Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/93

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83
DECAY IN THE APPLE BARREL.

be applied while the fruits are growing upon the trees. Thus the work of the prevention begins a long time previous to picking—while the barrel-staves are possibly still in the living forest tree. This reminds one of the time when the boy's education should begin as stated by Dr. Holmes, namely, with his grandfather when he was a small lad.

Up to this point remarks concerning the mechanical treatment of apples have been purposely withheld. There is no question about the importance of so far as possible preventing the bruising of the fruit. From what has been said in strong terms concerning the barrier of a tough skin which Nature has placed upon the apples, it goes without saying that this defense should not be ruthlessly broken down. It may be safely assumed that germs of decay are lurking almost everywhere, ready to come in contact with any substances. A bruise or cut in the skin is therefore even worse than a rough place caused by a scab fungus as a lodgment provided by the minute spores of various sorts. If the juice exudes, it at once furnishes the choicest of conditions for molds to grow. An apple bruised is a fruit for the decay of which germs are specially invited, and when such a specimen is placed in the midst of other fruit it soon becomes a point of infection for its neighbors on all sides. Seldom is a fully rotten apple found in a bin without several others near by it being more or less affected. A rotten apple is not its brother's keeper.

The surrounding conditions favor or retard the growth of the decay fungi. If the temperature is near freezing they are comparatively inactive, but when the room is warm and moist the fruit can not be expected to keep well. Cold storage naturally checks the decay. The ideal apple has no fungous defacements and no bruises. If it could be placed in a dry, cool room free from fungous germs it ought to keep indefinitely until chemical change ruins it as an article of food. But the facts in the case are far different from this ideal. The apple when gathered from the tree may have the germs of decay already within its tissue. They may have extended through the basin, become firmly located in the ragged remnants of the flower or by means of some insect or "worm" that has bit or burrowed the fruit. Its stem may have been broken close to the fruit or pulled out from it, or over the surface specks and scabs may have formed during the season of growth that have so destroyed the skin as to furnish a ready entrance for other more destructive germs. Bruises of the pulp and breaks in the skin expose the soft, highly decomposable flesh to the "seeds" of decay, and as one contemplates what an apple is made of and its many enemies, it seems almost a marvel that fruit keeps at all until it is cooked to kill the germs within it and then canned to prevent the entrance of those that are without. It