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Catechism of Familiar Things; Their History, and the Events Which Led to Their Discovery, A

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<SPAN name="CHAPTER_VIII" id="CHAPTER_VIII"></SPAN>CHAPTER VIII.</h2> <h3><span class="smcap">Capers, Almonds, Oranges, Lemons, Citrons, Limes, Olives, Oils, Melons, Tamarinds, and Dates.</span></h3> <p><b>What are Capers?</b></p> <p>The full-grown flower-buds of the Caper Tree, a small shrub, generally found growing out of the fissures of rocks, or among rubbish, on old walls and ruins, giving them a gay appearance with its large white flowers. It is a native of Italy: it is also common in the south of France, where it is much cultivated.</p> <p><b>How are they prepared, and for what are they used?</b></p> <p>They are gathered, and dried in the shade; then infused in vinegar, to which salt is added; after which they are put in barrels, to be used as a pickle, chiefly in sauces.</p> <p><b>What are frequently substituted for Capers?</b></p> <p>The buds of broom pickled in the same manner, or the berries of the nasturtium, an American annual plant, with pungent fruit.</p> <p><b>What are Almonds?</b></p> <p>The nut of the Almond Tree, a species of the peach, growing in most of the southern parts of Europe; there are two kinds, the bitter and the sweet.</p> <p><b>What are their qualities and use?</b></p> <p>The sweet almonds are of a soft, grateful taste, and much used by the confectioner in numerous preparations of sweet-meats, cookery, &amp;c. Both sorts yield an oil, and are useful in medicine.</p> <p><b>Of what country is the Orange a native?</b></p> <p>It is a native of China, India, and most tropical countries; but has long been produced in great perfection in the warmer parts of Europe and America. Oranges are imported in immense quantities every year, from the Azores, Spain, Portugal, <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_62" id="Page_62"></SPAN>[62]</span>Italy, &amp;c. They are brought over in chests and boxes, packed separately in paper to preserve them. The oranges in common use with us are the bitter or Seville, the China or sweet orange, and those from Florida.</p> <p><b>Where are the Azores situated?</b></p> <p>In the Atlantic Ocean, about 800 miles west of Portugal. These islands are very productive in wine and fruits.</p> <p><b>Where is Seville?</b></p> <p>In Spain; it is an ancient and considerable city, the capital of the province of Andalusia. The flowers of the Seville orange are highly odoriferous, and justly esteemed one of the finest perfumes. Its fruit is larger than the China orange, and rather bitter; the yellow rind or peel is warm and aromatic. The juice of oranges is a grateful and wholesome acid.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Odoriferous</i>, sweet-scented, fragrant; having a brisk, agreeable smell which may be perceived at a distance.</p></div> <p><b>Who first introduced the China Orange into Europe?</b></p> <p>The Portuguese. It is said that the very tree from which all the European orange trees of this sort were produced, was still preserved some years back, at the house of the Count St. Laurent, in Lisbon. In India, those most esteemed, and which are made presents of as rarities, are no larger than a billiard ball. The Maltese oranges are said by some to be the finest in the world.</p> <p><b>Who are the Maltese?</b></p> <p>The inhabitants of Malta, an island of the Mediterranean, situated between Africa and Sicily.</p> <p><b>Whence are Lemons brought?</b></p> <p>The Lemon is a native of Eastern Asia, whence it was brought to Greece, and afterwards to Italy; from Italy it was transplanted to Spain, Portugal, and the South of France, whence lemons are imported in great plenty.</p> <p><b>What is the Citron?</b></p> <p>The fruit of the Citron Tree, resembling the lemon, but <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_63" id="Page_63"></SPAN>[63]</span>somewhat larger, and having a finer pulp. The citron was also brought originally from the East of Asia, but has since been produced in the warm parts of Europe, like the orange and lemon; Genoa especially is the greatest nursery for them. Its rind is principally brought to this country in a candied state, and is applied by confectioners to various purposes.</p> <p><b>Where is Genoa?</b></p> <p>A city of Northern Italy, on the Mediterranean, between the rivers Bisagno and Polcevera.</p> <p><b>What is the Lime?</b></p> <p>The Lime is by some thought to be a species of lemon, by others not; it is a smaller fruit, and in the West Indies is greatly preferred to the lemon. It is cultivated in the South of Europe, the West Indies, and the warm parts of America. The agreeable scent called Bergamot is prepared from the rind of a small species of lime.</p> <p><b>What are Olives?</b></p> <p>The fruit of the Olive Tree, an evergreen, now common in the woods of France, Spain, and Italy; but in the wild state producing a small fruit of no value; when cultivated, however, (which it is extensively, both for the fruit and the quantity of oil which it yields,) it forms one of the richest productions of Southern Europe. The olive came originally from Asia. Its use is very ancient; it is frequently spoken of in the Bible, both as in a wild and cultivated state. The promised land of the Israelites was "a land of oil, olive, and honey." From the time that the dove returned to Noah in the Ark with an "olive leaf plucked off," in all ages and countries, wherever this tree is known, down to the present day, has an olive-branch been the favorite emblem of peace.</p> <p><b>What nation holds the olive in great repute?</b></p> <p>This tree was a great favorite with the ancient Greeks, and scarcely an ancient custom existed in which the olive was not in some way associated: at their marriages and festivals, all <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_64" id="Page_64"></SPAN>[64]</span>parts of their dwellings, especially the doors, were ornamented with them, and the same custom prevails at the present day, both in public and private rejoicings. It was also scarcely less a favorite with the Romans, although it was not held in the same sacred light as amongst the Greeks. The olive-branch has likewise been universally considered the emblem of plenty, and as such, is found on the coins of those countries of which it is <i>not</i> a native. Two centuries after the foundation of Rome, both Italy and Africa were strangers to this useful plant; it afterwards became naturalized in those countries, and at length arrived in Spain, France, &amp;c. Olive trees sometimes attain a great age.</p> <p><b>How are the Olives eaten?</b></p> <p>The olives while on the tree are intolerably bitter, without any of that peculiar taste which gains them admittance at the richest tables; to fit them for which they are pickled. Ripe olives are eaten in the Eastern countries, especially amongst the Greeks, as an article of food, particularly in Lent. The oil, which they yield in great quantities, is very highly esteemed; being that chiefly used for salads, &amp;c., in medicine, and in various manufactures.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Lent</i>, a time of fasting; the time from Ash-Wednesday to Easter.</p></div> <p><b>How is the Oil drawn from the Olive?</b></p> <p>By presses or mills made for the purpose. The sweetest and best olive oil comes from the South of France, from Naples, Florence, and Lucca; quantities are also brought from Spain and the Ionian Islands.</p> <p><b>Where is Naples?</b></p> <p>In the South of Italy.</p> <p><b>Where are Florence and Lucca situated?</b></p> <p>In Italy. Florence is a very ancient, large, and celebrated city, the capital of Italy; Lucca, formerly a republic, belongs now to the kingdom of Italy.</p><p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_65" id="Page_65"></SPAN>[65]</span></p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Republic</i>, a state in which the supreme power of government is lodged in representatives chosen by the people, instead of being vested in an emperor or king.</p></div> <p><b>You said that the olive is an Evergreen: to what plant or shrub is the term particularly applied?</b></p> <p>To any shrub or tree whose leaves continue fresh and green all the year round, winter and summer, as the laurel, pine, cedar, holly, &amp;c., which do not shed their leaves in autumn as other trees.</p> <p><b>Is oil a production confined to the Olive alone?</b></p> <p>By no means. Oil is a fatty, inflammable matter, drawn from many vegetable and animal bodies. The oils in common use are of three different kinds. The first are mere <i>oily</i> or fatty bodies, extracted either by pressure, or by decoction: of the first kind are those of almonds, nuts, olives, &amp;c.; and of the other, those of different berries, &amp;c., which are procured by boiling the substance in water, which causes the oil to collect on the top.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Decoction</i>, act of boiling&mdash;a chemical term.</p></div> <p><b>What are the second and third kinds of Oils?</b></p> <p>The second are those drawn from vegetables by common distillation in the alembic, with the aid of water; these contain the <i>oily</i> and volatile part of the plant, and are called <i>essential</i> oils. The third sort are those produced by distillation, but of a different kind in an open vessel, and without the help of water. They are likewise divided into <i>vegetable</i> oils, <i>animal</i> oils, and <i>mineral</i> oils; which last are those drawn from amber, and a few other substances partaking both of the vegetable and mineral natures, as Petroleum, commonly known as kerosene or coal oil.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Alembic</i>, a chemical vessel used in distilling. It consists of a vessel placed over a fire, containing the substance to be distilled; the upper part, which receives and condenses the steam, is called the head; the beak of this is fitted to a vessel called a receiver.</p> <p><i>Volatile</i>, easily escaping, quickly flying off.</p></div> <p><b>Whence is the word Oil derived?</b></p> <p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_66" id="Page_66"></SPAN>[66]</span></p> <p>From the Latin <i>oleum</i>, formed from <i>olea, olive-tree</i>, the fruit of which abounds in oil.</p> <p><b>What immense fish is it that furnishes us with a quantity of <i>animal</i> oil?</b></p> <p>The Whale, the largest and noblest inhabitant of the waters. It is protected from the cold by a case or coating of blubber, that is, a thick oily fat from which the oil is made; numbers of them are caught for the sake of that. Ambergris, highly prized in perfumery, is a product of the sperm whale.</p> <p><b>In what seas are they found?</b></p> <p>Chiefly in the Northern Seas: extensive whale fisheries are carried on by the Americans, English, Dutch, &amp;c., and numbers of vessels are sent out for the purpose of taking the fish: they usually sail in the latter end of March, and begin fishing about May. The whale fishery continues generally from that time till the latter end of June or July. There are also other fishes and animals which afford us oils of different kinds, which are used for various purposes in medicine and the arts.</p> <p><b>Is the oil called <i>castor</i>, which is so much used in medicine, the product of an animal or a plant?</b></p> <p>Castor oil is expressed from a West Indian shrub, called Palma Christi; and especially from the ripe seeds, which are full of this oil. It is prepared by collecting these ripe seeds, and freeing them from the husks; then bruising and beating them into a paste; they are next boiled in water, when the oil rising to the surface is skimmed off as it continues to appear. The Castor-oil plant is found growing abundantly in Sumatra, particularly near the sea-shore.</p> <p><b>Where is Sumatra situated?</b></p> <p>In the Oriental Archipelago, off the south eastern part of the continent of Asia.</p> <p><b>In what other countries is this plant found?</b></p> <p>In some parts of Africa, Syria, and Egypt. It was anciently cultivated in the two last-mentioned countries in large quantities,<span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_67" id="Page_67"></SPAN>[67]</span>the seeds being used for the oil they yielded, which was burnt in lamps.</p> <p class="center"> <ANTIMG src="images/image_07.jpg" alt="BEAVERS BUILDING THEIR HUTS." width="348" height="581" /><br /> <span class="caption">BEAVERS BUILDING THEIR HUTS.</span></p> <p><b>Is not the Palma Christi much affected by soil and situation?</b></p> <p>Greatly so. In some places it attains the stature of a tree, and is not a biennial plant, but endures for many years, as in the warm plains of Irak, Arabia, and some parts of Africa.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Biennial</i>, lasting for the space of two years only.</p></div> <p><b>What are Melons?</b></p> <p>A species of the Cucumis, a genus of plants to which the cucumber belongs. There are great varieties of this fruit cultivated in different parts of the world; that sort called the Cantaleup (so named from being cultivated at a place of that name in the neighborhood of Rome, whither it was brought from Armenia,) is a species of musk-melon; the mature fruit is juicy, and delicately flavored.</p> <p><b>Where is Armenia situated?</b></p> <p>Armenia is a large country situated in Asiatic Turkey, to the west of the Caspian Sea.</p> <p><b>What species of Melon is that which almost makes up for a scarcity of good water in hot countries?</b></p> <p>The water-melon, which affords a cool, refreshing juice, and quenches the thirst produced by the excessive heats. It requires a dry, sandy soil, and a warm climate; the pulp of the fruit is remarkably rich and delicious.</p> <p><b>What are Tamarinds?</b></p> <p>The fruit of the Tamarind Tree, a native of both the Indies, Asia, Africa, &amp;c. It is of a roundish form, and composed of two pods inclosed one within the other, between which is a soft pulpy substance, of a tart but agreeable taste; the inner pod contains the seeds or stones.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Tart</i>, sharp, acid.</p></div> <p><b>For what are they used?</b></p> <p>We use them only as medicine; but the Africans, and many <span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_68" id="Page_68"></SPAN>[68]</span>of the Oriental nations, with whom they are common, make them into a kind of preserve with sugar, which they eat as a delicacy, and which cools them in the violent heats of their climate.</p> <p><b>From what nation was the knowledge of their use in medicine obtained?</b></p> <p>From the Arabians.</p> <p><b>What does the word Oriental signify?</b></p> <p>Belonging to the East; therefore those countries of the globe situated in the East are called Oriental, those in the West, Occidental, from <i>Oriens</i>, signifying East, and <i>Occidens</i>, West.</p> <p><b>What are Dates?</b></p> <p>The fruit of the Palm, a beautiful and graceful tree, peculiar to the warmer regions of the globe; the growth of the palm is extremely singular, for although some species attain to the height of the largest forest trees, their structure differs materially from that of a tree, properly so called. The leaves of the young plant arise directly from the surface of the ground, and there is no appearance of any stem for several years; this stem once formed, never increases in size, the growth of the plant being always upward, so that the stem itself is formed by the prior growth of the green portions of the palm.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Structure</i>, the manner of formation.</p></div> <p><b>How often does this tree cast its circle of leaves?</b></p> <p>Every year; so that the number of years a palm has existed is known by the scars which are left by their falling off. The palm is an evergreen.</p> <p><b>What are the uses of this Tree?</b></p> <p>The Palm is of the utmost importance to the inhabitants of the tropical regions; the fruit and sap providing them with food, the fibrous parts with clothing, and the leaves forming the greater part of their slightly-constructed huts; the leaves of some species are formed into fans, hats, and parasols; others are written on, in the same manner that we write on paper; arti<span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_69" id="Page_69"></SPAN>[69]</span>ficial flowers are made of the pith of some; the light and supple rattan walking-cane is the slender shoot of another kind; and solid and useful utensils are made of the shell of the cocoa-nut. The fibres of the Date Palm are formed into ropes and twine; a liquor is drawn from the trunk, called palm wine; the trunks of the old trees furnish a hard and durable wood; and even the nuts or stones of the fruit are useful for feeding cattle; a wholesome flour is also made of the fruit, when dried and reduced to powder.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Constructed</i>, put together.</p></div> <p><b>Whence is its name derived?</b></p> <p>From the Latin word <i>palma</i>, a hand, given to these productions of the vegetable world, from the supposed resemblance of their broad leaves to the human hand. The Date, the fruit of the Date Palm, derives its name from the Greek <i>dactylus</i>, a finger, from its mode of growing in clusters spreading out like the fingers of the hand. The Palm sometimes forms impenetrable forests; but more frequently is found in small groups of two or three, or even singly, beside springs and fountains of water, affording a kindly shade to the thirsty traveller.</p> <div class="blockquot"><p><i>Impenetrable</i>, not easily penetrated or got through.</p></div> <p><b>From what countries are Dates brought?</b></p> <p>From Egypt, Syria, Persia, Africa, and the Indies. Among the Egyptians and Africans, they make a principal article of food. Dates, when ripe, are of a bright coral red, of an oblong form, and possess a sharp biting taste: they are usually gathered in autumn, before being perfectly ripe.</p><p><span class="pagenum"><SPAN name="Page_70" id="Page_70"></SPAN>[70]</span></p> <hr style="width: 65%;" /> <h2>
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