Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/344

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enced pickers have difficulty in deciding which box to empty their baskets into.

Of the many varieties of almonds four only are cultivated on this ranch, and their most important difference is in the weight and hardness of shell. None of them is a hard-shell, but the standard is a rather hard soft-shell; the Languedoc is the regular soft-shell, so quoted in the market reports; the paper-shell is the nut regularly quoted as "paper-shell"; and the California papershell is a new and very distinct variety which originated within a mile of here, and has made this ranch famous among the nurserymen of the State. The trees grown from its buds and scions probably number at this writing half a million. At any rate, enough has been cut from it to produce a far greater number. It was a purely accidental seedling, not a premeditated hybrid. But its good size, plump kernel, extraordinarily thin, light shells, sweet flavor, and agreeable appearance have won its way in the markets; and sold alongside of other nuts, hard-shell, soft-shell, or paper-shell, in San Francisco, New York, or Chicago, it brings the highest price of all by two or three cents a pound. It is the truest of all to type, and most distinct in the form of the tree. Mr. Morrison at first set out a twenty-five-acre orchard entirely of this variety. But, being disturbed by reports that it had proved a shy bearer, he sawed off three fourths of the trees and grafted in the better-known varieties. The new almond certainly has not borne so well as the others since I have been familiar with it, and I am afraid the difference in productiveness offsets the difference in price. Otherwise the California paper-shell would be a valuable contribution, strictly American, to the improvement of the almond; and Mr. Webster Treat, who has tried it on a larger scale than anybody else, claims in his paper, read before the State Board of Horticulture, that it is the hardiest and most prolific as well as the most salable almond grown. He confidently predicts that it will drive the foreign almond out of the market.

The almond is an unpruned apple tree in size and shape, and in smoothness and color of bark; a peach tree in foliage and green fruit. The leaf is so exactly like that of the peach, to which it is most nearly related, that the casual visitor can not distinguish them. The same is true of the fruit in a very green state. The drupe is a peach in taste and smell, both green and dry. The almond is quite commonly grafted on peach stock, though some prefer the almond stock on account of its alleged greater hardiness and longevity. An almond orchard in bloom is a thing of beauty. The first one I ever saw was the one immortalized in the story of Ramona, and it happened on Washington's birthday. The date shows what an early bloomer it is. First of all the fruit