Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/229

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217
THE COCOA-NUT PALM, AND ITS USES.

night's drawing; but the trees thus treated become barren, and yield no fruit. Immediately after collection the toddy is sweet and deliciously cool, but in the course of a few hours this is changed for an agreeable acidity. It forms a refreshing drink in this state, but in twenty-four hours becomes quite sour. Toddy, when fermented, is made into arrack, a liquor which, being cheap and fiery, is greatly consumed by the poorer class of Europeans at Bombay, and is the bane of our soldiers and sailors in the presidency town.

Vinegar is made by allowing the toddy to stand for about a month in earthen jars fitted with covers. The liquid is then carefully strained, and replaced in the jars, in which is thrown a little red pepper, a small piece of the fruit of the gamboge-tree, and a pod of the horseradish, which in the East attains the dimensions of a tree. In about five weeks vinegar of a most excellent quality is the result. Not only spirits and vinegar are made from the juice, but the material known as jaffery, or native sugar, is produced before fermentation by boiling the sap to a syrup with quicklime, when it is roughly crystallized. Large quantities of this are exported, and used for sweetmeats, in the manufacture of which in great variety the natives of India are consummate adepts.

The cocoa-nut is consumed in a greater variety of ways than even the sap, and not a portion of it, or of the palm on which it grows, is without its special use. Besides the refreshing drink extracted from the young undeveloped nut, which is also made into a dye, the pulp inside the soft crust is considered a delicacy, and is used in the preparation of various dishes. The kernel, when ripe, is also treated in a variety of ways for food, and forms an important ingredient of curry. Cocoanut oil is also extracted from the ripe fruit by the natives with their primitive contrivances, in which bullocks are the motive power. When under European manipulation, iron machinery driven by steam expresses about 2½ gallons from 100 nuts. Besides its more practical and prosaic virtues of supplying food and clothing, the poets of the East have from time immemorial assigned as one of the attributes of the cocoa-nut palm-tree that it "loves to hear the sound of footsteps and pleasant voices."

In moderately favorable situations, says a writer, this species of the palm commences bearing fruit at from ten to thirteen years of age, and remains at full maturity for between sixty and eighty years, producing, on an average, about 100 nuts annually. The tree then begins to deteriorate and fall off in its yield, continuing in this declining condition for about twenty years, when it ceases bearing altogether, and dies. It is curious that while in this moribund state the famous "porcupine-wood" of commerce is obtained from its trunk; so that even in death the cocoa-nut palm is man's faithful friend, and ministers to his wants.

Many are the uses to which the tree is put while in maturity. The