Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/377

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343
PALM SALAD AND SPROUTING NUTS.

unrestful foreigner. I am sure I do not wonder at their being satisfied with lower levels, seeing how enchanting these are. I find day after day gliding by in such peaceful enjoyment, that time passes unmarked, and the further expeditions, of which we have sometimes talked, seem to involve too great exertion. Evidently I am becoming indolent in these dreamy southern isles!


January 30th.

I have just been feasting on a cocoa-palm salad, which would make the fortune of the happy chef who could introduce it at an alderman's feast. That, fortunately for the plantations, is quite out of his power, unless some process be discovered by which to preserve uncooked vegetables. For this dainty consists of the embryo primary shoot of the tree—the unborn fronds, which lie curled up within in a close compact white mass, about the size of a man's arm, and resembling a gigantic stick of celery, with a flavour of filberts. Of course so costly a dish as this (which sacrifices the life of the tree) is rarely indulged in, save when a hurricane has snapped the crown of the tall palm, or when some rich chief wishes to entertain a guest, regardless of expense.

Another very agreeable product of the cocoa-palm, which you in England can never hope to taste, is an over-ripe nut, when in the very act of sprouting. Previous to this, a very curious change has occurred. As you must know, the germ of the plant lies just within the three little eyes, which we used in nursery days to call the monkey's face. Indeed I fear that in those days of our ignorance we imagined they were the marks left by the stalk, quite forgetting that the nut lies in a large outer case of that brown fibre which, in these our later days, we know as "coir." Well, the sharp end of the nut lies next the stalk, and the monkey-face at the further end, so that nursery theory was fallacious, like some others.

When the nut is fully ripe, a fibrous, spongy substance begins to form all round the germ, and this gradually extends, absorbing both the so-called milk and the hard kernel, till the whole shell is full