Vineyard, Farm, and Orchard in California by Ella M.
Long ago the Mission Fathers taught the Indians to plant and to take
care of vines and fruit-trees. They built water-works to bring life to
the thirsty trees in the dry summers, and to grow oranges, limes,
and figs, as well as peaches, apricots, and apples. They trained
grape-vines over arbors and trellises round the Mission buildings, and
from the small, black grapes made wine. Olive trees and date-palms did
well at the southern settlements. But most of these orchards died when
the Mission Fathers were no longer allowed to make the Indians work
for the church property, though a few old palms and olive trees are
During Mexican days each ranch owner raised enough grain or corn and
beans for his own family but planted no fruit, or but little, while
the Americans who came to seek gold thought farming a slow way of
making a living. People soon found out, however, that our fine climate
and rich soil made good crops almost certain, and there was such
demand for fruit and farm products that more and more acres were
cultivated each year.
Our leading industry now is farming and fruit-growing, and
California's delicious fresh or cured fruit is sent all over the
world. Large amounts of barley and hops are shipped from here to
Europe, and our state produces almost all the Lima beans used in the
The citrus fruits, as oranges, lemons, and pomelos, or "grape-fruit,"
are called, grow in the seven southern counties, or in the foothills
on the western slope of the Sierras. The trees cannot endure frost and
must be irrigated in the summer. Orange trees are a pretty sight, with
their shining green leaves, white, sweet-smelling flowers, and the
green or golden fruit. About Christmas-time, when oranges ripen, both
blossoms and fruit may be picked from the same tree. Los Angeles and
Orange County grow most oranges, but San Diego is first in lemon
culture. Half a million trees in that county show the bright yellow
fruit and fragrant blossoms every month in the year. The other
southern counties also raise lemons by the car-load to send east, or
for your lemonade and lemon pies at home.
There, too, the olive grows well, that little plum-shaped fruit you
usually see as a green, salt pickle on the table. The Mission Fathers
brought this tree first from Spain, where the poor people live upon
black bread and olives. Olives are picked while green and put in
a strong brine of salt and water to preserve them for eating. Dark
purple ripe olives are also very good prepared the same way. Did you
know that olive-oil is pressed out of ripe olives? The best oil comes
from the first crushing, and the pulp is afterwards heated, when a
second quality of oil is obtained. Olive trees grow very slowly, and
do not fruit for seven years after they are planted. But they live a
hundred years, and bear more olives every season.
The black or purple fig which grew in the old Mission gardens bears
fruit everywhere in the state. Either fresh and ripe, or pressed flat
and dried, it is delicious and healthful. White figs like those from
abroad have been raised the last few years, and it is hoped in time to
produce Smyrna figs equal to the imported.
While peach orchards blossom and bear fruit six months of the year in
the south, most of this pretty pink-cheeked fruit grows in the great
valleys, or along the Sacramento River. Pears also show their snowy
blossoms and yellow fruit in the valleys and farther north. The
Bartlett pear is sent to all the Eastern states in cold storage cars
kept cool by ice, and also to Europe.
The finest apricots are those of that wonderful southern country,
miles and miles of orchards lying round Fresno especially. Yet the
valleys and foot-hills produce plenty, and in the old mining counties
very choice fruit ripens. Apples like the high mountain valleys, where
they get a touch of frost in winter, though there is a cool section of
San Diego County where fine ones are raised. Cherries do well in the
middle and valley regions, the earliest coming from Vacaville, in
Grapes grow throughout the state, though the famous raisin vineyards,
where thousands of tons are dried every year, are around Fresno. Most
of the raisins are dried in the sun, but in one factory a hundred tons
of grapes may be dried at one time by steam. The raisins are seeded by
machinery, and packed in pretty boxes to send all over the coast, and
through the states, where once only foreign raisins were used. Many
vineyards in the southern part and middle of the state grow only wine
grapes, California wines, champagne, and brandy having a wide use.
Great quantities of fresh fruits are used in the state or sent away,
while the canneries put up immense amounts, also. Canned fruit reaches
many consumers, but it is expensive. Our cured or dried fruit, however
is so cheap and so good that millions of pounds are prepared every
year. Such fruit ripens on the tree and so keeps all its fine flavor.
It is then dried in the sunshine, which not only fits it for long
keeping but turns part of it to sugar. Apricots, peaches, pears, and
cherries are usually cut in halves or stoned before drying. Prunes are
first on the list of cured fruits, and they seem the best to use as
food. The ripe prunes are dipped into a boiling lye to make the skin
tender, then rinsed and spread in the sun a day or two. They are then
allowed to "sweat" to get a good color, are next dipped in boiling
water a minute or two, dried, and finally graded, a certain number to
the pound, and packed in boxes or sacks.
Several kinds of nuts grow well in the state. All the so-called
"English" walnuts, with their thin shells, are raised in the south,
Orange County furnishing half the amount we market. Peanuts and
almonds are a good crop there, also, though almond groves are in all
parts of the state. Both paper and thick-shelled almonds are usually
bleached, or whitened, with sulphur smoke to improve their color.
Santa Barbara and Ventura are the bean counties of the state, and send
Lima beans away by train-loads, while Orange County grows celery for
the Eastern market. Very high prices are received for this celery and
other vegetables sent from California during the winter season when
fields are covered with snow in the East.
And did you know that the state produces a great deal of sugar? Tons
and tons of sugar-beets are grown throughout the farming lands, and
harvested in September. When the juice of these crushed beets is
boiled and refined, it makes a sugar exactly like cane sugar and much
cheaper. One-fifth of the beet is sugar, it is said.
Even the dry, worthless mountain sides are valuable to the bee-keeper.
The bees make a delicious honey from the wild, white sage, which grows
where nothing else will live. This sage honey brings the very highest
Oats are raised in the coast counties, and corn in the valleys, but
owing to cool nights and dry air the corn seldom makes a good crop.
Orange County, however, claims corn with stalks twenty feet high and
a hundred bushels to the acre. In the south, also, that wonderful
forage-plant, alfalfa, will produce six crops a year by irrigation and
give a ton or more to the acre at each cutting.
Along the upper Sacramento River stretch the great hop-fields full
of tall vines covered with light-green tassels. At hop-picking season
many families have a month's picnic, children and all working day
after day in the fields and pulling off the fragrant hops. Indians,
too, are among the best hop-pickers. The dried hops are bleached with
sulphur, baled, and in great quantities sent to Liverpool, where with
California barley they are used in brewing malt liquors.
An odd crop is mustard, and at Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County, enough
for the whole country is grown. Both brown and yellow mustard is
cultivated, and the little seeds, almost as fine as gunpowder, are
sold to spice-mills and pickle-factories.
Whole farms are taken up with the production of flower-seeds or bulbs,
with acres and acres of calla-lilies, roses, carnations, and violets.
The tall pampas-grass, with its long feathery plumes, gives a
profitable crop. Indeed, one can scarcely name a fruit, flower, or
tree that will not thrive and grow to perfection in our mild climate
and rich soil.