Page data
Part of Three Acres and Liberty
Type Book
Keywords agriculture, public domain, farming, food
Authors Steve Solomon
Charles Aldarondo
Published 2021
License [ Public Domain]
Ported from http://web.archive.org/web/20090926121103/http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext03/trcrs10.txt
[see first revision]
Impact Number of views to this page. Views by admins and bots are not counted. Multiple views during the same session are counted as one. 249

Some experimental foods[edit | edit source]

FIFTY-EIGHT years ago Abraham Lincoln said "Population must increase rapidly, more rapidly than in former times, and ere long the most valuable of all arts will be the art of deriving subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community whose every member possesses this art can ever be the victim of oppression in any of its forms.

Such community will alike be independent of crowned kings, money kings, and land kings."

The future, it seems, has many strange dishes in store for the American stomach. Whether you are rich or one of the plain people that have to work, whether the idea of new fantastic food appeals to your palate or to your pocketbook, you will be attracted by the array of foreign viands with curious names which have already been successfully introduced and are now beginning to be marketed in this country. Mr. William N. Taft, in the Technical World Magazine,presents the following wild menu for the dinner table:

Jujube Soup Brisket of Antelope Boiled Petsai Dasheen au Gratin Creamed Udo Soy Bean and Lichee Nut Salad Yang Taw Pie Mangoes Kaki Sake.

This, he assures us, is not the bill of fare of a Chinese eating house, nor yet of a Japanese restaurant, it is the daily meal of an American family two decades hence, if the Department of Agriculture succeeds in its attempt to introduce a large number of new foods to this country for the dual purpose of supplying new dainties and reducing the cost of living. Uncle Sam has determined to decrease the price of food as much as possible, and, for this purpose,delegated Dr. David S. Fairchild, Agricultural Explorer in charge of the Foreign Plant Section of the Bureau of Plant Industry, in particular, to see what can be done about it.

More than 30,000 fruits and vegetables have been tested by Uncle Sam's experts and, according to Dr. Fairchild, a goodly portion of the foodstuffs which have been regarded as staples since the days of the first settler are doomed. Consider for example "Jujube Soup!" Mention that to the average person and he will answer:

"But I thought the jujube was a fruit, like an apple. How can you make soup of it?" The average person is right. The jujube is a fruit--but a most remarkable one.

"It is about the size and appearance of a crab apple, but contains only a single seed. It grows on a spiny tree, long and bare of trunk, with its foliage cropping out at the very top like a royal palm of the tropics. The jujube itself has been used for years to flavor candies and other confections. But the essence is very expensive and comparatively rare, despite the profusion with which the fruit grows in its native habitat.

"Dr. Fairchild, however, imported several specimens for the Department's gardens in California, where they are bearing prolifically. The arid sands of the southwest, where nothing but cactus and sage-brush formerly would grow, have been found to be excellent soil for the jujube, and it is the hope of Uncle Sam's food experts to see the entire Arizona and New Mexico deserts dotted with jujube orchards, with income to their owners. The jujube is delicious eaten raw, but it may be cooked in any manner in which apples are prepared, used as a sauce or for pie, preserved or dried.

Finally, its juice may be used as a delicious and highly nutritive fruit broth."

Petsai, or, as the Chinese have it, Pe-tsai, is a substitute for the cabbage. In appearance it is as different from cabbage as can be imagined. It is tall and cylindrical and its leaves are narrow,delicately curled, with frilled edges. The petsai can, however, be grown on any soil where the ordinary cabbage could be cultivated and in many sections where the native vegetable would languish. We are told it is no uncommon thing for a petsai to reach sixty pounds in weight. Department of Agriculture officials, however, advise that it be plucked when about eight pounds in weight, its flavor being then the most delicate and appealing.

This new importation, Uncle Sam's experts hope, will cause a drop in the price of dinners. Cabbage long ago ceased to be a cheap dish.

But petsai requires none of the care which has to be lavished on cabbage and will thrive in almost any climate and any soil.

The soy bean, once started, grows wild and yields several crops a season. It can be prepared in a multitude of ways, from baking to a delicious salad. According to Doctor Yamei Kin, the head of the Women's Medical School near Pekin, milk can be made from it to cost about six cents a quart and equal to cows' milk. It would be a blessing if we could get rid of the sacred but unclean cow. One of the state dairy inspectors told me, "We consider milk a filthy product."

It may be remembered that, only twenty years ago, almost all the dates consumed here came from the oases of Arabia and the valley of the Euphrates. To-day there are more than a hundred varieties successfully produced in California and Arizona. The wonders of today are the commonplaces of to-morrow, and there is no telling to what apparently impossible lengths science will go to relieve people of the burden they now bear in the price of food. It has scoured the ends of the earth for new delicacies and now experts will do their best to teach the people to use them.

Have you ever heard of _"Whitloof"_ or _"Belgian Chicory"_ or have you ever dined in one of the better restaurants of large city where they have served during the winter months a salad composed of golden blanched oblong leaves about 2 inches wide and 5 inches long, only the outer edges showing a faint green? It is as delicate as the perfume of roses, as crisp as young lettuce, as delicious as asparagus, and as ornamental upon the table as the freshest fruit.

In former years this salad had to be imported and you had to pay dear for a portion of it, a good reason why so few people know it. A Belgian farmer located near New York has grown many thousands of these plants this past summer.

How would you like to grow this dainty salad right in your living room and cut several crops from a single planting lasting nearly three months? Secure an 8-inch pot and plant in it 12 roots packed in light sandy soil or pure sand. Invert another but empty 8-inch pot over this to keep out the light, place in a heated room, water daily, and in from three to four weeks you will find full-grown crowns, beautifully blanched ready for cutting. Six of such crowns make a large portion, sufficient for an entire family.

In cutting, do not cut too close to the root, for another growth is made directly after the cutting, which matures in from three to four weeks, and still two other crops can be grown in this way, so that from a single planting four full crops can be had. Considering,then, that eight such treats can be had for the cost of a single dozen roots, we can all now enjoy what was formerly a luxury. This method is most interesting, for you can watch the daily progress of the growth of the roots, fascinating to young and old, and with three weekly plantings of a pot each this treat can be enjoyed twice a week from the 1st of February until May.

For those who wish to enjoy it more often or in larger quantities,we suggest the following:

Prepare a bed of soil 12 inches deep in your cellar in a dark place where the temperature is always above freezing. Plant the roots as close as their size will permit and cover the crowns with at least 3 inches of soil. On top of this put straw so that when the crowns come through the soil they will not strike the light. When ready to cut, remove the soil as far back as the original root so that you can intelligently cut the growth to produce the crops to follow.

As a substitute for the potato of commerce the "Dasheen" long ago passed the experimental stage. It has been served at a number of banquets in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York.

While the tops of potatoes are useless as food, the tops of the dasheen make delicious greens, and tests indicate that good growers can depend on a crop of from four hundred to four hundred and fifty bushels per acre.

The Udo is the plant intended by the Department of Agriculture as a substitute for asparagus, a delicacy which it closely resembles. It is more prolific than asparagus, grows in the same soil, and requires less attention.

Not only plants but animals are experimented with by Uncle Sam's experts. Officials of the Bureau of Animal Industry claim that before long we will partake of antelope steak. For the antelope has been found to be particularly adapted to the more arid western sections of the country. And beyond that the gastronomist of the future will have to reckon with loin of hippopotamus!

The lower valley of the Mississippi is admirably suited to these huge beasts, the flesh of one of which equals a score of cattle.

African traveled epicures maintain that hippopotamus steak is as tender and inviting as the choicest beef. "For those who like that sort of thing, it is just the sort of thing they would like."

It seems a bit remote to urge hippopotamus on us who do not yet know enough to eat sharks, tortoises, painted turtles, or even English sparrows. Anyhow the small gardener is more likely to succeed raising pheasants than to muss with a hippopotamus, at least in the suburbs. Pigs are more practical and make prettier pets.

Our population bids fair to approximate two hundred million within the next fifty years, and, because of the exigencies of business, an increasing number of people will be engaged in non-food-producing vocations. These people, however, are all consumers and must be fed and clothed, and even now America offers the greatest market for the produce of the farm that any farmer in any country has ever had in all history.

One of the coming ways of feeding them is the discovery and use of new foods. As in other things, after the war, whether we live in a better world or not, we shall live in an entirely different world,new ways, strange thoughts, and other foods. For the most of the following, _Business America_ and _Current Opinion_ are responsible.

For the creation of new crop varieties or the improvement of those now in use we must depend upon the practical scientists who are engaged in plant breeding. The work of one of these, Professor Buffum, has been accomplished in a region that is apparently sterile and where plants grow only by coaxing through artificial moisture.

His plant-breeding farms near Worland in the Big Horn Basin of Northern Wyoming lie at an elevation of 4000 feet, in a region of almost total natural aridity.

After twenty years' work in Western agricultural colleges and Government Experiment Stations, Professor Buffum chose his present location because nowhere in the United States could he find conditions of soil and climate that induce to such a remarkable degree the breaking up of species, and mutation or "sporting" of plants.

When the modern plant breeder seeks to produce something new by cross-fertilization a problem is encountered. For many years we were ignorant of the principle upon which nature operated in these hybrids or crosses. Finally a Bohemian priest named Mendel discovered the law. The central principle is that when the seed produced from a cross between two different species is planted, the progeny breaks up into well-defined groups. A certain percentage of the plants resemble one of the parents, a smaller percentage are like the other parent, and the rest seem to be a blend of both parents. These intermediates will not breed true to themselves,however; if seed from them is planted the progeny will split up into groups, showing the same percentages as the first generation to which they belonged. This has been generally accepted by scientists.

In many of his productions Professor Buffum apparently has set the Mendelian law at defiance, for, by cross-fertilization, he has evolved plants which breed true to themselves, and their progeny does not break up into groups, according to the accepted theory.

They show specimens resembling each parent, with the third composed of seemingly, but not really, blended specimens.

These results are particularly vital in the development of plants adapted by selection for semi-arid agriculture. The Professor believes that the great areas of high plain country to be found from Canada to Mexico can be made more productive through planting crop varieties that have been bred to withstand the existing conditions which produce meagre returns from the vast expanse of territory under the present methods.

In place of corn, which is difficult to mature even at moderate elevations, Professor Buffum has introduced improved emmers and the various hybrids resulting from crosses with other grains.

Emmer itself is not a new grain, having been grown for centuries in Russia and southern Europe, and it is believed to have been the corn of Pliny, which he said was used by the Latins for several centuries before they knew how to make bread.

Several years ago emmer began receiving attention as a stock food.

The first planting of the grain at Worland resulted in some exceptional "sports," seemingly of a different type, with coarse straw and very large heads. With this as a basis, the seed was replanted and subjected to many experiments to increase its drouth and winter resisting qualities. Continued selections have shown, a yield of from a third more to twice as much as corn, that it is thirty per cent more valuable than oats for feeding horses, and that for stock fattening it is equal to corn, pound for pound. It is the most drouth-resistant and prolific of small grains, has been successfully raised from Montana to Mexico, and is being planted in Louisiana to replace oats because it is not affected by rust.

Some of the yields recorded are enormous, varying from 40 to 104 bushels per acre under dry farming, and as high as 152 bushels under irrigation.

One stalk of Turkey red wheat was noticed as differing in many ways from all varieties, principally that the head was over eight inches in length, whereas the ordinary Turkey red wheat commonly used in the West has a head of only four or five inches.

From this one stalk has been developed the Buffum No. 17 Winter wheat. The heavy beards were eliminated and the grains or kernels in each spikelet increased from the normal number of three to five,seven, and even nine. The hardiness of the new variety, together with its remarkably large head, means that when it is placed on the market the farmers who sow it need not fear winter killing and will have a splendid flouring grain, which will produce nearly double the average crop per acre.

It is said that if a single kernel could be added to each head of wheat, the increase in annual production of this country would amount to over fifteen million bushels.

If fodder crops can be substituted for a part of the corn now used for stock, it will be a great gain.

In his alfalfa-breeding garden, Professor Buffum is raising over seventy different kinds, gathered from all parts of the world,showing that the plant is capable of wide variations. One hybrid has been obtained by crossing sweet clover with alfalfa; the clover grows wild in every state in the Union.

There seems to be no limit to man's ingenuity and skill in plant improvement. Perhaps sometime we will try it with our children.

In thirty years an exceptional ear of dent corn, through continued planting and careful selection each succeeding season, resulted in a few days' shortening of the growing period and an increased resistance to the cool nights of the higher elevation where it was under improvement; to-day, this corn matures about the middle of August at an altitude of 4000 feet, and has been yielding forty to sixty bushels per acre.