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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 40.djvu/219

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III. Fruits.—Botanically speaking, the cereal grains of which we have spoken are true fruits, that is to say, are ripened ovaries, but for all practical purposes they may be regarded as seeds. The fruits, of which mention is now to be made, are those commonly spoken of in our markets as fruits.

First of all, attention must be called to the extraordinary changes in the commercial relations of fruits by two direct causes:

(1) The canning industry, and—
(2) Swift transportation by steamers and railroads.

The effects of these two agencies are too well known to require more than this passing mention. By them the fruits of the best fruit-growing countries are carried to distant lands in quantities which surprise all who see the statistics for the first time. The ratio of increase is very startling. Take, for instance, the figures given by Mr. Morris at the time of the great Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. Compare double decades of years:

1845, £886,888.
1865, £3,185,984.
1885, £7,587,523 

In the Colonial Exhibition at London, in 1886, fruits from the remote colonies were exhibited under conditions which proved that, before long, it may be possible to place such delicacies as the cherimoyer, the sweet-cup, sweet-sop, rambutan, mango, and mangosteen at even our most northern seaports. Furthermore, it seems to me likely that, with an increase in our knowledge with regard to the microbes which produce decay, we may be able to protect the delicate fruits from injury for any reasonable period. Methods which will supplement refrigeration are sure to come in the very near future, so that, even in a country so vast as our own, the most perishable fruits will be transported through its length and breadth without harm.

The canning industry and swift transportation are likely to diminish zeal in searching for new fruits, since, as we have seen in the case of the cereals, we are prone to move in lines of least resistance and leave well enough alone.

To what extent are our present fruits likely to be improved? Even those who have watched the improvement in the quality of

  1. Presidential address delivered before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, at Washington, August, 1891.