Economic Botany: A Textbook of Useful Plants and Plant Products

By Albert F. Hill | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
FRUITS OF TEMPERATE REGIONS

Ancient, man must have learned early in his career to appease his hunger and eke outhis existence by eating the numerous wild fruits, which everywhere attracted his attention. He soon became aware of the inedible nature of some of these fruits, and these he avoided. At first the nomadic tribes were content to gather in a region where the edible wild fruits were most abundant and to linger long enough to harvest them before moving on. Later man began to cultivate these fruits, choosing those with the best taste and the largest yield, as well as those which were easiest to grow. Finally, as civilization progressed and as the nutritive qualities and physiological action of these foods were were studied, our presentday fruits were gradually developed. Most of the changes and improvements have been brought about by selection and hybridization. In many cases wild fruits are still used, both by primitive peoples and by civilized nations as well. In America the wild fruits used by the Indians were first cultivated after the advent of the white man.

It is interesting to note that a great many of the fruits grown today had their origin in the same part of Asia that was the earliest home of man. Thus from the very beginning man has had close contact with them, and his history has closely paralleled theirs. This is particularly true of the rose family, which includes a large number of our most familiar fruits, such as the apple., pear, cherry, plum, apricot, raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry. Apples and plums still grow wild in great profusion in the mountains of Central and Western Asia.

In his gradual dispersal over the surface of the earth man carried his food plants with him. He early reached the Mediterranean region, and here he found an area particularly well adapted for the growing of fruit. In this region, with its dry summers, its mild winters, and its fertile soil, a multitude of plants, once widely scattered, were brought together from their native homes and improved and perfected. Many varieties were known to the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, and fruit, growing was an important part of their civilization. The Dark Ages failed to wipe out the knowledge and experience gained by these ancient people, and, once revived, agriculture and horticulture have been carried on continuously in most of the regions with a high degree of perfection. Fruit growing is now carried on all over the world, often in areas not suitable for the

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