral salts, and in their fruit acids, which are of essential benefit to the health, and the blood. These acids, as already shown, exist in union with alkalies, and render uric acid (gouty, if in excess) soluble. The organic acids of fruits (citric, tartaric, malic, etc.) exist mainly in combination with alkalies, but in such a manner that no chemistry can form their counterpart; we may give to a patient for scurvy citrate of potash as a drug (just such a chemical salt as exists in lemons, and oranges) somewhat successfully, but with nothing of results as compared with those obtained "by giving the said fresh fruits, rich in natural citrate of potash. And it is the same with the other acids found combined with an alkaline base, such as malic, and tartaric, in grapes, apples, pears, peaches, and apricots. Bananas, peaches, and prunes are among the least acid fruits.
The organic acids combined with their basic earths in fruits improve the quality of the blood, whilst acting as anti-scorbutics, laxatives, and diuretics, increasing the movements of the bowels, and the flow of urine. But all persons cannot eat fruit with impunity. For instance, a case is on record of a patient who could not take a single strawberry without incurring great numbness in both legs; and another of a lady in whom the eating of ripe, uncooked fruit would provoke asthma. Skin eruptions likewise sometimes ensue after any such indulgence. Pepys tells a humorous incident about "our parson, Mr. Mills, on Lord's-day, April 17th, 1664, making a remarkable mistake when reading the morning service; instead of saying 'We beseech thee to preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth," he prayed,' Preserve to our use our Gracious Queen Katherine.' "
Oranges, again, prove disturbing to the liver, and biliary functions of some persons; and with others the skin becomes troubled by an eruptive outbreak if one or another sort of certain fruits is indulged in.
The various uses of fruits in relieving diseased conditions of the body have been summarised as follows: Under the category of laxatives we may place oranges, figs, tamarinds, prunes, apples, mulberries, dates, nectarines, and plums; pomegranates, cranberries, blackberries, jewberries, raspberries, barberries, quinces, pears, wild cherries, and medlars are astringent fruits; grapes, peaches, strawberries, whortleberries, prickly pears, black currants, and melon seeds are provocative of urine; gooseberries, red and white currants, pumpkins, and melons are cooling fruits; whilst lemons, limes, and apples, again, are sedatives to the stomach. For the modern treatment of chronic dysentery the value of certain kinds of fresh fruit has come to be recognized in medical practice. Of these fruits may be specified apples, strawberries, fresh figs, and tomatoes, all of which are seed fruits as distinguished from stone fruits; it is essential that they shall be absolutely sound, and in good condition. Dr. Lacy, of Guernsey, has successfully practised this treatment for many years, and recently it has come into use by other physicians for chronic dysentery, and diarrhoea, with most happy results.
Professor Sheridan has lately reported to the Linnaean Society his conclusions from experiments to ascertain the digestive qualities of various fruits, such as the fig, pineapple, melon, banana, apple, orange, also the vegetable marrow, cucumber, lettuce, dandelion, etc. He has found that the enzyme, or ferment, contained in the juices of these plants will exercise the property of peptonizing the higher proteids, and is also proteolytic. With the apple, and the orange, their peel is particularly sensitive in this respect, whilst the pulp is less so. Those fruits which we do not peel before they are eaten should certainly be thoroughly washed first, as it is impossible to say what dirty places they may have been in since gathered, or what unclean hands they may have passed through; and sundry diseases can be conveyed by contaminated fruit.