Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where Pineapples Grow


A letter from the island of Eleuthera, in the Bahama group, written to the New York Sun, thus describes the cultivation of the pineapple:

That the soil of Eleuthera should yield such an abundance of delicious pineapples, is a matter for wonder to a person who has been accustomed to the fertile lands of the United States. One who has never been on a coral island can form but the faintest notion of the exceeding roughness of the surface and the ungrateful aspect of the ground." The island of Eleuthera, which furnishes such vast numbers of pineapples, is indeed covered in the main by a wild vegetation, while the earth from which it springs is in great part of the roughest conceivable character of rock.

Holes of every size, form and description, some of them partly or wholly filled with dirt, the debris of decayed vegetation, loose fragments, large and small, round and angular, sharp and hard, everywhere abound. The rock sticks up its stinging points and cutting edges in the most irregular and provoking fashion. No plough, no spade, no hoe, can here be used. The only thing that can be done is to stick a sprout into one of the holes and let it take care of itself, which it almost invariably does right well; for it likes that kind of soil, and sips its sweet nourishment from the little dirt it may happen to find in the hollow of the rock.

The holes are very close together, the sprouts are placed scarcely a foot from each other, and as the plant grows up it spreads its long, sharp, hard leaf blades, with edges armed with little rasping, saw-like teeth, up from the ground and abroad in every direction. The plant has a thick supply of these outbending leaves, lapped closely one over the other near the ground, and out of the centre of which comes up the fruit, one pineapple only to each plant, which then perishes, but leaves behind a progeny of young sprouts, and these being stuck into the hollows insure a new crop for the succeeding year. This replenishing can be kept up for about six years, and then the whole field about exhausted, is left to itself, the plants die out, in the course of time the soil is renewed, and fresher fields now demand the care of the pine grower.

The only attention given to the plant is to keep the field clear of weeds, and that is almost daily work the year round. One negro man can attend to about two acres. The worst weeds to contend with are a species of bidens, a plant very well known in the United States, as Spanish needles, and a kind of crab grass. One object of placing the plants so close together is to give the pineapple possession of the soil, and the weeds little chance of usurping the ground. The first sight of a pine field is astonishing, for it presents a broad intricate jumble, of a vast mass of interlacing leafy sword blades, and the first impression is that such a jam of vegetation would be utterly incapable of producing any fruit whatever, whereas the fact is, the acre properly attended to yields the enormous number of ten to twelve thousand pineapples.

There is another enemy, no less formidable than the weeds that requires looking after very sharply, and that is the rat, which, attacks the fruit just as it is about to ripen. If no measures were taken to prevent the depredations of these troublesome creatures, very few pineapples indeed would escape their destructive jaws, The planter has a remedy. Sweet potatoes are cooked, and while they are yet hot, the sulphur ends of common matches are broken off and introduced into them. The phosphorus is diffused throughout the substance of the potatoes, and these being placed among the pineapple plants are eaten by the rats, which almost immediately fall dead from the effects of the poison.

No comments: