This singular result, obtained in three successive years, led to inquiry as to whether any similar cases were on record. In the course of the investigation two other facts were elicited. It was discovered that Mr. Losovsky (living in the government of Witebsk, in the district of Sebege), had for four years adopted the plan of drying his seed potatoes, and that during that time there had been no disease on his estate. It was again an accident which led to the practice of this gentleman. Five years ago, while his potatoes were digging, he put one in his pocket, and on returning home threw it on the stove (poele), where it remained forgotten till the spring. Having then chanced to observe it, he had the curiosity to plant it, all dried up as it was, and obtained an abundant, healthy crop; since that time the practice of drying has been continued, and always with great success. Professor Bollman remarks that it is usual in Russia, in many places, to smoke-dry flax, wheat, and rye; and in the west of Russia, experienced proprietors prefer, for seed, onions that have been kept over the winter in cottages without a chimney. Such onions are called dymka, which may be interpreted smoke-dried.
The second fact is this:—Mr. Wasileffsky, a gentlemen residing in the government of Mohileff, is in the habit of keeping potatoes all the year round, by storing them in the place where his hams are smoked. It happened that in the spring of 1852 his seed potatoes, kept in the usual manner, were insufficient, and he made up the requisite quantity with some of those which had been for a month in the smoking place. These potatoes produced a capital crop, very little diseased, while at the same time the crop from the sets which were not smoke-dried was extensively attacked by disease. Professor Bollman is of opinion that there would have been no disease at all if the sets had been better dried.
The temperature required to produce the desired result is not very clearly made out. Mr. Bollman's room, in which his first potatoes were dried, was heated to about 72 degrees, and much higher. By way of experiment he placed others in the chamber of the stove itself, where the thermometer stood at 136 degrees, and more. He also ascertained that the vitality of the potato is not affected, even if the rind is charred. Those who have the use of a malt-kiln, or even a lime-kiln, might try the effect of excessive drying, for a month seems to be long enough for the process.—(Gardener's Chronicle.)
A Mr. Penoyer, of Western Saratoga, Illinois, publishes the following, which he recommends as a perfect cure and preventive of the potato rot, having tested it thoroughly four years with perfect success; while others in the same field, who did not use the preventive, lost their entire crop by the rot. It not only prevents the rot, but restores the potato to its primitive vigor, and the product is not only sound, but double the size, consequently producing twice the quantity on the same ground, and the vines grow much larger, and retain their freshness and vitality until the frost kills them. Aside from the cure of the rot, the farmers would be more than doubly compensated for their trouble and expense in the increase and quality of the crop. The remedy or preventive is as follows:—"Take one peck of fine salt and mix it thoroughly with half a bushel of Nova Scotia plaster or gypsum (the plaster is the best), and immediately after hoeing the potatoes the second time, or just as the young potato begins to set, sprinkle on the main vines, next to the ground, a tablespoon full of the above mixture to each hill, and be sure to get it on the main vines, as it is found that the rot proceeds from a sting of an insect in the vine, and the mixture coming in contact with the vine, kills the effect of it before it reaches the potato." I cannot but consider Professor Bollman's as the most important of the two remedies suggested.
The potato crop of the United States exceeds 100 million bushels, nearly all of which are consumed in the country; the average exports of the last eight years not having exceeded 160,000 bushels per annum.
According to the census returns of 1840, the quantity of potatoes of all sorts raised in the Union, was 108,298,060 bushels; of 1850, 104,055,989 bushels, of which 38,259,196 bushels were sweet potatoes.
Last year (1852) there was under cultivation with potatoes in Canada, the following extent of land:—
Acres. Bushels. Upper Canada 77,672 Produce 498,747 Lower Canada 73,244 Produce 456,111
About 782,008 cwts. of potatoes are annually exported from the Canary Islands. In Prussia, 153 million hectolitres of potatoes were raised in 1849. In 1840 Van Diemen's Land produced 15,000 tons of potatoes, on about 5,000 acres of land.
The potato is not yet an article of so much importance in France, as in England or the Low Countries, but within the last twenty years its cultivation has increased very rapidly. It is mostly grown where corn is the least cultivated. The quantity raised in 1818, was 29,231,867 hectolitres, which had increased in 1835 to 71,982,814 hectolitres. About 2,000,000 hectolitres of chesnuts are also annually consumed in France, a portion of the rural population in some of the Central and Southern Departments living almost entirely on them for half the year.
In Peru dried potatoes are thus prepared:—Small potatoes are boiled, peeled, and then dried in the sun, but the best are those dried by the severe frosts on the mountains. In the Cordilleras they are covered with ice, until they assume a horny appearance. Powdered, it is called chimo. They will keep for any length of time, and when used required to be bruised and soaked. If introduced as a vegetable substance in long sea voyages, the potato thus dried would be found wholesome and nourishing. A large and profitable business is now carried on, in what is called "preserved potatoes," for ships' use, prepared by Messrs. Edwards and Co., which are found exceedingly useful in the Royal Navy, in emigrant ships, for troops and other services, from their portability, nutritious properties, and being uninjured by climate.
Few persons are probably aware of the quantity of potatoes used in England, America and the Continent, in the manufacture of starch, arrowroot, and tapioca, &c., A starch manufactory in Mercer, Maine, United States, grinds from 16,000 to 24,000 bushels annually of potatoes, and makes 140,000 to 240,000 lbs. of starch, which finds a ready market at Boston, at four dollars the hundred pounds. The New England manufacturers prefer it to Poland starch. Another starch manufacturer, in Hampden, America, consumes 2,500 bushels per day. In a single district in Bavaria, in Germany, 400,000 lbs. of sago and starch are manufactured from potatoes; 100 lbs. of potatoes are said to yield 12 lbs. of starch. From experiments made in America, with three varieties of potatoes, the long reds, Philadelphia, and pink-eyes, it was found that the former yielded the most starch, viz., about 6 lbs. to the bushel. A bushel of potatoes weighs about 64 lbs. The following table from Accum, gives the rate of starch and component parts per cent. in different varieties:—
+ -+ + -+ -+ + -+ + Sort. Fibrine. Starch. Vegetable Gum. Acids and Water. Albumen. Salts. + -+ + -+ -+ + -+ - Red potatoes 7.0 15.0 1.4 4.1 5.1 75.0 Ditto germinated 6.8 12.2 1.3 3.7 73.0 Potato sprouts 2.8 0.4 0.4 3.3 93.0 Kidney potatoes 8.8 9.1 0.8 81.3 Large red ditto 6.0 12.9 0.7 78.0 Sweet ditto 8.2 15.1 0.8 74.3 Potato of Peru 5.2 15.0 1.9 1.9 76.0 Ditto of England 6.8 12.9 1.1 1.7 77.5 Onion potato 8.4 18.7 0.9 1.7 70.3 Voigtland 7.1 15.4 1.2 2.0 74.3 Cultivated in the environs of Paris 6.8 13.3 0.9 3.3 1.4 73.1 + -+ + -+ -+ + -+ +
The first six varieties were analysed by Einhoff, the next four by Lamped, and the last named by Henry.
The different species of yams have a wide range. In the West Indies there are several varieties, having distinctive names, according to quality, color, &c., as the white yam, the red yam, the negro yam, the creole yam, the afoo yam, the buck yam (Dioscorea triphylla), which is found wild in Java and the East; the Guinea yam, the Portuguese yam, the water yam, and the Indian yam, &c. The last is considered the most farinaceous and delicate in its texture, resembling in size the potato; most of the other sorts are coarse, but still very nutritive and useful. The common yam (Dioscorea sativa) is indigenous to the Eastern Islands and West Indies. The Guinea yam (D. aculeata) is a native of the East. The Barbados or winged yam (D. alata?) has a widely extended range, being common to India, Java, Brazil, and Western Africa. The yam species are climbing plants, with handsome foliage, of the simplest culture, which succeed well in any light, rich, or sandy soil, and are readily increased by dividing the tuberous roots. The Indian, Barbados, and red yams are planted in the West Indies early in May, and dug early in the January following. If not bruised, they will keep well packed in ashes, the first nine, and the second and last twelvemonths. The Portuguese and Guinea yams are planted early in January and dug in September. Creole yams and Tanias are dug in January. Sweet potatoes from January to March. In most of our colonies large crops of the finest descriptions of yams, cocos, &c., could be obtained, but the planting of ground provisions is too much neglected by all classes. From the tubers of yams of all sorts, and particularly the buck yam, starch is easily prepared, and of excellent quality. Some varieties of the buck yam are purple-fleshed, often of a very deep tint, approaching to black, and although this is an objection, because it renders more washing necessary, yet even from these the starch is at last obtained perfectly white.
As an edible root the buck yam, especially when grown in a light soil, is equal to the potato, if not superior to it. It does not, however, keep for any length of time, and therefore could not be exported to Europe, unless the roots were sliced and dried.
Yams and sweet potatoes thrive well in the northern parts of Australia; indeed the former are indigenous there, and constitute the chief article of vegetable food used by the natives. The yam was introduced into Sweden, where it succeeded well, and bread, starch, and brandy were made from it, but it prefers a warmer climate.
Yams are occasionally brought to this country. When cooked, either by roasting or boiling, the root is even more nutritious than the potato, nor is it possessed of any unpalatable flavor, the pecularity being between that of rice and the potato. Dressed in milk, or mashed, they are absolutely a delicacy; and from the abundance in which they are cultivated in the West Indies and other parts, they promise to become a most economical and nutritious substitute for the potato.
The yam frequently grows to the enormous size of forty or fifty pounds weight, but in this large state it is coarse-flavored and fibrous.
An acre of land is capable of producing 41/2 tons of yams, and the same quantity of sweet potatoes, within the twelve months, or nine tons per acre for both, being nearly as much as the return obtained at home in the cultivation of potatoes; and I have the authority of all analytical chemists for saying that in point of value, as an article of food, the superiority is as two to one in favor of the tropical roots.
The kidney-rooted yam (D. pentaphylla), is indigenous to the Polynesian islands, and is sometimes cultivated for its roots. It is called kawaii in the Feejee islands. D. bulbifera, a native of the East, is also abundantly naturalised in the Polynesian islands, but is not considered edible.
There are seven or eight kinds of yams grown in India. Two are of a remarkably fine flavor, one weighing as much as eighteen pounds, the other three pounds. These are found in the Tartar country.
COCOS OR EDDOES
Arum esculentum.—This root has not hitherto been considered of sufficient importance to demand particular care in its cultivation, except by those who are engaged in agricultural pursuits, and derive their subsistence from the production of the soil. But though the cultivation of the root is almost unknown to the higher classes in society, and little regarded by planters in the colonies, it is a most valuable article of consumption. Amongst the laboring population it is the principal dependence for a supply of food. Long droughts may disappoint the hopes of the yam crop, storms and blight may destroy the plantain walks, but neither dry or wet weather materially injure the coco; it will always make some return, and though it may not afford a plentiful crop, it will yield a sufficiency until a supply can be had from other sources. For this reason the laborer in the West Indies always takes care to put in a good plant of cocos to his provision ground as a stand by, and knowing their value, is perhaps the only person who bestows any degree of care or attention upon them. Previous to their emancipation, whole families of negroes lived upon the produce of one provision ground, and the coco formed the main article of their support. Where the soil is congenial to the white and black Bourbon coco, the labor of one industrious person once a fortnight will raise a supply sufficient for the consumption of a family of six or seven persons. The coco begins to bear after the first year, and with common care and cultivation the same plant ought to give annually two or three returns for several years. In Jamaica, a disease something similar to that affecting the potato, has been found injurious to the coco root. This disease, which has baffled all inquiry as to its origin, affects the plants in and after the second year of their being planted. The first indication of it is the change in the leaves, which gradually turn to a yellow hue, have a sickly appearance, and at length drop off at the surface of the earth. The stock or "coco head," as it is called, below ground, having become rotten, nothing but a soft pulpy mass remains. In some fields every third or fourth root is thus affected, in others much greater numbers are destroyed, so much so that the field requires to be almost entirely replanted, by which not only an expense is entailed, but a heavy loss sustained, from the field being thrown out of its regular bearing. The black coco seems to suffer less than the white.
Another species, the Taro (Arum Colocasia, Colocasia esculenta and macrorhizon), is an important esculent root in the Polynesian islands. In the dry method of culture practised on the mountains of Hawaii, the roots are protected by a covering of fern leaves. The cultivation of taro is hardly a process of multiplication, for the crown of the root is perpetually replanted. As the plant endures for a series of years, the tuberous roots serve at some of the rocky groups as a security against famine. It is also extensively cultivated in Madeira and Zanzibar, and has even withstood the climate of New Zealand. It is grown also in Egypt, Syria, and some of the adjacent countries, for its esculent roots. A species is cultivated in the Deccan, for the sake of the leaves, which form a substitute for spinach. Farina is obtained from the root of Arum Rumphii in Polynesia.
The batatas, or camote of the Spanish colonies (Convolvulus batatas, Linn; Batatas edulis, of Choisy, and the Ipomaea Batatas of other botanists), belongs to a family of plants which has been split into several genera. It is a native of the East Indies, and of intertropical America, and was the "potato" of the old English writers in the early part of the fourteenth century. It was doubtless introduced into Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia soon after their settlement by the Europeans, being mentioned as one of the cultivated products of those colonies as early as the year 1648. It grows in excessive abundance throughout the Southern States of America, and as far north as New Jersey, and the southern part of Michigan. The varieties cultivated there are the purple, the red, the yellow, and the white, the former of which is confined to the South.
The amount of sweet potatoes exported from South Carolina in 1747-48, was 700 bushels; that of the common potato exported from the United States, 1820-21, 90,889,000 bushels; in 1830-31, 112,875,000 bushels; in 1840-41, 136,095,000 bushels; in 1850-51, 106,342,000 bushels.
The sweet potato is cultivated generally in all the intertropical regions, for the sake of its roots, and as a legume in temperate countries. In the Southern States of North America, the culture ceases in Carolina under latitude 36 degs.; in Portugal and Spain it reaches to latitude 40 and 42 deg.; and as a legume its cultivation is attempted to the vicinity of Paris. In India it is a very common crop; its tubers are very similar to the potato, but have a sweeter taste, whence the common name; but it must not be confounded with the topinambur (Helianthus tuberosus), a native of Brazil, which is less cultivated. The root contains much saccharine and amylaceous matter.
Several marked varieties of the sweet potato are raised in the Polynesian groups. In some islands it forms the principal object of cultivation.
It is grown in the Northern districts of New Zealand, at Zanzibar, Monomoisy, Bombay, and other parts of the East Indies. They are raised on the bare surface of the rock in some parts of the Hawaiian islands, and a sourish liquor is procured from them. It was early cultivated on the Western Coast of Africa, for the Portuguese Pilot (who set out on his voyages to the colony at St. Thomas, in the Gulf of Guinea) speaks of this plant, and states that it is called "batata" by the aboriginals of St. Domingo. They are abundant at Mocha and Muscat. Sweet potatoes form a principal and important crop in the Bermudas.
A valuable addition has lately been made to the votaries of the sweet potato in Alabama, supposed to be from Peru. A letter describing it says:—"It is altogether different and equally superior to any variety of this root hitherto known. It is productive, and attains a prodigious size, even upon the poorest sandy land, and the roots remain without change from the time of taking them out of the ground until the following May. The plant is singularly easy of cultivation, growing equally well from the slip or vine, the top or vine of the full-grown plant being remarkably small; the inside is as white as snow. It is dry and mealy, and the saccharine principle contained resembles in delicacy of flavor fine virgin honey."
There is in general a great error in cultivating this root, as most people still plant in the old way, two or three sets in the hole, which is a great deal too close.
When a piece of land is to be planted in sweet potatoes, it should be top-dressed with some manure, to be dug or ploughed under a week or two before it is to be planted. Drills should be made two feet apart, and the potatoes placed in the drill about one foot asunder. From eight to twelve to the pound are the best size for planting. The "white upright" kind, when intended for sets, should be taken up early in March, and kept about a month, so as to be quite dry before planting. Abundant crops can rarely be raised from the stem of the "uprights;" the old potato, however, grows to a large size. I have planted a potato weighing about an ounce, and dug it up in August, weighing over two pounds. The drills can be made with a small plough to great advantage, when a person understands it.
The best manure for the sweet potato is anything green, such as fresh seaweed, green oats, bushes, or anything of the kind, put in in abundance.
Care should be taken to get early and good strong slips. A slip with about six joints is quite long enough; three or four joints to be put under ground, and the rest above. For slips, the land must be prepared as already described for the potatoes; this should be done before the slips are ready to cut.
The best way to plant slips is to drill, the same way as for the potatoes, only a little closer; then put the end of the slip in, leaving about two joints out of ground, placing them one foot apart. The drills can be made in dry weather, so as not to have any delay when it rains; by this means a great many can be planted in a day.
The best land for sweet potatoes is the light sandy kind; a rich friable black mould, or a rocky substratum; for hill sides, rocky ravines, and places which would be called barren and unprofitable for other crops, are found to yield a good return when planted with sweet potatoes. The best time to plant slips to get stock from, is the latter end of August or early in September, as the season may suit.
The sweet potato of Java, says Mr. Crawfurd, is the finest I ever met with. Some are frequently of several pounds weight, and now and then have been found of the enormous weight of 50 lbs. The sweetness is not disagreeable to the palate, though considerable, and they contain a large portion of farinaceous matter, being as mealy as the best of our own potatoes. In Java it is cultivated in ordinary upland arable, or in the dry season as a green crop in succession to rice.
A tuberous root (Ocymum tuberosum), an inhabitant of the hot plains, is frequently cultivated in Java. It is small, round, and much resembling in appearance the American potato, but has no great flavor. Its local name is kantang.
CASSAVA OR MANIOC.
Of this plant, which is a shrub about six feet high, extensively grown for its farinaceous root, there are several species, nearly all natives of America, principally of Brazil, whence it derives one of its common names of Manihot or Mandioc. Two species of Manihot have been found indigenous in South Australia. The varieties commonly cultivated for their roots, are the sweet and the bitter.
1. Sweet cassava (Janiphi (or Jatropha,) Loeflingii, Kunth; Manihot Aipi, of Pohl).—This species has a spindle-shaped root brown externally, about six or seven ounces or more in weight, which contains amylaceous matter, without any bitterness, and is used as food, after being rasped and washed, so as to cleanse it from the fibrous matter, in the same manner as arrowroot is prepared. It is distinguished from the bitter cassava by a tough ligneous fibre, which runs through the heart of the tuber. Manihot starch is sometimes imported into Europe under the name of Brazilian arrowroot. The cassava is known in Peru as yucca.
A dry mixed soil is best suited to its culture. So exhausting is this crop, that it cannot be raised more than two or three times successively on the same land. The roots arrive at maturity in eight or nine months after planting, but may be kept in the ground a much longer time without injury. Sweet cassava might be sliced, dried in the sun, and sent to Europe in that state. In dry weather the process succeeds remarkably well, and the dried slices keep for a considerable time. Dr. Shier ascertained that when these sliced and dried roots were first steeped and then boiled, they return to very nearly their original condition, and make an excellent substitute for the potato.
The plant thrives on even the poorest soil; the mode of planting is simple. It consists in laying cuttings a foot long in square pits a foot deep, and covering them with mould, leaving the upper ends open. From two to four pieces may be placed in each square. The planting ought to be in the rainy season. The cuttings must be made from the full-grown stem. A humid soil causes the root to decay, a dry soil is therefore more adapted for its cultivation. As blossoms are occasionally plucked from potato plants, so the manihot or cassava is deprived of its buds to increase the size of its roots. The raw root of the bitter species, when taken out of the ground, is poisonous—if exposed, however, to the sun for a short time, it is innocuous, and when boiled is quite wholesome.
The starch of the root of the manioc is prepared in the following manner, as described by Dr. Ure:—" The roots are washed and reduced to a pulp by means of a rasp or grater. The pulp is put into coarse strong canvas bags, and thus submitted to the action of a powerful press, by which it parts with most of its noxious juice. As the active principle of this juice is volatile, it is easily dissipated by baking the squeezed cakes of pulp upon a plate of hot iron. The pulp thus dried concretes into lumps, which become hard and friable as they cool. They are then broken into pieces, and laid out in the sun to dry. In this state they are a wholesome nutriment. These cakes constitute the only provisions laid in by the natives, in their voyages upon the Amazon. Boiled in water, with a little beef or mutton, they form a kind of soup similar to that of rice.
The cassava cakes sent to Europe are composed almost entirely of starch, along with a few fibres of the ligneous matter. It may be purified by diffusion in warm water, passing the milky mixture through a linen cloth, evaporating the straining liquid over the fire, with constant agitation. The starch, dissolved by the heat, thickens as the water evaporates, but on being stirred it becomes granulated, and must be finally dried in a proper stove.
2. Bitter cassava (Janipha Manihot, of Kunth; Jatropha Manihot, of Linnaeus; and Manihot utilissima, Pohl).—This species has a knotty root, black externally, which is occasionally 30 lbs. in weight. In the root there is much starchy matter deposited, usually along with a poisonous narcotic substance, which is said to be hydrocyanic acid. The juice of the plant, when distilled, affords as a first product a liquor which, in the dose of thirty drops, will cause the death of a man in six minutes. It is doubted whether this acid pre-exists in the plant; some suppose it to be generated after it is grated down into a pulp. It can be driven off by roasting, and then the starch is used in the form of cassava bread. It is principally from the starch of the bitter cassava that tapioca is prepared by elutriation and granulating on hot plates. This serves to agglutinate it into the form of concretions, constituting the tapioca of commerce. This being starch very nearly pure, is often prescribed by physicians as an aliment of easy digestion. A tolerably good imitation of it is made by beating, stirring, and drying potato starch in a similar way.
The grated starch of the roots, floated in water, is spontaneously deposited, and when repeatedly washed and dried in the sun, forms cassava flour, called "Moussache" by the French.
The juice of the bitter cassava, mixed with molasses and fermented, has been made into an intoxicating liquor, which is much relished by the negroes and Indians.
The concentrated juice of the bitter cassava, under the name of cassareep, forms the basis of the West India dish, "pepper pot." One of its most remarkable properties is its highly antiseptic power, preserving meat that has been boiled in it for a much longer period than can be done by any other culinary process. Cassareep was originally an Indian preparation.
The manioc or cassava is cultivated in America, on both sides of the equator, to about latitude 30 degrees north and south. Among the mountains of intertropical America, it reaches to an elevation of 3,200 feet. It is cultivated also in great abundance on the island of Zanzibar, and among the negro tribes of Eastern Africa to the Monomoesy, inclusive; on the west coast of Africa, in Congo and Guinea. It appears not to have been introduced into Asia. The farina of the manioc is almost the only kind of meal used in Brazil, at least in the north, near the equator. An acre of manioc is said to yield as much nutriment as six acres of wheat. Meyen states, "It is not possible sufficiently to praise the beautiful manioc plant." The Indians find in this a compensation for the rice and other cerealia of the Old World. It has been carried from Brazil to the Mauritius and Madagascar.
The following quantities of Brazilian arrowroot, or tapioca, were imported in the undermentioned years:—
Cwts. 1833 942 1834 888 1835 1,663 1836 3,735 1837 2,142 1838 462 1839 402 1840 983 1841 1,870 1843 2,325
St. Lucia grows a considerable quantity of manioc; it exported of cassava flour in—
Barrels. 1827 8 1828 814 1829 279 1830 99 1831 59 1834 713
The cassava root grows abundantly in most of the West India islands and tropical America; the trouble of planting is inconsiderable, and the profit arising from its manufacture, even by the common process of hand-grating, is immense. I should be glad if I could induce the enterprising of our colonial settlers to give this a fair trial, as well as encourage the present growers to increase their crops and improve the quality of the article, so as to render it suitable for the English market. The manufacture of starch will one of these days become a productive source of colonial wealth. Since cassava was first grown in the West, its capabilities as a starch-producer have, to a certain extent, been known, and for that purpose it has been in limited use.
Mr. James Glen, of Haagsbosch plantation, Demerara, has recently tested its value as an article of export, and added it to the other industrial resources of that colony.
This gentleman, by erecting machinery on his plantation for grinding the root and preparing the starch of the bitter cassava, has already shipped the article in considerable quantities to Europe, and it has been sold at a price which puts the profit upon sugar cultivation completely to the blush. His agent in Glasgow writes, that any quantity (like that already shipped) can command a ready sale at 9d. per lb. Its use is co-extensive, or nearly so, with that of sugar. The productive capabilities of the soil are not perhaps generally known; nor is it necessary that, to pay the grower there, it should bring even half that price. A sample of a ton, which was prepared at Haagsbosch in 1841, was submitted for examination to Dr. Shier, at the colonial laboratory, Georgetown, who admitted it to be a beautiful specimen of starch, although it had undergone but one washing. The root from which it was made, was planted eight or nine months previously, upon an acre of soil, which had never undergone any preparation of ploughing, or been broken and turned up in any way. The plants were never weeded after they had begun to spring, nor were they tended or disturbed until they were ripe and pulled up. The expense of planting the acre was five dollars, and reaping this crop would, I suppose, amount to as much more, say L2 in all. The green cassava was never weighed, but the acre yielded fully a ton of starch—equal, at 9d. per lb., to L84.
The experimental researches of Dr. Shier have led him to believe that the green bitter cassava will give one-fifth its weight of starch. If this be the case the return per acre would, under favorable circumstances, when the land is properly worked, be enormous. On an estate at Essequibo, a short time ago, an acre of cassava, grown in fine permeable soil, was lifted and weighed; it yielded 25 tons of green cassava. Such a return as this per acre would enable our West India colonies to inundate Great Britain with food, and at a rate which would make flour to be considered a luxury. Dr. Shier is convinced that, in thorough drained land, where the roots could penetrate the soil, and where its permeability would permit of their indefinite expansion, a return of 25 tons an acre might uniformly be calculated upon. What a blessing, not only for those colonies, but for the world, would the introduction be of this cheap and nutritious substitute for the potato.
NEW TUBEROUS PLANTS RECOMMENDED AS SUBSTITUTES FOR THE POTATO.
In the present disturbed state of the grain markets of Europe, the advantage of cultivating plants which directly or indirectly can form a substitute for the potato, admits of no doubt. It appears to me, moreover, that when the way is once opened up, even under ordinary circumstances, the tropical colonies of Great Britain, without diminishing the quantity of sugar and coffee they produce, could advantageously supply the British market with the purest starches, and possibly also with various other articles of farinaceous food. Anything that will lead the planters to a more varied cultivation than the present uniform and persistent one, will be advantageous to our colonies; and the growth of farinaceous root crops for exportation, cannot fail to produce most beneficial effects on that class of the peasantry in the British possessions, who are owners of small lots of land, which at present they either totally neglect, or cultivate most imperfectly.
In 1846, Dr. A. Gesner, one of my correspondents, called attention, in my "Colonial Magazine," to two indigenous roots of North America, which he thought deserving special attention. These were Apios tuberosa, and Claytonia acutiflora, or Virginiana.
1. A. tuberosa (Boerhave), or Glycine Apios.—This plant is common throughout the Northern and Southern States of America, and is also met with in the lower British North American Provinces. It is known under the native name of Saa-ga-ban by the Micmac Indians, by whom the pear-shaped roots are used as an article of food. Like the Arachis hypogaea, it belongs to the Leguminosae family. The fruit and flower resemble those of the wood vetch. It is thus described in Professor Eaton's "Manual of Botany for North America," published in 1836:—"Color of corolla, blue and purple; time of flowering, July (and August in Nova Scotia), perennial; stem, twining; leaves, pinnate, with seven lance-ovate leaflets; racemes shorter than the leaves, axillary; root, tuberous. Root very nutritive; ought to be generally cultivated."
The average size of the tubers is that of cherries, but a few are found of much larger dimensions. In their appearance they resemble the common potato, having apparently the peculiar indentations called eyes. The skin of the tuber is of a rusty or blackish brown color. The interior is very white, and the root has the taste and odor of the common potato. The Indians state that the roots, if kept either in a dry or moist state, will not suffer any decay for a lengthened period. They are very farinaceous, and contain a large per centage of starch, which resembles that of wheat; by being dried the tuber shrinks a little, but it immediately expands on being thrown into warm water. It contains much nutritive matter, is wholesome, and I have no doubt, if properly cultivated, it will prove to be very prolific. The tubers are situated a few inches below the surface of the soil, and are strung together like beads by a strong ligament.
A similar kind of earth-nut, or tuberous root, probably the Glycine subterranea of Linnaeus, the Voandzou of Madagascar, is extensively cultivated in various parts of Africa.
2. Claytonia acutiflora or Virginiana, the Musquash of the Micmac Indians, is found throughout the Northern and Southern States of North America. It is thus described by Prof. Eaton, "Man. Bot. N.A."—"Color of corolla, white and red; situation, alpine, perennial; leaves, linear, lance-ovate; petals, obovate, retuse; leaves of the calyx, somewhat acute; root, tuberous. It blossoms in May. The seed is ripe in June, when the plant disappears."
These roots may be collected along the sea coasts and principal lakes and rivers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward's Island, although they are not plentiful, for they are greedily devoured by some of the wild animals, and wherever swine have been permitted to run at large they have been destroyed.
Dr. Gesner shipped several bushels of the saa-ga-ban to the principal agricultural societies in Great Britain, also to Halifax, and Nova Scotia. The ordinary potato of this country does not yield more than 14 per cent. of starch, and it contains 76 per cent. of water. From the best saa-ga-ban Dr. Gesner obtained 21 per cent. of starch, and the quantity of water is reduced to 50 per cent. It also contains vegetable albumen, gum, and sugar. From these facts it is evident that the saa-ga-ban is much more nutritive than the potato, and the weight of the tubers, in their wild state, compared with the weight of the slender vine in the best samples, is equal in proportion to the common cultivated potato in its ordinary growth. The starch is very white, and closely resembles that made from the arrowroot. It is not improbable that the quantity of water in the tuber will be increased by cultivation; yet the fibrous parenchyma will be reduced, and taken altogether, the nutritive properties will be increased; if the plant improve as much by cultivation as the potato and many others have done, its success is certain.
The North American Indians have several wild roots which they dig up for sustenance when other food is exhausted. Among these are—1st, the mendo, or wild sweet potato; 2nd, the tip-sin-ah, or wild prairie turnip; 3rd, the omen-e-chah, or wild bean. The first is found throughout the valleys of the Mississippi and St. Peter's, about the basis of bluffs, in rather moist but soft and rich ground. The plant resembles the sweet potato, and the root is similar in taste and growth. It does not grow so large or long as the cultivated sweet potato, but I should have thought it the same, were it not that the wild potato is not affected by the frost. A woman will dig from a peck to half a bushel a day.
The Indians eat them, simply boiled in water, but prefer them cooked with fat meat.
The wild potato, of the north-west of America, is a general article of food; it is called by them wabessepin; it resembles the common potato, is mealy when boiled, and grows only in wet clay ground, about one and a half feet deep. The crane potato, called sitchauc-wabessepin, is of the same kind, but inferior in quality. The Indians use these for food as well as the memomine, and another long and slender root called watappinee. Probably it is the first of these that is referred to by Nicollet, as the prairie potato. "All the high prairies (he says) abound with the silver-leafed Psoralia, which is the prairie turnip of the Americans, the pomme des prairies of the Canadians, and furnishes an invaluable food to the Indians." There are several species of Psoralia, viz., esculenta, argophylla, cuspidata, and lanceolata.
The prairie turnip grows on the high dry prairies, one or two together, in size from that of a small hen's egg to that of a goose egg, and of the same form. They have a thick black or brown bark, but are nearly pure white inside, with very little moisture. They are met with four to eight inches below the surface, and are dug by the women with a long pointed stick, forced into the ground and used as a lever. They are eaten boiled and mashed like a turnip, or are split open and dried for future use. In this state they resemble pieces of chalk. It is said that when thus dried they may be ground into flour, and that they make a very palatable and nutritious bread. M. Lamare Picot, a French naturalist, has lately incurred a very considerable expense to obtain the seed, which he has carried to France, believing that it is capable of cultivation, and may form a substitute both for potato and wheat.
The wild bean is found in all parts of the valleys where the land is moist and rich. It is of the size of a large white bean, with a rich and very pleasant flavor. When used in a stew, I have thought it superior to any garden vegetable I had ever tasted. The Indians are very fond of them, and pigeons get fat on them in spring. The plant is a slender vine, from two to four feet in height, with small pods two to three inches long, containing three to five small beans. The pod dries and opens, the beans fall to the ground, and in spring take root and grow again. The beans on the ground are gathered by the Indians, who sometimes find a peck at once, gathered by mice for their winter store.
There are also several kinds of edible roots growing in the ponds or small lakes, which are gathered by the Indians for food.
The psui-cinh-chah, or swamp potato, is found in mud and water, about three feet deep. The leaf is as large as the cabbage leaf. The stem has but one leaf, which has, as it were, two horns or points. The root is obtained by the Indian women; they wade into the water and loosen the root with their feet, which then floats, and is picked up and thrown into a canoe. It is of an oblong shape, of a whitish yellow, with four black rings around it, of a slightly pungent taste, and not disagreeable when eaten with salt or meat.
The psui-chah, with a stem and leaf similar to the last, has a root about the size of a large hickory-nut. They grow in deep water, and being smaller are much more difficult to get, but the Indians prefer them; they have an agreeable taste, and are harder and firmer when cooked. Both these roots are found in large quantities in the musk-rat lodges, stored by them for winter use.
The ta-wah-pah, with a stem, leaf, and yellow flower, like the pond-lily, is found in the lakes, in water and mud, from four to five feet deep. The Indian women dive for them, and frequently obtain as many as they are able to carry. The root is from one to two feet in height, very porous; there are as many as six or eight cells running the whole length of the root. It is very difficult to describe the flavor. It is slightly sweet and glutinous, and is generally boiled with wild fowl, but is occasionally roasted.
In his exploring expedition into the interior of Guiana, in the region of the Upper Essequibo, Sir E. Schomburgk notices the discovery of a variety of Leguminosae, whose tubers grow to an enormous size, fully equal to the largest yam. These roots were not, at the time he was there, in full perfection, but their taste was somewhat between the yam and the sweet potato. The Taruma Indians called them Cuyupa. The roots are considered fit for use when the herb above ground dies. Sir Robert brought a few of the seeds of the plant with him on his return to Demerara.
Two interesting productions have been recently introduced into the Jardin des Plantes, at Paris, from the Ecuador, by M. Bourcier, formerly Consul-General of France in that country. One is the red and yellow ocas, which is of the form of a long potato, and has the taste of a chesnut; the other is the milloco, which has the taste and form of our best potatoes. These two roots, which are found in great abundance in the neighbourhood of Quito, grow readily in the poorest land. The oca is cultivated in the fields of Mexico, but only succeeds in the warmer districts. From the bulbous roots of the cacomite, a species of Tigridia, a good flour is also prepared there.
Stevenson ("Travels in South America," vol. ii., p. 55) says, a root called the oca is cultivated in several of the colder provinces of Peru. "This plant," he states, "is of a moderate size, in appearance somewhat like the acetous trefoil; the roots yellow, each about five or six inches long, and two in circumference. They have many eyes, and the roots, several of which are yielded by one plant, are somewhat curved. When boiled it is much sweeter than the camote or batata; indeed it appears to contain more saccharine matter than any root I ever tasted; if eaten raw it is very much like the chesnut. The roots may be kept for many months in a dry place. The transplanting of the oca (he adds) to England, where I am persuaded it would prosper, would add another agreeable and useful esculent to our tables."
The Brussels paper, L'Emancipation, mentions that a root has been discovered by the Director of the Museum of Industry, in that place, destined to take the place of the potato. It is the Lathyrus tuberosus, called by the peasants the earth mouse, on account of its form, and the earth chesnut on account of its taste. This plant exists only in some localities of Lorraine and Burgundy. The Lathyrus has never been cultivated, and it is thought that it will attain, with cultivation, the size of the potato. The French peasants have a prejudice against cultivating it, because they say it walks under ground, and leaves the place it is planted in to go into the neighbouring field. The fact is, that it grows in a chaplet, of which the bulbs are arranged along a root running horizontally, of which the two extremities are very rarely found, so that on taking up the hinder tubercles it continues its growth in front, which gives rise to the saying that if the plant had only time enough, it would make the tour of the world.
The bulb of Gastrodia sesamoides (R. Brown), a curious herbaceous species of orchis, native of New Holland, is edible, and preferred by the aborigines to potatoes and other tuberous roots. Some of my accredited informants believe it might be turned to profitable account, but being a parasitic plant, it could scarcely be systematically cultivated. It flourishes in its wild state on loamy soil in low or sloping grounds. The first indication of its vegetation in the spring, is the appearance of a whitish bulb above the sward, of an hemispherical shape, and about the size of a small egg. The dusky white covering resembles a fine white net, and within it is a pellucid gelatinous substance. Again within this is a firm kernel, about as large as a Spanish nut, and from this a fine fibrous root descends into the soil. It is known in Van Diemen's Land, and other parts of Australia, by the common name of native bread. Captain Hunter, in his Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson on the first settlement of the Convict Colony, speaks of finding large quantities of "wild yams," on which the natives fed, but the roots were not bigger than a walnut; therefore it was probably this plant.
Arracacha esculenta, of Bancroft and Decandolle (Conium Arracacha).—This perennial herb is a native of South America, which, from its salubrious qualities, is extensively cultivated in the mountains of Venezuela and other parts of tropical and Southern America, for culinary purposes. It is propagated by planting pieces of the tuberous root, in each of which is an eye or shoot. The late Baron de Shack introduced it into Trinidad, from Caraccas, and it has thence been carried to the island of Grenada. It throve there remarkably well, but has been unaccountably neglected. He also sent roots of this valuable plant to London, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Although it bears cold better than the potato, it requires a warmer and more equal temperature than most of the countries of Europe afford. It would, however, make an excellent addition to the culinary vegetables of many tropical countries, uniting the taste of the potato and parsnip, but being superior to both.
The arracacha has been introduced into the South of Europe, not as a substitute for, but as a provision against a failure of the potato crop. It is highly recommended by the Rev. J.M. Wilson, in the "Rural Encyclopaedia."
Stevenson ("Travels in South America," vol. ii., p. 383) says the yucas (cassava), camotes (sweet potatoes), and yams cultivated at Esmeraldas and that neighbourhood, were the finest he ever saw. "It is not uncommon for one of these roots to weigh upwards of twenty pounds. At one place I saw a few plants of the yuca that had stood upwards of twenty years, the owner having frequently bared the bottom of the plants and taken the ripe roots, after which, throwing up the earth again, and allowing a sufficient time for new roots to grow, a continual succession of this excellent nutritious food was procured."
The Aipi grows in Brazil, and according to T. Ashe, may be eaten raw, and, when pressed, yields a pleasant juice for drink; or being inspissated by the heat of the sun, is kept either to be boiled and eaten, or dissolved and drank. The tapinambar grows in Chili, and is used by the Indians.
The tapioca, or bay rash, a plant which grows about the out-islands of the Bahamas group, was found of great use as a food plant to the inhabitants of Long Island, during a scarcity of food occasioned by the drought in 1843. This root grows in the form of a large beet, and is from twelve to sixteen inches in length. It is entirely farinaceous, and, when properly ground and prepared, makes good bread. It fetches there four to six cents a pound.
The root of the kooyah plant (Valeriana edulis) is much used by some of the North American Indians as food. The root is of a very bright yellow color, with a peculiar taste and odor, and hence is called "tobacco root." It is deprived of its strong poisonous qualities by being baked in the ground for about two days. A variety of other roots and tubers furnish them with food. Among these are kamas root (Camassia esculenta), which is highly esteemed; the bulb has a sweet pleasant flavor, somewhat of the taste of preserved quince. It is a strikingly handsome bulbous plant, with large beautiful purple flowers. Yampah root (Anethum graveolens) is a common article of food with the Indians of the Rocky Mountains.
The roots of a thistle (Cersium virginianium, or Carduus virginianus), which are about the ordinary size of carrots, are also eaten by them. They are sweet and well flavored, but require a long preparation to fit them for use.
The people of Southern India and Ceylon have for many hundred years been in the habit of eating the bulb or root, which is the first shoot from the Palmyra nut, which forms the germ of the future tree, and is known locally as Pannam kilingoes. It is about the size of a common carrot, though nearly white. It forms a great article of food among the natives for several months in the year; but Europeans dislike it from its being very bitter. Recent experiments have proved that a farina superior to arrowroot can be obtained from it, prepared in the same way; and 100 roots, costing 21/2d., yield one and a-half to two pounds of the flour.
From the boiled inner bark of the Russian larch, mixed with rye flour, and afterwards buried a few hours in the snow, the hardy Siberian hunters prepare a sort of leaven, with which they supply the place of common leaven when the latter is destroyed, as it frequently is by the intense cold. The bark is nearly as valuable as oak bark. From the inner bark the Russians manufacture fine white gloves, not inferior to those made of the most delicate chamois, while they are stronger, cooler, and more pleasant for wearing in the summer.
The fruit of the Cycas angulata forms the principal food of the Australian aborigines during a portion of the year. They cut it into thin slices, which are first dried, afterwards soaked in water, and finally packed up in sheets of tea-tree bark. In this condition it undergoes a species of fermentation; the deleterious properties of the fruit are destroyed, and a mealy substance with a musty flavor remains, which the blacks probably bake into cakes. They appear also to like the fruit of the Pandanus, of which large quantities were found by Dr. Leichardt in their camps, soaking in water, contained in vessels formed of stringy bark.
The flour obtained from the seeds of Spurry (Spergula sativa), when mixed with that of wheat or rye, produces wholesome bread, for which purpose it is often used in Norway and Gothland. In New Zealand, before the introduction of the potato, the roots of the fern were largely consumed.
Many species of Bolitus are used as food by the natives in Western Australia, according to Drummond.
The thick tuberous roots of a climbing species of bean (Pachyrhizus angulatus, or Dolichos bulbosus) are cultivated and eaten in some parts of the Polynesian islands. The bulbous roots of some species of Orchideae are eagerly sought after in New South Wales by the natives, being termed "boyams," and highly esteemed as an article of food for the viscid mucilage which they contain. The root of the Berar (Caladium costatum) is eaten by the natives of the Pedir coast (Achin), after being well washed.
The pignons or edible seeds of Pinus Pinea are consumed occasionally in Italy. In Chili the cone or fruit of the pehuen, or pino de la tierra, are considered a great delicacy. The pinones are sometimes boiled, and afterwards, by grinding them on a stone, converted into a kind of paste, from which very delicate pastry is made. The pine is cultivated in different parts of this province on account of its valuable wood and the pinones. The seeds from the cones of the Auracanean pine, collected in autumn, furnish the Pawenches (from pawen pine) and Auracanians with a very nutritious food. When cooked, the flavor is not unlike that of the chesnut, and as they will keep for some time, they constitute, when the gathering season has been favorable, a great part of their diet.
The seeds of the cones of the nut pine (Pinus monophyllus), a new species described by Dr. Torrey, and alluded to by Col. Fremont in his exploring expedition to the Rocky Mountains, are largely used by the North American Indians. The nut is oily, of a most agreeable flavor, and must be very nutritious as it constitutes the principal subsistence of many of the native tribes.
The cone of another magnificent pine (Auracaria Bidwillii), indigenous to the Eastern coast of Australia, about the Moreton Bay district, is frequently met with twelve inches in diameter, and containing 150 edible seeds as large as a walnut. The aborigines roast these seeds, crack the husk between two stones, and eat them hot. They taste something like a yam or hard dry potato. The trees bear cones only once in four years, during a period of six months. This season is held as a great festival by the aborigines of that locality, called by them Bunga Bunga, and they congregate in greater numbers than is known in any other part of Australia, frequently coming from a distance of 300 miles. They grow sleek and fat upon this diet. An Act has been passed by the legislature of the colony, prohibiting, under heavy pains and penalties, the demolition of those trees, being the natural food of the natives.
The common people eat the seeds of the red sandal wood (Adenanthera Pavonina) in the South of India. The pulp of the fruit of the Adansonia digitata, or monkey bread, is also used as an article of food.
SINGHARA OR WATER NUTS.—The large seeds of Trapa bicornis, a native of China, and of T. bispinosa and natans, species indigenous to India, are sweet and eatable, and the aquatic plants which furnish them are hence an extensive article of cultivation. In Cashmere and other parts of the East they are common food, and known under the name of Singhara nuts. In Cashmere the government obtains from these nuts L12,000 of annual revenue. Mr. Moorcroft mentions that Runjeet Sing derived nearly the same sum. From 96,000 to 128,000 loads of this nut are yielded annually by the lake of Ooller alone. The nut abounds in fecula. In China the kernel is used as an article of food, being roasted or boiled like the potato. The seeds of various species of Nelumbium, natives of the East Indies, Jamaica, and the United States, also form articles of food. The fruit of N. speciosum is supposed to be the Egyptian bean of Pythagoras. The petioles and peduncles contain numerous spiral vessels, which have been used for wicks of candles. The fruit of Willughbeia edulis, a native of the East, as its name implies, is eatable. The kernel of the mango can be reduced to an excellent flour for making bread.
Not only from the Lichen tribe, but also from the Algae, fungi, mosses and ferns man derives nutriment and valuable products. Some of the cryptogamic plants form considerable articles of commerce, particularly as food plants, affording gelatinous and amylaceous matter, and being useful in medicine and the arts.
Nostoe eduli is used in China as food; Gelidium corneum enters into the formation of the edible swallows' nests of the Japanese islands. Agar-agar moss is shipped from Singapore to the extent of 13,000 tons a-year. Irish moss, Iceland moss, Ceylon moss, and some others, are also of some importance. Iodine and kelp are prepared to a considerable extent from sea weeds; one species (Fucus tenax) furnishes large supplies of glue to the Canton market, and the orchilla weed is of great importance to the dyer. It is principally as food that I have to speak of them in this section.
In some of the islands off the Scotch coasts, sea-wrack (Fucus vesiculosus) forms the chief support of horses and cattle in the winter months. F. serratus is similarly employed in Norway.
The Laminaria saccharina is interesting from the fact of its containing sugar. It is highly esteemed in Japan, where it is extensively used as an article of diet, being first washed in cold water and then boiled in milk or broth.
CARRAGEEN, or IRISH ROCK MOSS, Sphaeroccus (Chondus) crispus, abounds on the Western Coast of Ireland, round the Orkneys, Hebrides, Scilly Islands, &c. It is purplish white, and nearly transparent, and is largely imported to feed cattle and pigs in Yorkshire. It is also used for dressing the warp of webs in the loom, and mixing with the pulp for sizing paper in the vat. It swells up like tragacanth in water; and, by long decoction, affords a considerable quantity of a light, nutritious, but nauseous jelly. It is sometimes sold as pearl moss, and is employed in the place of gelatine or isinglass for preparing blanc-manges, jellies, &c. It fetches about L7 the ton.
AGAR-AGAR, a sort of edible seaweed, or tripe de roche, is found growing on the rocks about the eastern islands that are covered by the tide. It is much used for making a kind of jelly, which is highly esteemed both by Europeans and natives for the delicacy of its flavor. The first quality is worth about 30s. the picul (133 lbs.). An inferior kind is collected on the submerged banks in the neighbourhood of Macassar (Celebes), by the Bajow Laut, or Sea Gipsies. It is also collected on the rocks about the settlement of Singapore, for export to China, where it is much used as a size for stiffening silks and for making jellies. It constitutes the bulk of the cargoes of the Chinese junks on their return voyage. The quantity shipped from Singapore is about 10,000 piculs (12,500 tons) annually.
ICELAND MOSS (Cetraria islandica) combines valuable alimentary and medicinal properties. It is imported in bags and barrels from Hamburg and Gothenburg, and is said to be the produce of Norway and Iceland. The quantity consumed varies; in 1836, 20,599 lbs. paid duty; in 1840, 6,462 lbs. In Carniola, swine, oxen, and horses, are fattened on it. Boiled in water or milk, and flavored to the palate with sugar, wine, and aromatics, it forms a very agreeable diet for invalids.
CEYLON MOSS (Gracelaria, or Gigartina, lichenoides), a small and delicate fucus, is well known for the amylaceous property it possesses, and the large proportion of true starch it furnishes. The fronds are filiform; the filaments much branched, and of a light purple color. It grows abundantly in the large lake or back-water which extends between Putlam and Calpentyr, Ceylon. It is collected by the natives principally during the south-west monsoon, when it becomes separated by the agitation of the water. The moss is spread on mats and dried in the sun for two or three days. It is then washed several times in fresh water, and again exposed to the sun, which bleaches it, after which it is collected in heaps for exportation.
Professor O'Shaughnessy has given the best analysis of this moss, which he described under the name of Fucus amylaceus; 100 grains weight yielded the following proportions:—
Vegetable jelly 54.50 True starch 15.00 Ligneous fibre 18.00 Sulphate and muriate of soda 6.50 Gum 4.00 Sulphate and phosphate of lime 1.00 ——- Total 99.00 With a trace of wax and iron.
I observe among the imports into New Orleans, 911 bushels of Spanish moss in 1849, and 1,394 bushels in 1848. I do not know precisely its use, or from whence derived, but I believe it is chiefly used for stuffing cushions, mattresses, &c.
FERN.—The rhizome of Pteris esculenta is used as food in Australia, and that of Marattia alata in the Sandwich Islands. The trunks of the Alsophila, or tree fern, of the western side of Van Diemen's Land, and of the common tree fern, Cibotium Billardieri (the Dicksonia antarctica, of Labillardiere), contain the edible pith or bread-fruit eaten by the natives. Many other species of ferns are esculent. Typha bread is prepared in Scinde from the pollen of the flowers of the Typha elephantina, and in New Zealand from another species of bulrush (Typha utilis).
"It must not be supposed, as some have believed, that the fern root, wherever it grows, is fit for food. On the contrary, it is only that found in rich loose soils which contains fecula in sufficient quantity for this purpose: in poorer ground the root contains proportionally more fibre. We were now encamped on an alluvial flat in the valley of the river, thirty or forty feet below the general level of the plain; and I observed that, even in this favourable spot, a great deal of discrimination was used in selecting the best roots, which was discoverable by their being crisp enough to break easily when bent: those which would not stand this test being thrown aside. Here a quantity sufficient for several days was procured, and was packed in baskets, to last till another spot equally favourable could be reached.
"The process of cooking fern root is very simple; for it is merely roasted on the fire, and afterwards bruised by means of a flat stone similar to a cobbler's lap-stone, and a wooden pestle. The long fibres which run like wires through the root are then easily drawn out; and the remainder is pounded till it acquires the consistence of tough dough, in which state it is eaten, its taste being very like that of cassava bread. Sometimes it is sweetened with the juice of the 'tutu.'
"The natives consider that there is no better food than this for a traveller, as it both appeases the cravings of hunger for a longer period than their other ordinary food, and renders the body less sensible to the fatigue of a long march. It is in this respect to the human frame, what oats or beans are to the horse. They have a song in praise of this root, which I have once or twice heard chanted on occasions of festivals, by a troop of young women who carry baskets of the food intended for the guests."—("Shortland's New Zealand.")
I ought not to omit noticing the Tuber cibarium, a plant of the mushroom family, growing under ground, which furnishes the famous truffle, so celebrated in the annals of cooking, of which immense quantities are imported, chiefly from the South of France. It is common also in Italy and Germany, and is often found in Northamptonshire, and some other of our own counties. The "kemmayes," a desert plant of the truffle kind, is a great favorite with the Arabs.
In Terra del Fuego the only vegetable food of the natives, besides a few berries of a dwarf arbutus, is a species of globular bright yellow fungus (Cyttaria Darwinii), which grows in vast numbers on the beech trees. In its tough and mature state it is collected in large quantities by the women and children, and eaten uncooked. It has a slightly sweet mucilaginous taste, with a faint smell like that of a mushroom.
SPICES, AROMATIC CONDIMENTS, FRAGRANT WOODS, &c.
The various spices and condiments which form so large an item in our commercial imports, are obtained from the barks, the dried seeds, the fruit, flower-buds, and root-stocks, of different plants. The chief aromatic barks comprise the cinnamon, cassia lignea, cascarilla, and canella alba. The medicinal barks will be noticed elsewhere. The seeds and fruits include pepper, pimento, cardamoms, anise, nutmegs, chillies. The flower-buds of some furnish cloves and cassia buds; the roots supply ginger, galangale, turmeric, and ginseng. A few other useful substances, such as vanilla, the costus, or putchuk, mace, soy, and some of the odoriferous woods I have included under this section.
The true cinnamon of commerce is obtained from the inner bark of Cinnamonum verum, R. Brown; or C. zeylanicum; the Laurus cinnamonum, of Linnaeus, a handsome looking tree, native of the East Indies. The island of Ceylon is the chief seat of its cultivation, and for a long time the Dutch depended solely for their supply of this bark for the home market on the produce of the wild cinnamon trees in the King of Kandy's territories there. At last, from the increasing demand, they resorted to the growth and more careful culture of the tree themselves. About the year 1794, the cultivation had succeeded so well that they were enabled to meet the demand for the spice from trees of their own growth, independent of any supplies from the Kandian monarch's territory.
In 1796, when this island fell into our hands, the local government endeavoured, after the former fashion of the Dutch, to restrain the production of this article of commerce within due bounds, by destroying all above a certain quantity.
General Maitland, in 1805, and his successors in the government, seeing the folly of such a ridiculous policy, very wisely fostered and promoted the extended cultivation of cinnamon plantations.
In the island of Java, and in Cochin-China, cinnamon culture has within the last few years made considerable progress.
The leaves of the cinnamon tree are more or less acuminated, from five to eight inches long, by about three broad, growing in pairs opposite each other. They have three principal ribs, which come in contact at its base, but do not unite. The leaves, when first developed, are of a bright red hue, then of a pale yellow, and lastly of a dark shining green; when mature, they emit a strong aromatic odor if broken or rubbed in the hands, and have the pungent taste of cloves. The young twigs of the true cinnamon tree are not downy, like those of the cassia bark. The plant blooms in January and February, and the seeds ripen in July and August.
The blossoms grow on slender foot-stalks, of a pale yellow color, from the axillae of the leaves and the extremity of the branches. They are numerous clusters of small white flowers, having a brownish shade in the centre, about the same size as the lilac, which it resembles. The fruit is a drupe, about the size of a small hedge strawberry, containing one seed, and of the shape of an acorn, which when ripe is soft and of a dark purple color.
The roots are fibrous, hard, and tough, covered with an odoriferous bark; on the outside of a greyish brown, and on the inside of a reddish hue. They strike about three feet into the earth, and spread to a considerable distance. Many of them smell strongly of camphor, which is sometimes extracted from them.
The trees in their wild state will grow ordinarily to the height of 30 feet. The trunk is about three feet in circumference, and throws out a great number of large spreading horizontal branches, clothed with thick foliage. When cultivated for their bark, the trees are not permitted to rise above the height of ten feet.
The true cinnamon tree (according to Mr. Crawfurd) is not a native of the islands of the Eastern Archipelago; but Marshall, in his description and history of the tree ("Annals of Philos," vol. x.) assigns very extensive limits to its cultivation. He asserts that it is found on the Malabar coast, in Cochin-China, and Tonquin, Sumatra, the Soolo Archipelago, Borneo, Timor, the Nicobar and Philippine Islands. It has been transplanted, and grows well in the Mauritius, Bourbon and the eastern coast of Africa; in the Brazils, Guiana, in South America, and Guadaloupe, Martinique, Tobago, and Jamaica; but produces in the West a bark of very inferior quality to the Oriental.
Rumphius has remarked, that the trees which yield cinnamon, cassia, and clove bark (Cinnamonum Culilaban), though so much alike, are hardly ever found in the same countries.
The term clove bark has been applied to the barks of two different trees belonging to the natural order Laurineae. One of these barks is frequently called "Culilaban bark." It consists of almost flat pieces, and is obtained from Cinnamonum Culilaban, a tree growing in Amboyna, and probably other parts of the Moluccas.
The other bark, known as clove bark, occurs in quills, which are imported from South America. Murray says it is produced by the Myrtus carophyllata, a tree termed by Decandolle Syzgium carophyllaeum. It appears, however, that this is an error, for both Nees and Von Martius declare it to be the produce of Dicypellium caryophyllatum; and the last quoted authority states that this tree is the noblest of all the laurels found in the Brazils, where it is called "Pao Cravo." It grows at Para and Rio Negro.
Cinnamon may be propagated by seeds, plants, or layers; roots also, if carefully transplanted, will thrive in favorable localities, and yield useful shoots in twelve months. It is usually cultivated from suckers, which should not have more than three or four leaves, and require continual watering. If raised from seed, the young plants are kept in a nursery for a year or two, and then transplanted; but the trees from seeds are longer arriving at maturity. The plants are kept well earthed about the roots to retain the moisture, and coco-nut husks are placed above them, which in time form an excellent compost.
A cinnamon plantation, even in a favorable locality, seldom yields much return until eight or nine years have elapsed.
The mode of cultivation pursued by the natives differs from that followed in the plantations of the Europeans. The native system is to allow the cinnamon to grow large before cutting; the European practice is to cut it young. The result is that the native produces quantity, but coarse; the European produces quality, but less in quantity. I have found, in conversation with the native growers, that they consider the bush or tree decidedly weakened by its being kept down by constant cutting twice a year; and that their plants are stronger and better. It is not absolutely an original opinion, but I think the two systems might be judiciously blended. In cutting the cinnamon sticks for peeling, as the Europeans do it twice a year, there is always risk of losing much valuable young wood, which is destroyed in slashing into the bushes with catties (bill-hooks) to take out that which is in a fit state for peeling, all of which is so much loss from the next cutting; and on this ground I should be inclined to advocate cutting once a year. There are, I know, other considerations than the mere growth of the sticks to be taken into account. Of these may be named the time when the bark peels best from the stick, which of course must depend upon age as well as season, the excited or unexcited state of the shoots, and their several effects upon the quality of the spice.
Weeding the plantations does not seem to be of so much consequence, if the shrub gets plenty of free air all round it.
Cinnamon land continues to yield abundantly crop after crop, not for years, but for scores of years. The greater portion of the late preserved plantations in Ceylon were planted by the Dutch, one hundred years ago, and the bushes are stated to be as vigorous as ever, and quite likely to go on yielding crops till the year 2000. This productiveness can only be accounted for on Liebig's principle of returning to the soil a portion of what we take from it. In the operation of peeling cinnamon, the tops and lateral branches are cut off, and left by the peelers on the ground close to the bushes. These, no doubt, furnish a considerable quantity of manure to the plants.
The general appearance of the plantation is that of a copse, with laurel leaves and stems, about the thickness of hazel; occasionally a tree may be seen which, having been allowed to grow for seed, has reached a height of forty or fifty feet, with a trunk eighteen inches in diameter. When in full bloom, the cinnamon bushes have a very beautiful appearance, the small white petals affording a most agreeable contrast with the flame-colored extremities of the upper, and the dark green of the inferior foliage, with the blossoms of various lovely parasitical plants.
The cinnamon tree flourishes only in a small portion of the island of Ceylon. It is chiefly confined to the south-west angle, formed by the sea coast, from Tangalle in the south to Chilaw on the west. It is in a climate of agreeable temperature, which is at once hot and moist; hot from its tropical position, and moist from the frequency and plentifulness of rains. The general level of the country is low, in the midst of fresh-water lakes, divided from the sea by a narrow riband of land. And the water in the soil of the cinnamon gardens is of extraordinary purity, so as to be for that reason much in request in the neighbouring city as a beverage. This exact combination of influences does not occur anywhere else in the island, at least not in the same degree.
The cultivation principally centres round Colombo, the capital and principal port.
On the hills and valleys, in the neighbourhood of Kandy, which have a temperate climate, the tree flourishes well; a rather elevated situation, with shelter, contributing to the luxuriance of the plants. The best soil for it appears to be a pure quartz sand, which in some places rests on black moss or mould. From the surface to the depth of a few inches, this sand is as fine in its nature and as pearly white in its appearance as the best table salt; but below that depth, and near the roots of the bushes, the sand is greyish.
A specimen of this soil being carefully dried by Dr. Davy, was found to consist of 98.5 silicious sand, 0.5 vegetable matter, and 1.1 water—in 100 parts. This circumstance impresses one very strongly on visiting the cinnamon gardens; it seems so strange to see a plain of pure quartz sand whitened in the sun, and yet covered over with a luxuriant growth of trees. In richer soils the aroma does not seem to develop itself in the same concentrated form.
A mixture of loam and peat, with sand, is said, however, to form a good soil in some localities. These plantations may well suggest a doubt as to the truth of the proposition so unqualifiedly laid down by some authors, that "earth destitute of organic matter cannot sustain vegetation." Certainly it is not organic matter which supports the cinnamon trees of Colombo.
Peeling.—The best cinnamon is obtained from the stalks or twigs, which shoot up in a cluster of eight or ten together from the roots, after the parent bush or tree has been cut down. These shoots are cut once in about three years, close to the ground. Great care is requisite, both as to the exact size and age; for if the bark is too young, it has a green taste, if too old it is rough and gritty. These shoots yield an incomparably fine cinnamon bark. When cut for peeling they are of various sizes and lengths, depending on the texture of the bark. These rods afford the hazel-like walking-sticks so much esteemed by strangers, and which, though difficult to be procured during the prevalence of the oppressive cinnamon regulations, may now be very easily obtained from proprietors of grounds producing that spice. Cinnamon is barked at two periods of the year, between April and December. Those suckers which are considered fit for cutting, are usually about three-fourths of an inch in diameter, and five feet or more long. The first operation is to strip them of the outside pellicle of bark. The twigs are then ripped up lengthwise with the point of a knife, and the liber or inner bark gradually loosened, till it can be entirely taken off. While drying they are cut up into long narrow rolls, called "quills," then stuck into one another, so as to form pipes about three or four feet long, which are afterwards made up in round bundles.
During the first day the cinnamon is suspended under shelter upon open platforms, and on the second day it is placed on wicker-work shelves, and exposed to the sun until sufficiently dry to be examined and sorted for shipment.
It is brought home in bags or bales of 80 or 90 lbs. weight, and classed before export into three sorts; first, second, and third quality. The different kinds of cinnamon bark may be thus classified, according to quality—
1. That which ranks above all others in quality, is known by the Singhalese name of penne or rasse kuroondu, sharp sweet, or honey cinnamon.
2. Naya kuroondu, snake cinnamon.
3. Kapoorn kuroondu, camphorated cinnamon, from the very strong smell of camphor which it possesses. This variety is principally obtained from the plantations of the interior.
4. Kahate or canalle kuroondu, astringent cinnamon. In this species the bark peels off very easily, and smells agreeably when fresh, but it has a bitter taste.
5. Savel kuroondu, mucilaginous or glutinous cinnamon. This sort acquires a very considerable degree of hardness, which the chewing of it sufficiently proves. It has otherwise little taste, and an ungrateful smell; but the color is very fine, and it is often mixed with the first and best sort; the color being much alike, excepting only that in the good sort some few yellowish spots appear towards the extremities.
6. Dawool kuroondu, or drum cinnamon. The wood of this tree, when grown hard, is light and tough, and the natives make some of their vessels and drums of it. The bark is of a pale color.
7. Nika kuroondu, wild cinnamon, whose leaf resembles that of the nicasol (Vitex Negundo). The bark of this tree has neither taste or smell when peeled, and is made use of by the natives only in physic, and to extract an oil from to anoint their bodies.
8. Mal kuroondu, flowering cinnamon, because this tree is always in blossom. The substance of the wood never becomes so solid and weighty in this as in the other named species, which are sometimes nine or ten feet in circumference. If this ever-flowering cinnamon be cut or bored, a limpid water will issue out of the wound; but it is of use only for the leaves and bark.
9. Toupat kuroondu, trefoil cinnamon, of which there are three varieties, which grow in the mountains and valleys of the interior about Kandy.
10. We kuroondu, white ant's cinnamon.
The first-named four of these are, however, alone varieties of the Cinnamonum verum.
Good cinnamon is known by the following properties:—It is thin and rather pliable; it ought to be about the substance of royal paper, or somewhat thicker. It admits of a considerable degree of pressure, and bends before it breaks; the fracture is then splintering. It is of a light color, approaching to yellow, bordering but little upon the brown; it possesses a sweetish taste, at the same time it is not stronger than can be borne without pain, and is not succeeded by any after-taste. The more cinnamon departs from these characteristics, the coarser and less serviceable it is esteemed; and it should be rejected if it be hard, and thick as a half-crown piece; if it be very dark colored or brown; if it be very pungent and hot on the tongue, with a taste bordering upon that of cloves, so that it cannot be suffered without pain. Particular care should be taken that it is not false-packed, or mixed with cinnamon of a common sort.
The following remarks, by Mr. Dunewille, of Malacca, as to the suitability of the Straits' Settlements for cinnamon culture, are interesting, although in some instances a repetition of previous observations:—
It appears, from experience, that the soil of Ceylon is more favorable to the growth of cinnamon than to that of any other aromatic plant, and I find the climate of Ceylon, if at all, differs but in a very slight degree from that of the Straits. I therefore conclude that the spice, if cultivated in the Straits, will prove superior to that of Ceylon, if one may judge from the various spices that grow here almost wild, and it would moreover yield a better return than in Ceylon. My supposition is confirmed from having seen the spice which was prepared last year in Pringet by the Honorable Resident Councillor of Malacca, and which I found to be equally as good in every respect as that grown and cultivated in the maritime provinces in Ceylon.
A sandy soil is that which is generally selected for cinnamon, but other soils may be chosen also, such as a mixture of sandy with red soil, free from quartz, gravel, or rock, also red and dark brown soils. Such land in a flat country is preferable to hilly spots, upon which, however, cinnamon also grows, and are known by the name of the "Kandyan Mountains." The soil that is rocky and stony under the surface is bad, and not adapted for the cultivation of cinnamon, as the trees would neither grow fast, nor yield a remunerative return.
When a tract of land of the above description is selected, the whole of the ground should be cleared, leaving a few trees for shade, to which the laborers might return for rest and relaxation; these may be from 50 to 60 feet apart. The trees felled should be well lopped, burnt and cleared away, the stumps should be removed with roots, after which they may be allowed to remain, in order to save expense of carriage, merely by observing some degree of order in the disposition, by forming regular rows, of which the intervening spaces are planted with cinnamon. The ground being thus cleared, holes may be dug at eight to ten feet apart, and of one foot square; the distance from each plant will depend upon the nature of the soil—that is, the poorer the soil, the nearer to each other should the trees be planted, and vice versa.
When this operation is over, should the holes be intended for cinnamon roots, or stumps, the latter must be carefully removed with as much earth as can be carried up with them and placed in the holes, taking care not to return the earth removed originally in digging the holes, which are to be filled with the soil scraped from the surface, which has been previously burnt, exposed, and formed into manure. Should no rain have fallen after the placing of the roots in the holes, the stumps should be well covered, and watered morning and evening, until such time as the sprouts shoot out fresh buds, which will be in a fortnight or so from the time they were transplanted, when the watering may be discontinued. In a month the new shoots will be three or four inches high; this much depends upon the weather.