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VEGETABLE PRODUCTS AND THEIR USES.
I.-THE BREAD-STUFFS OF OTHER NATIONS.
God in his goodness has covered the earth which we inhabit with herbs and trees, which furnish us with food, clothing, materials for sheltering ourselves from the weather, and many other articles which contribute to our comfort and luxury. Whatever part of the world we visit, we find that the wants of the inhabitants have been provided for, the earth yielding its rewards to their industry and skill. Even the uncivilized savage, ignorant as he is of the properties and uses of the various natural objects around him, can find means of sustenance and shelter. to confine our attention even to the Food of man alone, we should find it a wide field of interesting and instructive inquiry ; so wide indeed that our limits would not admit of its being adequately treated. It will, therefore, be of more service to the reader if we confine our attention to one department of the subject, the vegetable products of the earth, and the uses to which man, by the exercise of his reason, has been able to put them. We shall begin with the vegetables which yield bread to men.
We find that almost every country has some production which, when collected with care and industry, will furnish the means of sustaining life. But the same food would not suit all nations, because different degrees of heat or cold has such an influence on the physical frame, as to make different kinds of food necessary. In cold countries, for example, men require much more nutritious food than they do in hot climates, and therefore it is, that in the East Indies and China, the natives rarely use wheat to make their
1 The teacher should endeavour to procure the objects referred to in the succeeding lessons, No lesson having reference to external objects should be read without an effort being made to place the reality before the pupils. It will be found that the lessons of this volume are generally founded on things easily obtained, or on experiments easily made.
bread, but prefer rice, a much lighter grain, which they cook in a variety of ways. Again, they rarely eat any flesh-meat, so necessary to health in the severer northern climates, but are content to mix butter and milk with their rice as a sort of substitute.
1. Rice; Maize or Indian Corn.-—The Rice-plant is a species of grass growing very much like our own beautiful oat. When ripe, the grains are each enclosed in a yellow-husk, and hang in handsome clusters on very
thin stalks. As the plant grows best in very moist soils, low lands, subject to floods, are preferred for the cultivation of
When rice is thrashed from the straw, it is still, like the oat, enclosed in the yellow husk, and in this state is called Paddy, both by the natives and by Europeans. Before it can be used for food the husk must be removed, and this is done amongst the poorer people, by rubbing the grain between flat stones, and winnowing or blowing the broken husks away. Machines skilfully constructed for the purpose are, however, in general use. This grain forms the chief food of the natives of India, of the Chinese, the Japanese, and other Eastern nations. Large quantities are also brought to Europe, but by us it is used more as a cheap luxury for puddings than as a necessary.
If we now pass from the hot countries of Asia to North America, we shall find that the change of temperature renders necessary a more substantial kind of food, and that the soil is adapted to supply this new want. Maize or Indian corn is there cultivated to a very great extent, and it appears to suit the taste of the inhabitants exceedingly well, although few persons in this country like it. The Indian corn is a plant of the grass tribe, but it produces its fruit in a very different manner from wheat, barley, rye, oat, or rice.
The plant is much larger than any of these, often growing to the height of eight feet, with a stem as thick as a broom-handle, and bearing the corn in ears of considerable size, called cobs, which spring from the sides of the stem. The cobs are enclosed in a large leafy sheath, which is much used for making paper in the United States ; and in Spain, Portugal, Sicily, and the Azores, where this corn is also grown, these sheaths are employed in great quantities as wrappings for oranges. Nearly every orange or lemon which comes to this country is wrapped in one of these sheaths before being packed into chests, as it is found that these fruits decay very rapidly if some dry material does not keep them apart from one another. They are also
used for making cigarettes, which frequently consist of a small portion of cut tobacco rolled up in a piece of the Indian corn sheath. The grains in each ear are very closely packed in rows all around a pithy stem, which forms the centre of the cob; this pithy centre also has its use, being frequently cut into a kind of cork for stopping bottles and small casks. They form also a very cheap and useful fuel.
2. Mandioca; Sago; Turkish Millet.—In South America again, the chief food of the inhabitants, both of native and European origin, is derived from a large root which grows wild, and is cultivated in very large quantities. It is called the Mandioca plant, and when growing is very poisonous ; but its roots, which, when ripe, are larger than a Swedish turnip, yield a great quantity of very nutritive starch, which, after having been exposed to the heat of a fire, is perfectly harmless. The fire destroys its poisonous quality. When roughly prepared, as it usually is for general use, this root is called Mandioca Meal, or in Portuguese, Farinha ; but when carefully prepared for the European markets, it is called Tapioca, and may be bought in all our grocery shops. The natives have very simple method of preparing the meal of the Mandioca root for their own use. Having first washed the roots, they grate them upon a large wooden rasp, made from one of the very hard woods which are found in their forests. The grated material is received in cold water, which becomes white in consequence of the starch which is so abundant in the root. The woody particles of course float, and are easily removed, and as soon as the more weighty starch has settled to the bottom of the vessel, the water is poured off. This starchy sediment is then dried over a slow fire, a process which deprives it of all poisonous qualities, and renders it a very wholesome food.
This is not the only kind of starch which forms the ordinary bread-food of foreign people, for in the islands of the Indian Ocean, inhabited by the Malays, several beautiful palm-trees produce vast quantities of starch in the pith of their large stems, which is separated by washing with cold water in a way similar to that just described, the starch being afterwards gradually dried and passed through small sieves made of the fibres of the palm leaves. ing through these sieves, the starch is formed into little round grains, not so large as small leaden shot, which acquire a glossy appearance when thoroughly dried over a charcoal fire. The preparation
In passis then finished, and the starch of the palm-trees has become Sago, which in the Indian Islands is the chief food of the natives. It is exported in large quantities to Singapore, whence it finds its way to Europe under the name of Pearl Sago, and is used extensively for puddings.
Through Turkey, Northern Africa, and many parts of India, the natives use a kind of grain which goes by various names, in the different places in which it is used, but which is commonly called Durra or Darra. In this country it is called Turkish Millet, and is in shape like the grains of Indian corn, but very much smaller. There are several kinds of this grain, the commonest being white; another is white, with a black spot where it springs from the stalk ; a third is black; and a fourth red ; the two last are used chiefly for feeding cattle. The Turkish Millet is very beautiful in its growth, and is uncommonly productive. The grain, when ground, forms a fine white flour, which is made into cakes, and is said to be very nutritious.
We have now mentioned the principal articles which constitute the Bread of other nations, except those which are grown in our own country, such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye, and which furnish bread to those who live in temperate latitudes.
These are so well known that any description of them would be useless. We shall next speak of
II.- THE CHIEF FRUITS OF THE WORLD.
When we pass through the streets of a large town and see the various fruits exposed for sale, we cannot fail to observe that most of them come from far distant countries. We ought all to know something of their history, for if they suggest nothing to our minds beyond the fact that they are pleasant eating, we are in that respect on a level with the beasts that perish. To know is itself an enjoyment, and when the orange in our hands reminds us also of the warm sunny countries in which it grows, the beautiful tree from which it was gathered, dazzling the eye with its golden fruit and filling the air with the sweet perfume of its silvery white blossoms, our pleasure becomes that of rational creatures.
1. The Orange.—As we have mentioned the Orange, we will give some account of it first. This fruit has been so long a favourite with mankind, and has consequently been so extensively cultivated, that it is now hard to say from what part of the world it first came. Some think China and Northern India its native countries, and they are probably right. But whatever may have been the land of its nativity, it may now be found in almost every country which is warm enough to ripen its beautiful fruit. Cultivation and climate modify it considerably. In China it is perhaps most skilfully managed, for we hear that the Mandarin orange is unequalled in flavour. In Northern Africa it is small and very sweet, and the rind has a most delicate perfume. In the rich soil of South America, again, it is more oval than round in its shape, attaining a very large size, and often producing some curious excrescences on the top of the fruit opposite to the stalk. The oranges which we see in our shops are produced chiefly in Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and grow in those parts of Southern Europe in such profusion as not only to yield an abundant supply to the inhabitants, but also to allow of their sending vast quantities to this and other countries. About 400,000 packages of oranges are annually imported into Great Britain, which, at 300 oranges per package, would give 120,000,000, and as they are rarely sold at less than a halfpenny each, the retail trade of the country in this fruit alone must reach the extent of £252,000 per annum.
The rind of the orange is converted into a sweetmeat by being boiled in sugar until it is candied, and from the fresh rind a sweet-scented oil is made, which is used in perfumery. A still more agreeable oil, with which Eau de Cologne is perfumed, is distilled from the flowers of the tree. The orange-tree, like most of its tribe, bears ripe and unripe fruit and flowers at the same time.
2. The Lemon, &c.—The Lemon is produced by a tree which differs from the orange chiefly in the shape and colour of the fruit, which is oval in form, and has a small rounded projection at the top about the size and shape of the tips of our little fingers. Its colour is a pale yellow. It is too acid to be eaten as a table fruit, but a very agreeable drink is made from it, and its juice is
useful in curing or preventing the terrible disease called scurvy, which afflicts those who are obliged to live long on salt provisions. On this account it is now considered a necessary on ship-board. The lemon comes chiefly from Sicily, but we also receive small quantities from Spain and Portugal. There are several other fruits belonging to the orange tribe which are much valued in the countries to which they belong, and are occasionally seen in our markets.