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Size, Color and Quality in Fruit

Prof. U. P. Hedrick, Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, N. Y.

Appreciation of fruits comes through three of the five sensestaste, sight and smell, though the last is of little importance, being so intimately connected with taste as to be almost a part of it. This leaves taste and sight as the senses by which fruits are judged. We grow fruit to eat and it would seem, therefore, that taste should set the seal of approval. Connoisseurs do judge fruit by the sense of taste, but the public, in this as in many other matters, does not march with the connoisseur, and the average person, personification of the public, uses the eye more than the tongue in measuring the merits of fruits. This difference between professional and popular judgment comes about because of a very general misconception of the relative values of size, color and quality in fruit—a misconception which furnished my excuse for calling your attention, in a popular way, to what I conceive to be the comparative value of size, color, and quality in fruit and for a very discursive consideration of how these attributes may be modified by culture.

CRAVING AFTER SIZE When the nurseryman sets his net, in the shape of an illustrated catalog, for the fruit grower, he baits it with gorgeous illustrations showing fruits of heroic proportions. The most frequent descriptive phrase accompanying this alluring bait is, “of largest size.” In his turn the fruit grower usually makes an exhibit, or a sale of his wares, with the apologetic yarn that he kept the largest for his own use, or he had larger last year, or he could grow bigger ones if he were so disposed. All this shows a craving after sizea craving that has been bred and is now stimulated by competitive exhibitions in which size is usually given first place. This has gone on for so long that now size is generally esteemed about the highest quality a fruit may possess. This feeling finds expression many times and in many ways at every fruit exhibit to which the public has access.

What are the true merits of size in fruits? In fruits for the kitchen, fair or large size is distinctly meritorious, saving waste in paring and coring or pitting, though even here there are exceptions for one does not want a huge baked apple, a mammoth peach for canning, nor large plums for preserving. But for all dessert purposes the medium sized fruit should be preferred and the Fameuse or the little Lady apple, a Seckel or Doyenne pear, a Crawford peach and a Green Gage plum are, or should be, as acceptable as any varieties of their kinds. Certainly no one wants to make two bites at a cherry, strawberry, or any of the small fruits. Large size in fruit is often poor economy whether on the fruitstand, in the hotel or for the home, for a small or medium fruit frequently answers the same purpose that a larger one would.

Not always, but often, undue size in any variety is accompanied by inferior quality. This is especially true if size has been brought about by much water, in which case the fruit may actually be said

to be bloated. The highly flavored solids of the normally grown fruit are diluted or adulterated with water. So, too, extra large specimens of tree or small fruits in which size is attained by high feeding or by such abnormal practices as ringing, usually lack in quality. From all this we must conclude that while a good large fruit may be better than a good small fruit, yet if in the large fruit there is a falling off in quality it at once loses value.

SIZE SOMETIMES DESIRABLE It is true, however, that some of the varieties of our tree fruits might be increased in size to advantage and the value of many grapes and small fruits would be much enhanced by greater size. Thus, it becomes a matter of importance to know how to increase the size of fruits, should we so desire. The task is not difficult. Generally speaking, whatever increases tree growth gives greater size in the product. To be specific, the application of altrogenous fertilizers, plowing under leguminous covercrops, frequent and long continued cultivation, these acting singly or associatively will increase the size of fruits. Another way of attaining greater size is by restricting the top of the plant by heavy pruning, thus getting greater growth in the parts that remain. Lastly, most commonly, and best means of all, the size of almost all fruits can be greatly increased by judicious thinning, an orchard operation so generally used that it needs no further discussion here.

The comparative value of color and quality in fruits is a subject of never-ending discussion. We can all agree that both are necessary in first-class market fruits, but often choice must be made between the two. Which then? To my mind there should be no question about the supremacy of quality over color, but consumers discriminate in favor of bright colors. Thus, red apples are preferred to yellow, green and russet varieties—the latter, side by side with red sorts no better in quality, go begging for buyers. Fruit is bought to eat. What a paradox to buy that which is hardly fit to eat because it is brilliantly colored. This unjust discrimination comes about because red is more attractive to the eye of most people and because of a very general misconception that color is correlated with quality. Red apples have thus become the fashion with consumers, and must, therefore, be produced by growers. Are brilliantly colored apples of better quality than those of subdued hues?

BRILLIANT AND SOMBER HUES Some say that high quality goes with high color—that is, with bright reds, crimsons, or scarlets or in patterns striped with these colors; others say "handsome but poor,” indicating a belief in a correlation of high quality and low color. But a consideration of varieties shows at once that there are no correlations between color and quality. The hungry man who knows apples will say grace with just as much unction over a green Newtown, a Golden Russet or a Grimes Golden as over a red Jonathan, a Spitzenburg or a McIntosh. Coming to individuals in a variety, it is found that apples grown in sod are brilliantly colored; those grown under tillage are of more somber hues. Nine out of ten people will choose the highly colored sod-grown fruit as the best flavored, but it needs only a taste to convince to the contrary. The tilled fruit is crisper, juicier, and richer. On the other hand, poorly colored apples in the center of a tree are often less well flavored than the brighter fruits exposed to the sun. There are many just seeming correlations between color and quality, but a careful study of all shows that there are no real relations between color and quality.

Just now the fashion is for red apples. But fashions in colors of fruits change as fashions in colors of clothes, or hats, or ties change. At one time russet apples were in great demand—not so now. In some markets Green Newtowns or Yellow Bellflowers or Rhode Island Greenings are still preferred. The present tendency to plant nothing but red apples is bound to make them less the fashion in time and to give greater demand for green, yellow and russet fruits.

The point I am seeking to make is, that we are following a prejudice in rating one color above another regardless of quality. This prejudice is detrimental to fruit growing and fruit growers should seek to overcome it by calling attention to the good qualities of fruits regardless of color. “Plumage proclaims the fowl,” but color does not proclaim the fruit.


Chauffeur Hearty and Magnate French, San Diego Getting Used to the Electric Chair--May Come in Handy

A Lesson in Efficiency

How to Conduct a Business Correspondence

For Terms, Address Bill and Bob

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Toledo. Bill :

Here goes. Brevity. Cannot use Onions. Will remember you on Box Apples. Your market not attractive on recent quotations. Been sick. Away from office hence delay answering wire twentythird.



P. S. Mail addressed Penn, Evansville, reaches us.

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