Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/343

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329
ALMOND CULTURE IN CALIFORNIA.

American market. What there is of it, however, is rapidly filling up with the trees. Not more than half of those already set out are now in bearing. So it may not be many years before the California almond-grower will be able to depress a market which he can never hope to wholly supply, even with the burden of a high protective tax of five cents a pound heaped upon his foreign competitor.[1]

For the past year I have myself been an almond grower, in a small way, my total product being almost exactly one car-load. The purpose of this paper is to describe the processes by which the favorite nut of Americans is produced and made ready for their holiday tables.

To begin at the beginning, the almond is strictly a budded or grafted tree. A seedling apple, peach, cherry, or plum is sure to be good for something and marketable at a fair price, though it may be far below the grafted stock in quality and productiveness. The seedling almond may, like other seedlings, be an improvement, but it is very apt to be utterly worthless and unsalable, and may ue deadly poison. It is as if its evolution were so recent that its type is not well set, and its tendency to atavism, or "breeding back" to older types, quite strong. This inclination to "sport" shows itself even in budded and grafted trees. All except the oldest trees on this ranch were planted and budded on the ranch, under the careful supervision of the owner. In selecting the buds and scions he not only paid strict attention to varieties, but took care to cut from none but the most prolific bearers of the best nuts among the tested trees of each variety. In spite of all his care, we have some interesting sports. There are trees that never bear at all; others bear worthless nuts. One yields a nearly perfect peach-pit inclosed in a nearly perfect almond drupe. And the four named varieties, though amply distinct when fairly represented, now and then shade into one another so gradually that the most experi-


  1. The table on page 314, Internal Commerce of the United States, 1890, estimates the "shipment" of almonds as follows:
    Year. Pounds.
    1885 . . . 1,050,000
    1886 . . . 600,000
    1887 . . . 500,000
    1888 . . . 450,000
    1889 . . . 600,000

    Whence or whither the "shipments" were made is not stated. The connection indicates that they were from the eight leading fruit and nut shipping points in California. The figures look like guesses, and no clew is given to the amounts shipped from the other points to San Francisco, to be reshipped and thus counted twice in the table, which does not include some important almond-shipping points; and would not include my 15,000 pounds sent from a point not named in it direct to Chicago.