Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/509

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
495
WHERE BANANAS GROW.

form and size, but is still quite green. The plant is cut off by a single blow of a machete wielded by a powerful arm. As it falls the bunch is caught, lopped off, and laid aside, while the harvester goes on to the next bunch. It is a popular supposition that bananas "ripened on the tree" are incomparably superior to those cut green. But as a matter of fact one never eats them thus ripened in Jamaica. They are said to be not so good; at all events, one finds no better fruit in texture or flavor than the best of our own markets. But every lover of this fruit knows that its quality varies extraordinarily as it is offered to us. This is due partly to the different sources from which it comes. The best that is brought to us comes from Jamaica. It is also due still more to the condition of the fruit when cut. Bananas which are perfectly full will ripen mellow and delicious; but those cut when immature, as too many are, will turn yellow, yet never truly ripen, retaining always their hard texture and unripe taste. In Jamaica, as elsewhere, the competition of buyers leads the unscrupulous ones to accept fruit of any sort, even when totally unfit; and this sort of competition makes all the more unavailing the efforts of honest buyers to raise the standard and to teach the people to withhold their fruit until it is properly developed. Americans can give moral support to these efforts by accepting only such fruit as is mature at any price. A little pains will soon enable one to distinguish good from poor fruit, though it is difficult to give a general statement of the distinctive differences. But, as a rule, it will be found that bananas which are largest, deepest yellow, and least angular are the most mature and best.

The view over Golden Vale from the superintendent's house, which stands at a little distance on a slight elevation, recalls a grain field with its level surface of waving foliage. The drive along the roads within the plantation is beautiful. One may go on and on between the stretches of luxuriant plants, to the soft rustle of the leaves overhead, while below the forests of trunks reach away on either hand beyond the power of the eye to penetrate. But the experience never to be forgotten is a ride over the estate with the superintendent. On tough little Jamaica horses, docile and sure-footed, we leave at once the wagon road, plunge into the wilderness of plants, and soon lose sight of every landmark. Pushing on, sometimes along foot paths just distinguishable, oftenest where there are none; jumping ditches and prostrate trunks, surrounded only by banana plants in all stages of growth, yet so alike, so monotonous, that one might as easily find his way in midocean. Above us is an overarching roof of foliage supported by massive clustered columns. Beneath our feet is a dense carpet of some of the prized adornments of Northern greenhouses—the Tradescantia or "wandering Jew," beautifully contrasting