« PreviousContinue »
The 10, 11, 12, 13, are their best summer pears.
Muscate d’Almagne, are their best winter pears. In the recolets garden at Saumur there is abundance of good fruit, amongst the rest a sort of pear, which they
17. Poire sans peau, which is ripe at the same time cherries are. They told me it was a very good pear, and a great bearer. Before the middle of August, when I was there, they were all gone.
They have in the same garden another pear, which they call
18. Poire de jasmin, which, as they say, hath something of the flavour of jasmin.
MELONS. The melons of Langers (a town upon the Loire, six leagues above Saumur) are counted the best in France; and from hence the court is supplied with them. Here, and at Saumur (where they are loth to give any preference to the melons of Langers) they set them in the common earth of their gardens without dung, or any other art, but barely nipping the tops of the branches when the young melons are knit, to hinder the sap from running too much into leaves and branches.
PRUNES. The prunes we have from France are a great black plum, that grows about Montauban and those parts : they dry them as much as they can in the sun, and what wants to dry them perfectly, they make out by the heat of the oven.
Prunellas, or rather brignols, are a sort of plums that grow in Provence, not far from Aix: they gather them thorough ripe, and having stripped off the skins, they stick them on skewers about six inches long, and very slender; they take care not to put them too close to one another on these skewers. These little spits, loaded thus
with plums, they fasten one above another, either in a cane, or a rope of straw like that we make for onions; and as we hang them up in our houses to keep, so do they those in the sun to dry.
When they are a little hardened, or half dry, they take out the stones, and press them with their fingers into that flat figure we see them, wetting their fingers a little to hinder them from sticking to them in handling: when this is done, they put them to dry again in the sun till they are quite cured; some say on the skewers again, others on boards. Those that grow at Brignol are the best, and hence they have their name.
They sometimes dry them with their stones in, and so they are better, as some that have eaten of them have told me.
They usually put the eggs a hatching in the holy week, i. e. the week before Easter ; but that which best regulates the time is the budding of the mulberry-trees, that, when the worms are hatched, they may have food.
To hatch them, they commonly wrap them up in a linen rag, and so wear them in some warm place about them night and day till they are hatched, which will be in about three days.
When they are hatched, they feed them with the leaves of the white mulberry-tree: the leaves of the young trees are best whilst the worms are young: but when they are grown pretty big, and towards the latter end of their feeding, they must be fed with the leaves of old trees, else they will not be strong to get up into the branches to work. The leaves of young trees given them in the beginning make the silk the finer : they take care also not to give them yellow or withered leaves; but to avoid the trouble of gathering fresh leaves every day, they will keep two or three days well enough in an earthen pot covered, or in a cellar.
They take great care also that no wet leaves or other moisture come to them, for that will kill them; and in feeding them they throw away the tender deep-coloured young leaves at the top of the branches, because these, they say, will make the worms very big and yellow, and die also without working.
Whilst they are young, they keep them up in some box or chest from the cold, which will kill them : they say also that thunder will kill them, if it happen when they begin to work. VOL. X.
They change their skins four times, from ten days to ten days, or thereabouts; this they call their sickness; for about the time they change their skins they forbear to eat, and therefore they feed them but once a day; but at other times they give them fresh leaves oftener. At the time also of their sickness they change them, taking away the cake of dry leaves and dung that was under them, by removing them with fresh leaves, which they will stick to; but after the fourth sickness is over, they change them every day till they begin to work, which is about ten days after. · The woman of the house where I lay, put her eggs to hatch on Good Friday, April the 3d; they were hatched the Monday following, and they began to work on Tuesday, June the 2d: so that, allowing one day for every sickness, it fell out pretty near according to their reckoning.
When the worms are ripe, as they call it, they cull out the ripe ones, i. e. those that are ready to work, from among those that are feeding, and put them upon shelves, where they are to work. They know those that are ripe by their clearness; for if you hold them up against the light with their bellies upwards, you will find them clear about the fore legs, some yellow, some white, according to the several colours of the silk they will spin; and by this clearness one may easily distinguish them from those that are not yet ripe.
The shelves they put them on to work are thus ordered : they place deal shelves one over another, as if they were for books; they make them about thirty inches broad, and the distance between them is about twenty-two inches : betwixt these shelves they set rows of a small bushy plant, somewhat like our heath, which reaching from one shelf to another are at the top turned partly one way, partly the other; so that the tops of the branches of these several rows or partitions reaching to one another touch, so that the whole length of each shelf is by these branches divided as it were into so many little caves, each of about nine or ten inches breadth; for the rows of branches that are set up to make these caves, which are as deep as the shelves are
broad, are set at that distance. 'Into one of these caves they put the worms that are first ripe, which creeping up the branches find amongst the little twigs places to work in. When one cave has as many of these spinners as it hath well room for, they fill the next, and so on.
They never give them any leaves of the red mulberrytree when they are young, because it being a strong nourishment, will hurt them ; but if one give them red mulberry-leaves towards the latter end, they will be the stronger, and mount the branches the better, which when they are weak they cannot do; and the silk of those that thus eat red mulberry-leaves is as good as the other.
About a fortnight after they begin to work, they take the cocons (i.e. the pods of silk they have wrought) out of the branches; if you take them down too soon, they will not have done working, and if you stay too long, they will have eat their way out of the pods, and the silk will be spoiled. It is time to take them down out of the branches as soon as any of the papilions, i.e. the flies that come out of the pods, appear amongst them.
As many of the cocons as they think necessary to keep for a breed for the next year they strip off the loose silk from, and then thread them; but pass the needle warily through the side of the cocon, so as it may be sure not to hurt the worm within. They count that a pound of cocons will yield an ounce of eggs. The cocons thus threaded, they hang up or lay in a convenient room, that so the papilions may come out, and make love to one another, and then lay their eggs on white paper laid there on purpose.
From the remaining cocons they presently eitherwind off the silk, or if they cannot do that (for it is not every body can do it) they either with the heat of the sun, or oven, or hot water, kill the worms in the cocons, so that they may keep them without having them spoiled by the worm, till they can get their silk wound.
Eight pounds of cocons usually yield one pound of silk.
The way of winding silk off from the cocons is a thing that cannot be taught without seeing; and there are but
Α Α 9