A Treatise Upon Their origin, varieties and culture;their value as a crop;and the manufacture of of sugar, syrup, alcohol, wines, beer, ceder, vinegar, starch and dye-stuffs;with a paper by Leonard Wray, ESE., of Caffraria, and a description of his patented process fro crystallizing the juice of the imphee.
To which are added, copious translations of valuable French pamphlets.
By Henry S. Olcott.
Fully Illustrated with Drawings of the best Machinery.
A. O. Moore, Agricultural Book Publisher, (Late O. M. Saxton & Co.)
No. 140 Fulton Street.
Chapter I. Japanese Accounts of the Sorgho.
"The treatises on agriculture, and various other works, in the Chinese and Egyptian department of the Imperial Library, contain several chapters exclusively upon the sorghos;but their authors do not seem to have divided the varieties in such a manner as to make them correspond with those which we recognize in Europe. Besides the common Chinese and Japanese names, Sorgho is attached successively to other graminea which should not be, according to our system, embraced in this species. The Japanese, who, in respect to Agriculture, are eminently more advanced than all other people, even than the Chinese themselves, cultivate the sorgho to extract from it sugar and alcohol; but in the works which we possess, no mention is made of the coloring principle which is extracted from its seed. However, it is probable that it is not unknown to them, and that if we had at Paris a richer collection of Japanese books, we would find in them valuable and interesting investigations on this head. We must remember, however, that the Chinese and Japanese synonyms of the Holcus saccharatus are not yet clearly established by botanists and orientalists. Nevertheless it seems certain that under the name of Kibi the Japanese designate several species of the sorgho; that the Holcus sorghum corresponds to [?] (Tsi) of the Chinese, and that [?] (Chu) is probably a Holcus saccharatus.
Chapter II. Pulling out the Tufts, etc. - Ripening.
It has been observed by Mr. "Wray, as quoted by the French authors, that it is the practice among the Zulu Kaffirs to pull out the panicles on the stalk, at the time that they are appearing, for the purpose of concentrating the juices and obtaining more sugar; but upon this subject, Dr. Sicard says, that in taking off the panicle of the seed, when it commences to show itself, we win arrive at an effect contrary to what is desired. He says, that he had some canes of which the stalk was broken, at different periods of its development, and that he had remarked, that according to the color of the seed, that is to say, according to the more or less continued progress of the process of ripening, the internodes the nearest to the upper portion of the plant, were more or less sweet. Thus, he says, the colors most removed from that of the ripe seed coincided with the greater quantity of sugar in the internodes nearest the panicle; but the more the plants approached the term of maturity, the more did the saccharine matter travel downwards in the stalk. In ripening, the Chinese sugar-cane takes on a yellowish tint, striped in places with red. Some of them continue to preserve an apple-green color, marked likewise with red. These colors generally indicate the term of maturity;if the red passes into carmine the cane is too ripe, and cultivators should notice this thing, in connection with the color of the seeds. At the commencement of our experience with this new plant, it is well to mention the fact, that it is subject to different maladies, some of which attack the root, and some the pith of the stalk. Dr. Sicard has made, upon this point, extensive investigations, and at page 65 of his book says, "The roots, especially the upper ones, those which we have called secondary, take on sometimes a deep violet color. If you cut these roots thus degenerated, they present in the interior the appearance of a purplish red color, which continues even as far as the radicles. The plants which have these roots, languish, take on a chlorotic tint, and end by their dying, or producing insignificant panicles;they contain scarcely any sugar. If we express the juice from these canes, and allow it to stand for a while, there will be found at the bottom of the vessel a considerable portion of fecula, with a reddish tint, which subsequently passes into a violet tint by contact with the air. There is developed, sometimes, on the plant, much before its maturity, reddish points. If we cut into this part of the cane, it will be found to be passing from a red into a violet;having no more sweet juice, but a species of vinegar, of a very disagreeable flavor, (which is due to the ferments which are developed from the juice under the influence of the air). We have found, likewise, the larvae of insects in the interior of the cane. Unfortunately they were lost before I could experiment upon them. We are in possession of a stalk which had received a bruise at the middle of one of its internodes. This wound, which only seemed to the naked eye a simple dot or point, controlled the violet color in all the internodes which had acquired the defects above indicated;but what is most remarkable is, that the principal nodes did not participate in any way in this alteration. This same coloring was observed upon all the canes injured by hailstones."
The Coloring matters in the seed.
The coloring matter in the hulls is so easily separated, and carried with the fluids of the animal body, that the flesh, and even the minute cellular structure of the bones of poultry, fed upon sorgho seed, becomes actually dyed purple. Mr. Wray says, he has seen in Count Beauregard's poultry-yard, the droppings of chickens fed on the seeds, that could at once be distinguished, by their purplish hue, from those of the other inmates of the yard. I have been shown, by that gentleman, a piece of pigeon's dung that had, by accident, been packed in a case of his sorgho seed-heads, and been received in this country, direct, from Hyeres, which was as purple as a mulberry stain. Of course it will be understood, that this coloring matter is entirely without taste, and no injury is done to the fowl. In fact, it may become a fashionable thing to pay extra for purple broiled chicken.
The soil of Cuba has two marked characteristics of color, depending upon the locality where each is found: the one, and most striking, is of a deep red or Spanish brown hue, which pigment it much resembles, soiling every thing which it touches of a ruddy tint the legs of the horses and cattle, as well as the clothes of the cultivators;the other soil is a rich black mould or humus, evidently the remains of old swamp or morass. This latter is to be found chiefly in the valleys and level tracts, while the other occupies more elevated ground. The island is evidently of coral formation, upheaved by some convulsion of nature from the depths of the ocean; and the red land, as it is called in contradistinction to the black land, seems to consist of decomposed coral rock, mixed with vegetable carbon and a metallic oxide, probably iron, which gives it the appearance referred to. Cubans do not show preference for either soil, but in my opinion, the black soil grows better sugar, the canes being in every way superior.
Although the soil of the island is wonderfully fertile, producing, without apparent diminution, crop after crop of sugar, without other manure than the cane trash left on the ground, yet even on "the ever faithful island" this exhausting process cannot and does not go on for ever. This is evidenced by the fact that the older plantations are no longer what they were in the memory of those still living;they are beginning to wear out;, the canes are becoming short, thin, and sparse; and in a few years will no doubt cease to yield sugar at all, unless the proper remedy of manure be applied. But as an evidence of the wonderful fecundity of these estates, it may be interesting to know that some of them are over one hundred years old.