Page:Mexico, California and Arizona - 1900.djvu/222

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202
OLD MEXICO AND HER LOST PROVINCES.

to be conducted about by an old gentleman, of German birth, who had lived here forty years. He had the tastes of a naturalist and farmer, and the existence pleased him. He took in his hand a machete from the wall, and we set forth for a walk, with much improving discourse by the way, in the fields and plantations. The machete, a long half cleaver, half sword, opens you a path through a thicket, cuts you a coffee or an orange stick, lops an orchid from its high perch on the rugged tree-bark, or brings down a tall banana, and splits open its covering to serve as a protection to a budget of botanical specimens. Some small grandchildren of the house begged to accompany us. They had hardy, out-of-door habits, and ran by our sides with merry clamor, finding a hundred things to interest them along the way.

My genial guide had planted coffee himself. Much money has been lost at it, it seems, and it cannot be very profitable except under economical processes and an improved market. When transportation becomes cheaper we shall have introduced into the United States from Mexico also many choice fruits, notably the fine Manilla mango, not now known. The fruits of the country grow on you with experience. To my taste the juicy mango, which at its best combines something of the melon, pine-apple, peach, and pear, is the most delicious of them all. Other fruits are the chirimoya, guava, mamé, granadita (or pomegranate), zapote, chazapote, tuna, aguacate, and many more, the distinctive peculiarities of which I could not describe in a week.

The best soil for the coffee is that of virgin slopes, capable of being well manured. It should be manured once in two years, The planting takes place in the rainy season, and the principal harvest is in November and December. Women and children cut off the berries,