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of packing and marketing apricots practised in California, and which I have taken from the Biennial Report of the Californian State Board of Horticulture for 1893–94, and I don't think anyone will have any hesitation in saying which is the most attractive or which is most likely to please the general public-for our fruit-growers often seem to forget that it is the general public that they cater for and that the better they market their fruit the more likely the public are to buy it. The use of punnets, holding about five pounds of fruit and of which eight fit into a properly constructed crate, is in my opinion the best way to market choice apricots, as the fruit, after
BASKET OF PEACH APRICOTS. The above illustration shows a basket of apricots properly packed for shipment. In this method
a layer of paper is placed between each layer of fruit, and the baskets are arranged in crates.
being placed in the punnet, is handled neither by the dealer nor retailer but goes without handling direct from the orchard to the consumer, who thus gets the fruit in the best condition. The punnet goes with the fruit, and may be fitted with a handle for carrying if desired. Such a method of marketing will do more to encourage the direct supply of fruit from the grower to the consumer than any other, and this alone will tend to a large increase in the local consumption of fruit.
Drying the Fruit. The apricot is one of the best and most popular of dried fruits, and, with proper care and attention, it is not at all difficult to dry in the sun where the climate is suitable, or to evaporate when there is a chance of summer rain.
For drying, the fruit should always be allowed to ripen properly, for the reasons I have previously mentioned, and it is best to grade it before drying, as it is a bad plan to dry large and small fruit together. All the fruit on the tray should be as nearly as possible of the same size and the same degree of ripeness, if the best results are to be obtained. There are several graders in use which grade the fruit evenly and without bruising, and when there is a large quantity of fruit to handle, it pays best to use them; when there is only a small quantity, then the grading can be done by hand. When graded the fruit is cut in halves and the pit removed. The cut must be clear round the fruit from base to apex through the suture; do not cut one side and tear the other, as a clean cut fruit always looks best when dried, the ragged edges of the torn fruit detracting greatly from its appearance. There are several machines for pitting the fruit, but as I have no practical experience with them I cannot say anything about them; as a rule, a sharp knife in the hands of an expert pitter will answer well enough for our purpose, and the work will certainly be neater and the cuts cleaner than that of any machine. As cut the fruit is placed on trays with the cut side up, and, as soon as the trays are full, they are taken to the sulphurer. Never let the fruit stand any longer than is absolutely necessary after cutting before sulphuring, or the colour will be injured, and it will require more sulphur to
Drying Trays. For sun-drying, the size of tray most commonly used in California, and the one that is generally considered to be the best all round tray, is 3 feet long by 2 feet wide, made as follows:- The body of the tray is of -inch timber, sawn redwood being the best ; but in this Colony mountain ash, Richmond River pine, or Hobart palings would be the best to use, and would not be likely to give any taste to the fruit. The ends are best of -inch Oregon pine 14 to 1} inches high, and the sides of -inch Oregon pine-a plastering lath does very well. The tray is securely nailed, and if it is desirable to make it extra strong, a plastering lath is nailed on crosswise underneath. Such a tray can be used for drying all kinds of fruit or raisins, is strong, and can be easily handled by one man. When the trays are filled with the cut fruit they are stacked on a stretcher, the number of trays to each stretcher depending on tho size of the sulphur chamber, or else they are placed on trucks which are run from the cutting-tables to the sulphurer. The stretchers should be strong, and the fruit is sulphured whilst on the stretcher, so as to save handling, and, when sulphured the stretcher is carried to the drying ground, and the trays of fruit are then laid out to dry. Where trucks are used they are run direct to the sulphur chamber and from there to the drying ground. The drying ground should be carefuily chosen, 80 as to be as free from dust as possible, and all paths or roads leading to it should be kept covered with straw, so as to keep the dust down. A lucerne paddock makes an excellent drying ground, as there is little dust, and the trays resting on the lucerne stubble do not become so hot, nor is the fruit 80 likely to scorch, as if the trays rest directly on the ground, and there is little dust. Drying on lucerne stubble has answered very well at Mildura, and the best quality of Mildura dried apricots are very free from dust considering that they are sun-dried fruit. When evaporators are used the size of the tray will vary with the make of the machine, and the trays, instead of being made as described for sun-drying, are simply a framework of Oregon or other suitable timber covered with 1-inch galvanised wire netting. The preparation of the fruit and the sulphuring is exactly the game for evaporating as for sun-drying, the only difference being that in the Case of evaporating the moisture of the fruit is extracted by artificial means, whereas in sun-drying it is by natural means.
Sulphuring. When the fruit is cut and placed on the trays, and the trays are placed either on the truck or stretcher, it must be sulphured, as the general public demand a high-coloured fruit, to obtain which it is absolutely necessary to sulphur. As to the respective merits of sulphured and unsulphured fruit, a very great deal has been said and written, so I will not discuss the matter further than to warn every one against over sulphuring. As long as the public demand a light-coloured fruit we must sulphur, but we should take care to use no more sulphur than is absolutely necessary to fix the colour of the fruit, or the quality of the fruit may be deteriorated and it will become less wholesome. The sulphur chamber should be of sufficient size to meet the requirements of the orchard, and can be casily constructed by the fruitgrower himself. When trucks are used they should be of sufficient size to hold the truck which is run direct into it from the cutting tables, and where stretchers are used it should be large enough to hold the stretcher without unstacking the trays. Taking the size of the trays as 3 feet by 2 feet, a sulphur chamber 6 feet long, 31 feet wide, and 3 feet higb, inside measure, would hold two stacks of trays, thirteen to a stack, or twenty-six in all, and be large enough to hold the stretcher as well as the trays, and leare room for the pan in which to burn the sulphur (A. J. Towner, Santa Ana). For this size of sulphurer Mr. Towner uses about half a pound of sulphur and sulphurs the fruit for one hour. About one pound of sulphur is sufficient for 100 cubic feet, and the time of exposure depends on the conditiou of the fruit; an hour, however, is usually sufficient. When the drying is on a small scale a simple sulphur chamber consisting of an upright box made of tongued and grooved timber of sufficient width and depth to hold the trays, fitted with cleats on the sides 3 to 4 inches apart on which to rest the trays, and having a tightly-fitting door, is all that is necessary, and will answer as well as the most expensive sulphurer.
Evaporating. As several evaporators have recently been described in the Agricultural Gazette, and full particulars have been giren of how to work them, I will not go into the matier in detail. Where evaporators are necessary it is desirable for small growers to combine, and put up one or more large centrally-located evaporators, as the cost of working such machines is very much less in proportion than the cost of working small family dryers; and, in addition, large evaporators turn out a more even sample, which can be
grower does his own drying, and turns out his own fruit. Such co-operative dryers should be fitted with every convenience for handling the fruit cheaply and quickly, and should be built to suit the requirements of the district. Large growers should build evaporators suitable to their requirements, as this will be found better and cheaper than purchasing a ready-made machine.
Sweating Whether the fruit has been sun-dried or evaporated it should be sweated, the different sizes of fruit being placed in separate heaps. The object of sweating the fruit is to even it up and make it pliable, as during the drying some of the fruit is dried too much, and others again are not dried sufficiently, so that they are all mixed together in a heap on the floor of the fruit-room, and turned over from time to time when necessary. This process is termed
sweating, and it takes from two to three weeks, when the fruit will be found to be all of an even texture. The whole of the doors and windows of the fruit-room in which the fruit is sweated must be covered with gauze-netting to keep out all moths or other insects that would lay their eggs on the fruit, causing the fruit when kept to become wormy.
Packing Dried Fruit. When sweated, the fruit is ready for packing, and is put up either in 25 or 50-lb. boxes, or in sacks holding about 90 lb. (Californian sizes). In this Colony choice fruit put up in 2 or 5-lb. boxes showily got up should sell well, and would pay for the extra expense. I believe this would also apply to the English market, but it will only pay with the very best fruit. For ordinary grades larger boxes are preferable. In packing line the box with white paper, placing a sheet of oiled paper on the face. Choose a quantity of selected fruit-but it must be no larger than that of the rest of the case-and arrange it in layers neatly till the bottom is covered, placing the cut side down; next fill the box till it contains the standard weight, when it should be tightly pressed down, a sheet of oiled paper placed on it, the side papers neatly folded over, and then the lid nailed down. If desirable the top can also be faced after being pressed down, but in this caso the cut side must be uppermost, so that whether the case is opened either from the top or the bottom the fruit will always open well. Remember that neat, honest, and attractive packing always pays, and the better you get your fruit up the better it will sell. Always brand your cases distinctly, showing your packing brand and the quality of the fruit, and always take care to keep up the quality of your brands; it is the only way to make it par, and by so doing you will establish a reputation for your brand that will readily sell your fruit.
Diseases of the Apricot.
Insect Diseases. As a rule, the apricot does not suffer to any extent from the ravages of insects; still it is not exempt from injury, and in some cases it is necessary to take precautionary measures to prevent loss.
Scale insects are seldom bad on apricot trees, the only species doing any damage to speak of being a large brownish Lecanium, very similar to the common black-scale Lecanium oleæ, and which, like that scale, is always accompanied by more or less smut or fumagine.
The best remedies for this insect are spraying the trees affected with kerosene emulsion, sulphur, lime, and salt wash, or resin and caustic soda wash during the winter, or spraying the young insects with resin and soda trash when they hatch out from under the mother scales. All the remedies mentioned are given in the pamphlet on "Insect and Fungus Pests,” issued br the Department, so I will not repeat them here.
Considerable damage is occasionally done to the foliage by a species of cockroach, which are sometimes so numerous as to strip the trees. They are, however, easily destroyed by spraying the trees with Paris green, and this remedy is equally efficacious in the case of crickets, locusts, caterpillars, tree-grasshoppers, or any other insects which eat the leaves or bark.
Borers also do some damage, especially the cherry-tree borer, which is described in Vol. III, Part 6, of the Agricultural Gazette. Where Paris green is used for ther insects, these borers will be destroyed, as they feed on the leaves of the trees at night, returning to their burrows during the day, Where not very numerous, the quickest way to destroy them is to insert a piece of small wire into the burrow, and thus kill the insect, as the burrows are usually shallow, and the insect is easily reached.
Root-borers also do damage occasionally, but so far the damage caused by them is not great enough to warrant any special treatment.
The fruit fly occasionally attacks the apricots grown near Sydney, and I strongly advise every precaution being taken to prevent the spread of this, the worst of all insect pests; and the best way to do so is to gather and destroy by boiling all infested fruit.
Fungus Diseases of the Apricot. Shot-hole Fungus or Scab.—This disease is very prevalent all over the colony, and it is a comparatively scarce thing to see a perfectly clean case of fruit offered for sale, and many of the samples are so greatly disfigured as to be of little value.
I reproduce the accompanying illustration which has appeared twice previously in the Agricultural Gazette, as it shows more plainly than any amount of writing the appearance and effect of this disease both on the fruit and foliage,
Shot-hole fungus is very effectually treated by means of spraying the trees affected with Bordeaux mixture, which is made as follows:
You dissolve 6 lb. of bluestone in 4 gallons of hot water, using a wooden or earthenware vessel for the purpose. In another vessel you slacken 4 lb. of quick lime by first pouring a little water over it, and when it has softened then pour about 2 gallons more water on, thus forming a milk of lime. When slackened stir well and strain through a sieve or piece of sacking, pouring the strained liquid into the bluestone water, stirring the mixture as you do so, and this forms Bordeaux mixture. You now add water to make a total of 22 gallons, and the mixture is ready for use. Always add the milk of lime to the bluestone water; don't add the bluestone to the lime. To apply Bordeaux mixture use a powerful spray pump with a Nixon or Vermorel nozzle that will not choke, and be careful to reach every part of the tree. If the disease is very bad, it is a good plan to give the tree two sprayings; one about half an hour after the first, as by this means you will get a very much larger amount of the mixture to stick on the tree, and there will be little chance of any part of the tree being missed. The best times to spray for shot hole fungus are-first, as soon as the leaves fall in autumn, and then again when the buds are bursting in spring, and a third time when the fruit is just set. If properly carried out, these sprayings will practically exterminate the disease, or at any rate keep it in check to such an extent that there will be little, if any loss. All mosses, lichens, or other vegetable parasitic growths on the trees are destroyed by the Bordeaus mixture, as are also the spores of any other fungi that would cause damage, either to the fruit or foliage.
Gumming. This is often a serious disease of the apricot, and one that is usually easier to prevent than cure. Badly drained land, unsuitable situations, unsuitable stakes, improper pruning, and external injury to the tree are all liable to cause gumming, and they should therefore be provided against. In pruning never leave any narrow angles or forks, but let every limb have a fair hold; narrow forks check the flow of the sap, and so cause the tree to gum. A blow from a harrow, swingle bar, plough, hoe, or other tool or implement will sometimes cause gumming, which, however, can be prevented if the bark is cut clean away from the bruise, and the bruise is covered with cow dung