Fruit for All the Year ‘round

This is the second article in July of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on July 11, 1909, and is an article on the benefits of fruit which can be eaten all throughout the year. Marion Harland spends quite a bit of time talking about the apple and the pineapple.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Fruit for All the Year ‘round

DIETITIANS of every school, whether it be vegetarian or flesh-eating, agree in banishing rich pastries and hot puddings from the family bills of fare during the dog-days. A most elastic term that in our country! If calendar and zodiac are to be believed, the malign region of Sirius is limited to July. Then, we are told, the sun has most power and the air least vitality. In real life, as we perspiring natives of the so-called temperate zone know summer existence, sultry noons and suffocating midnights have all weeks for their own and regulate the thermometer at their will from the middle of May to the middle of September. The longest day in the year, June 21, is oftenest the hottest of the summer.

By the middle of May we begin to talk of lighter underwear and cold dishes. The bon vivant’s pat order at hotel and restaurant of “a hot bid and a cold bottle” is modified to exclude caloric in the game. Steaming roasts are tabooed with potpie and pork. Beginning with strawberries, ripened, by courtesy, in Florida, we run the gamut of fruits desserts through May, June, July, August and September, winding up as a grand flourish with the purpling wine skies of the October harvest moon.

Housemother and cook rejoice in the lightened cares and work brought when the relief is most opportune. A sapient youth once remarked to me how “lucky it is, don’t you know, that dish are in season in Lent.” The caterer and the cook regard as a special mercy the conjunction of hot weather and plenty of fruit.

The truth being that the human race would be healthier and longer-lived if we served desserts that require no cooking all the year through. No, dear reader! you would regard the flesh-pot as an essential to the diet of creatures who are stamped by nature as both carnivorous and graminivorous, I am not hammering in the dogma of raw foods! I but plead for moderation in all things, and that we admit to our daily fare things that draw nutriment and sweetness directly from the bosom of Mother Earth.

Their Especial Use.

Currants, berries, rhubarb, peaches, apples and pears, melons and grapes bring to jaded appetites and bile-laden systems each its own message. It is so plain that they were intended for our good that the pastry-loving man, though a fool, may not err in interpreting the lesson. A too-common blunder is in overlooking the benefits we might get from carrying the habit learned and practiced when the mercury is up to blood heat on into the winter solstice. For bile gathers as surely if more slowly then, and the digestive organs are sluggish to congestion.

True, we need carbon in cold weather, and meat and oils engender carbon. Hence the Eskimo’s and Laplander’s dietary of train oil and seal blubber. Does it occur to the advocate of heat-making foods that neither Eskimo nor Laplander is a model of athletic comeliness?

Beginning with the earliest spring berries, we note their beautiful adaptation to the condition of the winter-taxed body. The acids of berry and of cheery act directly upon the blood and biliary secretions. I have heard young women congratulate themselves upon the effect of strawberries, raspberries and cherries eaten in abundance, upon the complexion. Not one in a hundred stops to trace the clearing and coloring of the sensitive cuticle to the inward cause of the change. Nor are our girls singular in the failure to look below the surface of things everybody is supposed to know.

Peaches are yet more catholic in principle and benignant in action. They may be indexed as a capital all-around fruit. They correct constipation, yet have a decided tendency to brace the intestines. Prussic acid, in minute quantities, is secreted in the fragrant cells of the luscious peach, and as a heat, not a destroying principle.

“Fruits”—to quote from other published deliverances of mine upon this matter—“contain predigested food elements which do not clog the system and which are valuable in sustaining strength. Fruit acids cleanse the stomach and bowels, and at the same time are nutritive elements of diet. They are foods and medicines, or rather foods which avert the necessity of medicine.”

The specific effect of the fruit which precedes thee heavier business of the first meal of the day is the “cleansing” spoken of in the preceding paragraph. After the sleep of the night and the inaction of the digestive organs a sort of mucous film forms upon the coat of the stomach, indisposing it to do its proper work. The gentle acids remove this and awaken the organ to a sense of what is expected of it. In passing, I may say that this preliminary operation removes the stigma from the cereal succeeding the acid. One writer upon gastronomy asserts in round terms that he would “as soon cover the coat of his stomach with a viscid poultice as compel it to take care of a bowl of oatmeal or hominy early in the morning.”

Oranges have an advantage above the great majority of other fruits of being obtainable all the year. They are anti-bilions. So are lemons. The orange is agreeable to the taste and has nutritious qualities not shared by the more tart cousin.

Right Royal.

Of the king of fruits—the apple—I have written so often and at such length that I approach the subject warily. There is not a month of the 12 in which it is not at least partially in season. It is scarce in late August and early September, unless one counts as one of the royal lines the thin-blooded faintly acid and altogether unworthy specimens yclept “summer apples.” Certain varieties are acerb to a proverb, others are as insipid as cotton wool, and as indigestible.

But the apple proper, tender of flesh yet firm to the touch, rich in coloring and fragrant as Araby the blest, cannot be over-praised.

“Eat an apple daily, and live forever!” says an old proverb. And an English pundit who has made fruit values a life-long study:

“The apple is rich in phosphoric acid. This last contains the least amount of earth-salts, and for that reason is probably the nearest approach to the Elixir of Life known to the scientific world.”

The pineapple is getting its innings in the twentieth century. “One of the best of fruits,” declares one standard encyclopedia.

An eminent botanist goes a step further:

“The pineapple is universally acknowledged to be one of the most delicious fruits in existence.”

The exquisite flavor and the refreshing properties of the juice have long entitled it to a more than respectable rank as a dessert fruit. Within the last dozen years medical science has raised it to the dignity of an acknowledged curative and digestive agent. For long there was a popular impression that it is indigestible to tender stomachs and unfit for young children. The prejudice was not groundless so far as the average pineapple of commerce is concerned. It is plucked before it is ripe, packed before it has “sweated” off the rind moisture and transported to market a thousand and more miles away. What marvel if the fiber is though as hickory splints and the juices tart to acridity?

With the practical annihilation of long distances by the miracles of rapid transit that take our breath away, literally and figuratively, the real pineapple is brought to our knowledge. Stripped of the skin and rid of the core, both of which have an astringency that bites the tongue and scalds the throat, it fully justifies the definition of the cyclopedist. The juice is prescribed by our ablest physicians as a remedial agent in cases of diphtheria and other forms of sore throat. It has been known to relieve croup when medicines have failed. Strangest of all, it is recommended, and with reason, for dyspepsia. The expressed juice, administered by the wineglassful, is a tonic and a corrective of heartburn and general weakness of the alimentary organs.

An enthusiastic “fruitarian” assures us that, “in addition to nutritive properties hardly inferior to those of lean beef, the juice is a wonderful digester and the basis of an extract of marvelous efficacy in reliving stubborn cases of dyspepsia.”

Time was and within the memory of the reader of middle age, when olives, English walnuts and “Malaga” grapes, figs, boxed raisins and pineapples were delicacies imported from beyond seas for rich men’s tables. California and Hawaii have brought them all within the reach of households of moderate means. Nobody wants Seville and Sicilian oranges who has known the luxury of the Florida fruit. Ripe olives from California have a tender richness the orchards of Italy never provide for us. And the Hawaiian pineapple yield promises to drive out of the market the tough-fibered, comparatively sour fruit we have, up to now, known under that name. Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad that the “most delicious of fruits” is decreasing in cost and increasing in goodness, while meat and cereals are on the steady (and sinful) rise.

If I linger on this section of our subject it is because I have but lately learned the excellence and comparative cheapness of this variety of what we may proudly claim as a native fruit. It has the signal advantage of suffering less from cooking and canning than a majority of fruits. Apples, peaches, pears and berries undergo a chemical, and not a pleasant, change of taste and texture when subjected to heat. The home variety of pineapple we have referred to retains delicacy of tissues and exquisite aroma when canned.

This matter of fruit desserts that we may have all the year round is fraught with such lively interest to me personally that I grow garrulous. It is not practicable in the compass of one article to do even partial justice to the immense variety of native products which justify the declaration of a distinguished editor and lecturer that “the finest fruit market in the world is to be found in New York city.” And this upon the morrow of his return from a journey around the globe and visits to most of the principal cities of the world.

Grapes deserve more room than our bounds will allow today.

“I write it down as an indubitable fact that it is a physical impossibility for a healthy man or woman to eat enough ripe grapes to hurt him or her,” is a familiar quotation from writings of a renowned authority upon health and diet.

He said it over 50 years ago. In that time I have kept a sharp lookout upon the grape market and grape consumers, and I believe he spoke the truth in soberness, if not in love for his race.

To borrow again from my own library. “The large amount of water, sugar, salts and organic acids they contain purifies the blood and acts favorably upon the secretions of the body.”

And a final and significant hint to the women of all ages, especially to the young:

“Fruit eaten before breakfast and at meals tends to reduce the redness of the nose and otherwise improves the complexion.”

N.B. and P.S.—Pastries and hot doughs have a tendency to thicken the blood and muddy the skin. This is emphatically true in hot weather.

Marion Harland

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