Henry Phillips.

The companion for the orchard. An historical and botanical account of fruits known in Great Britain: online

. (page 22 of 27)
Online LibraryHenry PhillipsThe companion for the orchard. An historical and botanical account of fruits known in Great Britain: → online text (page 22 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


*' Standing by his Ma tie at dinner in the presence, there
was of that rare fruit call'd the King Pine, growing in
Barbados and y e West Indies, the fruit of them I had
never seen. His Ma lie having cut it up, was pleased to
give me a piece off his owne plate to taste of, but in my
opinion it falls short of those ravishing varieties of deli-
ciousness described in Capt. Ligon's History, and others ;
but possibly it might, or certainly was, much impaired in
coming so far. It has yet a gratefull acidity, but tastes
more like y e quince and melon than of any other fruit
he mentions. "



294 HISTORY OF FRUITS.

It was from the crowns of these pines, most probably,
that Mr. Rose the king's gardener, raised the first pine-
apples that fruited in England, if not in Europe. At
Kensington palace is a curious picture of King Charles
receiving a pine-apple from his gardener Mr. Rose, who
is presenting it on his knees. The earl of Waldegrave
has a similar painting in the breakfast-room of his beau-
tiful residence at Strawberry hill, Twickenham. The
painting represents king Charles the Second, in a garden
before his palace at Ham, attended by two of his fa-
vourite breed of spaniels, and Rose, the royal gardener,
presenting his Majesty with a pine-apple. This picture
formed a part of the collection of the celebrated Horace
Walpole, whose descriptive account informs us, that it
was bequeathed by Mr. London to the Rev. Mr. Penni-
cott, of Ditton, by whom it was presented to himself.
He adds, the painting is supposed to be by Daneker.

As forcing-houses had not at that period arrived at
any degree of perfection, the plants were probably by
the severity of the weather, or some accident, lost in this
country, until they were introduced a second time, which,
the Sloanean manuscripts in the British Museum inform
us, was not until the year 1690, when the earl of Port-
land procured plants from Holland.

In the Fitzwilliam Museum, at the University of Cam-
bridge, is a painting by Netscher, of a landscape with
a pine-apple, there stated to be the. first that ever
fruited in England, which was in' Sir Matthew Decker's
garden at Richmond, in Surrey, grandfather to the late
Lord Fitzwilliam. Gough says also, that it was Sir
Matthew Decker, Bart, who first introduced the culture of
the Ananas.

We have not been able to ascertain in what year the
Ananas first fruited in Sir Matthew's garden, but surmise
that it was about the year 1724 or 5, as in the v*ar 1726






PINE-APPLE. 295

we find there was printed, " An account of the Armunus.
or West Indian Pine-apple, as it now flourishes in Sir
Matthew Decker's garden at Richmond, in Surrey, under
the care of Henry Telende." Ext. in ejusdem libro : Lon-
don, 1726.

From Lady Mary Montague's remarks, we may also
conclude that it was not much before the time stated, as
on her journey to Constantinople in the year 1716, this
intelligent lady remarks the circumstance of pine-apples
being served up in the dessert, at the electoral table at
Hanover, as a thing she had never before seen or heard
of; and from her ladyship's rank, we may conclude that
she would naturally have met with them, or heard of the
circumstance that excited so much curiosity, had they
been previously ripened at Richmond.

It is stated, that the first pine-apples, raised in Europe,
were by M. La Cout of Leyden ; and this is probable, ex-
cepting those grown by Mr. Rose, in the time of Charles
the Second.

By an engraving of the pine-apple, which was pub-
lished by Robert Furber, gardener, at Kensington, in the
year 1733, we may judge that the raising of pines was
not then brought to any degree of perfection, as the fruit
is represented short, having not more than four or five
rows of pips in height ; and the crown appears small and
weak. From the drawings of the other fruits, which
seem to be from fine specimens, it is natural to suppose
that this fruit was also copied from the best pine then
produced.

In Jamaica, pine-apples have become so prolific, that
they are often used to flavour rum, and a wine is made
from the fermented juice of the sweeter sorts, nearly
equal to Malmsey. Lunan observes, in his Hortus Ja-
maicensis, that these plants grow most luxuriantly when
they are associated together; and the suckers from them



296 HISTORY OF FRUITS.

are stronger and finer, than when the plants are separated
at a distance from each other: by this their roots are
likewise kept cooler and moister.

Mr. Swinbura observes, that the ananas grows very
well out of doors at Reggio near Naples. The prince of
Scilla was the first that cultivated it in that part of the
world. He treated it in the beginning with great chari-
ness and precaution ; but, upon trial, he found a bolder
management suit it better.

In the month of February 1822. we saw exhibited at
the London Horticultural Society, a moderate-sized pine-
apple, which was grown in a common green-house ; and
Thomas Andrew Knight, Esq. tells us, in the Transactions
of that Society, that, " in the month of June 1820, he
gave a couple of pine-plants, which had shewn fruit at
six months old, and were of small size, and no value,
to a child, 4:o be placed in a conservatory, in which no
fires were kept during the summer. In July, a storm of
hail destroyed nearly, or fully, half the glass of the con-
servatory ; and its temperature through the summer and
autumn had been so low, that the Chasselas grapes in
it were not ripe in the second week in September. In
the second week of the present month (October) one of
the pine-apples became ripe, having previously swollen
to a most extraordinary size, comparatively with the
size of the plant; and upon measuring accurately the
comparative width of the fruit, and of the stem, he found
the width of the fruit to exceed that of the stem in the
proportion of seven and three quarters to one. The fruit
had of course, been propped during all the latter part
of the summer, the stem being wholly incapable of sup-
porting it. The taste and flavour of this fruit were ex-
cellent, and the appearance of the other, which is not
yet ripe, and is of a larger size, is still more promising/'



PINE-APPLE. 297

We hope these results will be profitable to those that
have good vine-houses or conservatories,

We have now a considerable variety of this exquisite
fruit, and new kinds are frequently procured by the
curious from the seed, which is very small, of a kidney
shape, and lodged like the seeds of berries in the tuber-
cles ; but the pine is chiefly propagated by planting the
crowns or suckers, which latter come more quickly to
maturity, and are therefore more generally preferred
The most rare kind is the green pine, which was brought
from Barbadoes ; the black pine is of late introduction*
Of the older varieties, the sugar-loaf pine, with a yellow-
ish flesh, is greatly preferred to the oval-shaped fruit of
a paler colour. The Welbeck-seedling is a pine justly
admired ; as is the blood-pine, a variety grown by Mr.
Wilmot of Isleworth, who makes the following just re-
mark : " like the strawberry," says he, " pines would be
better reduced to four or five varieties."

The heaviest pine-apple, we believe, that has been
grown in this country, weighed eleven pounds ; and the
one exhibited at the London Horticultural Society and
afterwards presented to his Majesty for his coronation
dinner, was the largest ever seen in England, but was
not quite so heavy, weighing ten pounds eight ounces.
There has also been cut in the hot-house of the Right
Hon. Thomas Wallace, of Carlton Hall, a pine-apple,
weighing nine pounds four ounces and a half. It was
brought to this high state of perfection by the skilful
management of Mr. Thomas Todd, gardener.

It is stated by William Bastard, Esq. in the Philoso-
phical Transactions for 1777, that pine-apples raised in
water are larger and finer flavoured than those raised in
bark beds ; the plants are set in pots of earth which are
kept in a pan of water that is kept full, and placed in the
hottest part of the forcing-house.



298 HISTORY OF FKUITS.

Dr. Wright says, pines have a detersive quality, and
are better fitted to cleanse the mouth and gums than any
o-argle whatever.

This fruit was long confined to the tables of the rich
and the luxurious, on account of the expense of raising
it in stoves ; but the cultivation of the pine-apple is now
so well understood in this country, that notwithstanding
the bar made by the high price of glass, and the expense
of fuel, this fruit is seen in our markets, at one-fourth of
the price they produced a few years back : and pine-apple
ices are already become as common as those of raspberry,
in the shops of the London confectioners.

As the heating of pineries by steam is found to answer
to the most sanguine expectation, we have only to hope
that the duty on garden glass will be relinquished, when
we should soon have African gardens of great extent on
the banks of the Thames, and this American fruit cried
through our streets, two for a crown.

The late Sir Joseph Banks says, that it does not re-
quire the foresight of a prophet to foretell, that in less
than half a century we shall have forcing-houses of such
an extent, that our markets will be supplied with the aki, ,
and the avocado pear of the West Indies, the flat peaches,
the Mandarine orange, and the Litchi of China ; the
mango, (which has already been ripened at Kew, in the
autumn of 1808,) the mangostan, and the durion of the
East Indies, and possibly other valuable fruits.

This fruit was for the first time imported as an
article of commerce from the Bermuda islands, in the
summer of 1820. The importation consisted of about
400 pine-apples of the species called the Green Provi-
dence. These were purchased by Mr. Mart, of Oxford
Street, fruiterer, who informed the author that about two
thirds of the quantity arrived in good condition. As this
experiment has been found to answer, we may in future



PINE-APPLE. 299

expect a regular supply of pine-apples, not only from the
Bermudas, but also from the West India islands. We
observed, that those pines which were packed with the
roots, arrived in a better state than others that were cut
off in the usual manner.

Monsieur Berard, of Montpelier, in a paper of the
French journals, Annales de Chimie for 1821, says, " that
most fruits, and especially those that, do not require to
remain on the tree, may be preserved for some time, and
the pleasure they afford us thus prolonged. The most
simple process consists in placing at the bottom of a
bottle, a paste formed of lime, sulphate of iron, and
water ; and afterwards to introduce the fruit, it having
been pulled a few days before it would have been ripe.
The fruit is to be kept from the bottom of the bottle,
and as much as possible from each other, and the bottle
to be closed by a cork and cement. The fruit is thus
placed in an atmosphere free from oxygen, and maybe
preserved for a longer or a shorter time according to their
nature : peaches, plums, and apricots from twenty days
to a month ; pears and apples for three months. If they
are withdrawn after this time, and exposed to the air,
they ripen extremely well ; but if the times mentioned are
much exceeded, they undergo a particular alteration, and
will not ripen at all.

Ripe fruit exposed to the air rots and decays. In this
case it first changes the oxygen of the surrounding air
into carbonic acid, and then liberates from itself a large
quantity of the same acid gas. It appears that the pre-
sence of oxygen gas is necessary to rotting or decay of
fruits ; when it is absent, a different change takes place.



300



PLANTAIN. MUSA I^ARADISIACA.

Natural order, Scitamenca. A genus of the Polygamia
Monacia class.



" The plantain wide his graceful foliage spreads ;
Where giant palms lift high their tufted heads."

THIS tree received its generic name in memory of An-
tonius Musa, the freedman and physician of Augustus,
who, for curing his imperial master of a dangerous dis-
ease by the use of the cold bath, was honoured by the
senate with a brazen statue, placed near that of ^scula-
pius. Antonius was a botanist, and is supposed to be the
author of the treatise De Herha Botanicd.

The plantain is a native of Guinea, whence it was
brought to the Canary Islands ; and thence it was after-
wards carried to the West Indies ; where it is now culti-
vated with much care in all the islands, the fruit being
regarded as one of the greatest blessings bestowed upon
the inhabitants of that climate. Dr. Wright says, the
island of Jamaica would scarcely be habitable without
this fruit, as no species of provision could supply its
place : even flour, or wheaten bread itself, would be less
agreeable, and less adapted to support the laborious
negro, so as to enable him to perform his business, or to
keep up his health.

Dam pier calls it the king of all fruit, not excepting the
cocoa itself.

The fruit of the plantain-tree is about a foot long, and



PLANTAIN, 301

two or three inches in diameter; it forms a principal part
of the food of the negroes, who either roast or boil it 5
and when thus cooked, it is a palatable and strengthening
diet. It is often boiled in their mess of salt beef, pork,
or fish, &c. ; many Europeans, when accustomed to it,
prefer it to bread : and those who settle in America, when
they make a new plantation, generally begin with a good
plantain-walk, enlarging it as their family increases ;
some of the trees are always to be found in fruit, and this
is many times the sole food on which a family subsists.
These trees thrive only in a rich flat ground ; they will
not prosper in a poor sandy soil. When ripe, the fruit is
lusciously sweet, and makes good tarts. The Spaniards
dry and preserve it as a sweetmeat, and it is thought to be
the most wholesome of all confectionary. It is one of the
very best foods to fatten domestic animals and fowls,
giving a firmness and exquisite flavour to their flesh.

The plantain is cultivated in Egypt, and most other
hot countries, where it grows to perfection in about ten
months from its first planting, to the ripening of its fruit.
This tree is only perennial by its roots, and dies down to
the ground when it has fruited, after which it is cut down :
several suckers then soon come up from the roots, which
in six or eight months produce fruit, so that by cutting
down the stalks at different times, there is a constant
succession of fruit all the year.

When the plantain is grown to its full height, the
spikes of flowers appear in the centre, which is about
four feet long. The flowers come out in bunches, those
in the lower part of the spike being the largest ; each of
these bunches is covered with a sheath of a fine purple
colour, which drops off when the flowers open. The
upper part of the spike is made up of male flowers, which
are succeeded by the fruit. The plantain is of a pale
yellow colour when ripe, and the spikes of fruit often



302 HISTORY OF FRUITS.

weigh upwards of forty pounds. This plant has been
reared in our stoves ever since the year 1690.



THE BANANA TREE : Musa Sapientum. This tree so
much resembles the plantain, that it is only known at
first by the dark spots on its stem, which the other has
not. It is a wholesome fruit, and is used at desserts. A
pleasant drink, exceeding our cider, is made from it.
When baked in tarts, or boiled in dumplings, this fruit
tastes like the apple : when dried in the sun, it resembles
a delicious fig. It also makes a good marmalade, which
is recommended as a great relief for coughs. The fruit
of the banana-tree is said to comfort the heart ; is cooling,
and refreshes the spirits. Labat states, that when the
natives of the West Indies undertake a voyage, they make
part of their provision to consist of a paste of banana,
which, in case of need, serves them for nourishment and
drink. For this purpose they take ripe bananas, and
having squeezed them through a fine sieve, form the solid
fruit into small loaves, which are dried in the sun, or in
hot ashes, after being previously wrapped in the leaves of
Indian flowering-reed.

The fruit of the banana-tree is about four or five inches
long, of the size and shape of a middling cucumber ; it
generally grows in bunches, weighing upwards of twelve
pounds. The Spaniards have a conceit, that if you cut
this, or the fruit of the plantain athwart, or crossways,
there appears a cross in the middle of the fruit, and there-
fore they will not cut any, but break them. Lodovicus
Romanus, and Brocard, who wrote a Description of the
Holy Land, call the bananas Adam's Apples, supposing
them to be the fruit that Eve took and gave to Adam ;
which is as erroneous as the account of the Abbe
Poyart and others, who state the leaves to be those of



PLANTAIN. 303

the tree from which our first parents made themselves
aprons, as from their size, which is from five to seven
feet in length, and from one to two feet in breadth,
they could not have required sewing together for that
purpose. These leaves are said to be as strong as parch-
ment. The leaves of the plantain, as well as the banana,
grow so rapidly, that by placing a thread, they will be
found to grow an inch in an hour. The young leaves are
so soft, that they are employed in dressings for blisters,
&c. When full grown, they are so large that they are
used as substitutes for napkins and table-cloths : when
dried, they are made into mats and stuffings for mat-
tresses, &c.

If a knife be thrust into a plantain-tree, there will come
out a great quantity of clear water, which is very rough
and astringent, stopping all sorts of fluxes.

The fruit of the banana-tree has been ripened in our
hothouses ; but as the tree grows very tall, the size of the
leaves requires more room than most gardeners are will-
ing to allow it in the stove.

Mr. Swinburn tells us that the Musa grows very well
in the open air at Reggio.

From the rapidity of the growth of the banana, it is of
too porous a nature to merit the name of wood, and the
Indians have ever been accustomed to make cordage, and
a kind of cloth from its fibres. The celebrated circum-
navigator, Dampier, noticed the process more than a
century ago as follows :

" They take the body of the tree, clear it of its out-
ward bark and leaves, cut it into quarters, put it into the
sun, when the moisture exhales ; they then take hold of
the threads at the ends, and draw them out : they are as
big as brown thread ; and of this they make cloth in
Mindanas, called saggen."

In Jamaica, there have been upwards of two hundred



304 HrsTonr OF FRUITS.

pounds given by order of the Assembly, for the best spe-
cimens of this hemp. Dr. Stewart West gained a pre-
mium, and his process may be seen in the Hortus
Jamaicensis.

From experiments tried on the hemp made from the
plantain-tree fibre, which was manufactured into rope at
his Majesty's dock-yard, Port Royal, in Jamaica, the
following results were obtained :

Cwt. qr. Ib.
King's nine-thread inch-rope broke by the

weight of fj.-n Mtyi . . 6 1 14

Dr. West's specimen broke by the weight of 620

Specimen from the parish of St. Andrew . 610

Do. Do. Portland . 420

Do. Do. St George . 320

The above specimens were all made of the same size as
the king's rope.



305



PLUM. PRUNUS.

Natural order, Pomace*. A genus of the Icosandria
Monogynia class.



" The mealy plum

Hangs purpling, or displays an amber hue."

PLUMS are so numerous in their varieties, that to de-
scribe them separately would be endless; as not only
every country, but almost every district, has its peculiar
sorts of this fruit.

The Grecians added to their native plums those of
Syria, Egypt, and Persia; and the Romans not only pos-
sessed themselves of the plums of all the known world,
but employed their ingenuity in making additional va-
rieties. Columella, in his tenth book, speaking of this
fruit, says

" then are the wicker baskets cramm'd

With Damask and Armenian, and wax plums. " s

Pliny states, in his fifteenth book, chap. 13, that
there was a great variety of this fruit in Italy ; and it is
not long, says he, since the country about Grenada and
Andalusia began to graft plums upon apple stocks, which
were called apple plums ; others upon almond stocks,
which he calls a clever device, as it produced both fruits,
the stone being like the kernel of an almond. Those
grafted upon nut stocks, he states, retained the form of
the mother graft ; but they got the taste of the stock
wherein they were set.

x



306 HISTORY OF FRUITS.

The wild sloe and bullace are indigenous to this coun-
try, and in all probability the only kinds that are natives ;
but, like the wild crab-apple, they have furnished stocks
for every variety of their own species ; and this fruit ap-
pears to have been attended to in early days, if we may
judge from the variety that Gerard had in his garden at
Holborn, in 1597. " I have," says he, " three score
sorts in my garden, and all strange and rare : there be in
other places many more common, and yet yeerely
commeth to our handes others not before knowne. The
greatest varietie of these rare plums are to be found in
the grounds of Master Vincent Pointer, of Twicknam."

The damson, or damascene plum, takes its name from
Damascus, where it grows in great quantities, and from
whence it was brought into Italy about 114 years B. C.
Pliny says, this plum required the warmer sun of Syria :
we may therefore conclude, it is still inferior in our
climate to what it is in Italy.

The Orleans plum takes its name from the part of
France so called. This is a handsome but an indifferent
fruit, and not equal to the common muscle plum in
flavour, although it is more cultivated than even the green-
gage, which is not only the most agreeable, but also the
most wholesome of all the plums. This latter plum was
called the Reine Claude, from having been introduced
into France by Queen Claude, wife to Francis the First
of that country, but it bears various names in different
parts of France. It is often called Damas verd; at Tours
it is named Abricot verd ; at Rouen, where it grows abun-
dantly, they call it la Verte bonne. This plum received
the name of Green-gage from the following accident :
The Gage family, in the last century, procured from the
monastery of the Chartreuse at Paris, a collection of
fruit-trees. When these trees arrived at the mansion of
Hengrave Hall, the tickets were safely affixed to all of



PLUM. 307

them, excepting only to the Reine Claude, which had
either not been put on, or had been rubbed oft' hi
the package. The gardener, therefore, being ignorant
of the name, called it, when it first bore fruit, the Green
Gage. The compliment was justly due to the family for
the introduction of this excellent plum, which is more
acceptable to the country at large, than the trifling re-
spect can be to the family of Gage.

Lord Cromwell brought several sorts of plums from
Italy into this country, in the reign of Henry the Seventh :
among them was the Perdrigon.

The Bonum Magnum is our largest plum, and greatly
esteemed for preserves and culinary purposes. This ap-
pears to have been originally a Dutch fruit, or rather en-
larged by their culture and soil. A plum of nearly the
same size and shape, but of a yellower hue, has lately
been introduced by Mr. Coe, of Brompton, and is called
Coe's golden drop. In flavour it partakes both of the
green-gage and the apricot. The author had several
standard trees in his garden at Bayswater, which were
very productive ; and the fruit had the quality of keeping
perfectly sound and good until near Christmas, if gathered
with the stalk or a part of the branch, and suspended in
a dry room.

Plums are now forced in the highest perfection, which
enables the gardener to supply the spring desserts with
the autumnal fruits.

John Townsend Aiton, Esq., of the Royal Gardens,
Windsor, has lately communicated some useful informa-
tion on the forcing of this fruit, in a letter to the Secre-
tary of the Horticultural Society. He says, " The kinds
of plums generally preferred for forcing, are the follow-
ing : Precoce de Tours, green-gage, blue-gage, white
perdrigon, Orleans, New Orleans, and Morocco.

" When an early crop is desired, plums are best forced-

x2



308 HISTORY OF FRUITS.

in large pots or tubs, as this method admits of their re-
moval at pleasure into different degrees of temperature
as occasion may require ; but for a general crop to ripen
by the end of May, or beginning of June, it is preferable


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24 25 26 27

Online LibraryHenry PhillipsThe companion for the orchard. An historical and botanical account of fruits known in Great Britain: → online text (page 22 of 27)