Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/130

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118
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in a box, covered shallow with fine sand, and regularly watered with a sprinkler.

I think figs generally are self-fertilizing. I had one tree, however, whose fruit uniformly fell when about two thirds grown. I ascribed this to want of fertilization. Possibly the presence of the caprifico might have changed results. If so, it would follow that some varieties are self-fertilizing and others not. The "fig-wasp" is unknown here.

The "novel phenomenon" related by Mr. C. G. McMillan may be found duplicated, though not in precisely the same way, in Northern Mississippi. His fossil leaves had retained their color during untold ages. In the other case it was the resin of the pine-tree. Near the village of Iuka was lying, some twenty years ago, and perhaps is still, a petrified pine-log about two feet in diameter, a ten-pound fragment of which lies here in my study. Not only does the stone retain the color and appearance of pine-wood, but the petrified resin has the color, semi-transparency, and general appearance of real resin. The surface-land is eocene.

Isaac Kinley. 
 Los Angeles, Cal., March 11, 1885.
 

 

SAMP AND HULLED CORN.

Messrs. Editors:

Mattieu Williams, in article 42 of his "Chemistry of Cookery" ("Popular Science Monthly" for January), says: "Before proceeding further I must fulfill the promise made in No. 39, to report the result of my repetition of the Indian process of preparing samp. I soaked some ordinary Indian corn in a solution of carbonate of potash, exceeding the ten or twelve hours specified by Count Rumford. The external coat was not removed even after two days' soaking." He suspects the corn was too old and dry, and that the Indians used new or freshly gathered grain.

In the first place, this is not the way to prepare samp. Samp is the Anglicized Indian name for maize parched and pounded. It came afterward to be the name for the new corn, pounded or coarsely ground. This being done before the kernels were fairly dry, it was much prized for mush or hasty-pudding.

The prepared Indian corn he refers to is called in New England hulled corn. My grandmother, whose parents were contemporary with and from the same part of the country as Count Rumford, was famous for her hulled corn.

That this method of preparing corn for food was learned from the Indians is uncertain. It was probably a Yankee invention of early date.

Grandmother's way was to put a peck of old, dry maize into a pot filled with water, and with it a bag of hard-wood ashes, say a quart. After soaking a while it was boiled until the skins or hulls came off easily. The corn was then washed in cold water to get rid of the taste of potash, and then boiled until the kernels were soft. Another way was to take the lye from the leaches where potash was made, dilute it, and boil the corn in this until the skin or hull came off. In the experiment tried by Mr. Williams, his solution of carbonate of potash was not of sufficient strength, or, if it was, the maize or corn should have been boiled. It makes a delicious dish, eaten with milk or cream.

In the early days of New England, maize was the principal grain, and was designated corn, which is the significance of the name now in all parts of the Union. Ground maize is called in New England "Indian-meal," and mixed with one third of rye-meal, fermented and baked, once constituted the principal bread of the whole country. It was called "rye-and-indian," pronounced ryningen. Boston brown bread is an imitation of it. Baked Indian is still a common appellation for a corn-meal pudding that strikes a stranger as a reminiscence of cannibalism. P. J. F.

Clinton, Iowa, March 20, 1885.

 

 

EDITOR'S TABLE.

ILLITERACY AS A SOURCE OF NATIONAL DANGER.

A GREAT deal of attention has lately been drawn to this subject, and in certain quarters an attempt has been made to "boom" it in a manner that can hardly be pronounced entirely disinterested. In certain educational journals, for example, teachers are urged to petition the national Legislature for the passing of the "Blair Bill," on the ground that it will improve their own remuneration. One form of petition, which we find printed for the convenience of teachers, states that "ignorance among the masses of the people now exists to such a degree as to threaten the early destruction of the free institutions of the republic," and that therefore a system of free schools