Sunday, March 27, 2016

1898 - A. T. Cook Is At It Again with the "Vegetable Peach"

Ah, he is at it again - this time teasing buyers with a plant that sounds too good to be true!

And what is a Vegetable Peach, you may ask.  I did anyway.  And found at first NOTHING.

Then the Settler's Guide and Farmer's Handbook  from Western Australia's Department of Agriculture in  1897 came to the rescue!

I'm not telling what it is until further down the post.  Cook wasn't giving any clues to the true nature of the plant either.  

What do you think it is?

(By the way, the brownie fad seems to have invaded even Cook's ads!)

It is a melon!  Nowadays it is called a Vine Peach and is available from many sources. 
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds says the following:    
The fruit are the size of a peach, with a yellow rind and bland white flesh. This variety was very popular in Victorian times for making sweet pickles, pies and preserves. They were developed in China and introduced into America in the 1880's. In the Orient this type of melon is pickled.
Here is what the Western Australia's Department of Agriculture wrote:
Mango Melon, Or Egyptian Prolific Vegetable Peach.— Cultivation.—Cultivate in a similar manner as that recommended for rock melon. Grows like a rock melon, branching out in dozens of vines in every direction full of fruit and blossoms, commencing early and lasting on till frost if watered in dry weather; suitable for all climates. Fried in batter, green, a substitute for egg plant. It is also said to be superior to vegetable marrows, cooked in a similar style if used before being too ripe. When ripe and yellow makes beautiful, white, transparent preserves and sweetmeats, equalling the celebrated California fruits and Japanese pie melon; they are just like an orange when ripe. The late fruit makes excellent pickles. Young green ginger makes the best flavouring, and it does not colour the preserves.
Mango Melon, Or Vegetable Peach Jam.—To every pound of vegetable peaches allow three-quarters of a pound of the best white sugar, and one pound of good, young, green ginger to every 8 lbs. of fruit. Mode : Cut up the fruit, taking care to scoop out all the pips (using a spoon is best); weigh, and put into a china basin with the quantity of sugar sprinkled on, and allow it to stand twenty-four hours; choose young ginger, wash carefully, and scrape off all the outside skin; then boil in an enamel pan for several hours in clean water; boil till you can stick a fork in ; then take out and cut up as finely as possible; this is imperative or it will spoil your jam ; mix all together, and boil gently. It takes a long time to cook, as the melon must be quite clear, and a thin skin must come over the jam. This is ascertained by occasionally taking out a small spoonful and putting on a saucer to cool. Always cover the jars with strong paper while hot. About six ounces of preserved ginger, cut very small, improves it, but darkens it.