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Information on the basics of Economic Botany
Fruits of Temperate Regions
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Most developments and improvements in fruits have been a result of selection and hybridization, but there are sill many wild fruits used worldwide. In America wild fruits were first cultivated after the European colonization. Of especial interest is that many of the fruits grown in modern times had their origin in the same part of Asia of the earliest civilizations. This is for the most part true of the rose family that includes a large number of our most popular fruits: apple, cherry, plum, pear, apricot, raspberry, blackberry and strawberry. Plums and apples still exist in the wild state in the mountains of Western and Central Asia.
Concentrations of fruit plants gathered in the Mediterranean region where the climate proved ideal for growing them. There they were improved and perfected. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans knew many varieties. The Dark Ages did not extinguish the knowledge and experience that had been gained in ancient times. The early colonists brought fruit seeds and plants to America and these have spread over the continent. Commercial fruit growing then became increasing important, particularly on the Pacific Coast. Today California, Washington and Oregon include one of the largest fruit-producing areas of the world.
In temperate climates fruits are considered more as an agreeable addition to the diet than as a staple food. However, in tropical areas fruits may often be the main, and even the only, source of food. Crops such as banana, plantain, date, fig, coconut and breadfruit are staples. Temperate zone fruits have only a slight nutritive value. The water content is around 80 percent and the rest of the fruit is made up of cellulose, with some roughage value, and a solution of sugars, starches, pectin and organic acids that are flavored with essential oils and aromatic ethers. Carbohydrates are the most abundant, the exact quantity and kind of sugar being determined by the stage of ripeness. Fats and proteins are negligible. However, organic acids are present in larger amounts than in any other plant products. These are mainly malic, citric and tartaric acids. The different pectin compounds are important for they have the property of forming a jelly under the right conditions. Mineral salts are also present in sizeable quantities.
Many ways have been devised to preserve perishable fruits. Included are salting, drying and smoking; sweeting with honey, sugar and spices; preserving in alcohol or other chemicals; pickling in vinegar; packing in fats; sterilization; canning and freezing. Drying, canning and freezing are the most important.
Drying preserves fruit because bacteria fail to develop when the water content is below 25 percent. Sun and hot air are used in this process. Some fruits are cooked with sugar before drying. In canning a strong solution of honey, sugar or glucose keeps out agents of decomposition and thus great quantities of fruit are preserved as jellies, jams, marmalades and candied fruits. The cold pack or quick-freezing method is very effective. In this case the fruit is placed in small containers and the heat is extracted rapidly from both the top and the bottom of the container. This produces smaller ice crystals as the material freezes and gives a superior color, quality, flavor and vitamin content to the product. Quick-freezing is practicable for commercial or home use. Although it has been used since the first of the 20th Century, it became of greater importance by the end of that century. This is coincident with the development of improved cold-storage methods and greater ease of transportation. By the 21st Century the production of fresh fruit had become an important worldwide industry and it is possible to receive fresh fruit from all parts of the world from a supply that is virtually unlimited.
This is a variable procedure. Technically a fruit is the seed-bearing portion of the plant that consists of the ripened ovary and its contents. Usually the ovary alone is involved in the formation of the fruit, but in the accessory fruits other structures, such as the calyx and receptacle are involved. Simple fruits are derived from a single ovary, and compound fruits from more than one. In the latter the aggregate fruits are formed from numerous ovaries of the same flower, while multiple fruits come from the ovaries of different flowers. They may be either dry or fleshy. Thus, grains, legumes and nuts and some vegetables may come under the definition of fruits. However, in this section only those fruits that are usually consumed without cooking are considered. It is convenient to divide those fruits of temperate regions from those of the tropics and subtropics, which will be treated in the next section: Fruits of Tropical & Subtropical Regions
Pome fruits are simile accessory fruits where the ovary is surrounded by a fleshy outer portion derived from the same other part of the flower. There is some disagreement as to the morphological nature of this edible portion. Sometimes it is considered to be a fleshy calyx, but more often it is an enlarged receptacle. In both cases the ripened ovary forms only the core. In most of the pomaceous fruits the flesh surrounds the carpels entirely, but in the medlar the carpels are exposed at the top. Even though the word “pome” is restricted to this type of fruit, Pomology retains its original Latin significance and refers to the whole subject and practice of fruit growing (Hill 1952).
Apples, Pyrus malus, are in first place among fruits of temperate regions The tree is indigenous in Eastern Europe and Western Asia and has been grown for over 3,100 years. Apple seeds have been detected in the remains of the Lake Dwellers of Switzerland. The Romans knew over 22 kinds and nowadays there are perhaps 7,000 horticultural forms. This great number may be due partly to the ease of hybridization and their great variability.
The apple tree is low, round-crowned and rarely exceeds 20 ft in height. It may attain an age of 100 years. The wood is hard and dense and is used for tool handles and firewood. The pink and white flowers and the leaves are borne together, usually at the ends of short twigs, known as spurs. Apples grow well in many different kinds of soils and climates. The best yield is obtained where the soil contains a slight amount of lime. Apple trees are hardy and can be grown as far north as 65 deg. North latitude, they are subject to frost injury. There are only a few varieties that will grow in the tropics and these are usually placed at higher elevations. The principal apple producing regions are North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
European varieties of apple ere brought to America when it was found that the native species had little value. By 1750 there were many well-established orchards. Apples can be grown from seed, but propagation is usually by budding or grafting. Summer, autumn and winter varieties are developed. They are picked when fully ripe in order to allow for all the necessary chemical changes to take place during ripening. This involves an increase in the amount of sugar and a corresponding decrease in starch and acidity.
Apples have exceptional storage qualities. They are often dried as well as eaten raw and cooked. A considerable amount is canned, usually as applesauce. The juice is converted into cider and vinegar. The sugar in fresh apple juice is readily changed into alcohol by the action of wild yeasts. When the alcoholic content is a maximum, hard cider is the result. Later acetic acid bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid or vinegar. Applejack is an alcoholic beverage made from cider. Other by-products include apple concentrate, apple powder, apple pumice and apple syrup, the last is used in bread, cigarettes and smoking tobacco to maintain the proper moisture content.
Crab Apples produce a small yellow or reddish fruit about one inch in diameter. There are several American species, but their fruits are of little value. They are grown primarily for their attractive flowers. Crab apple cultivars are usually hybrids between the common apple and the Siberian crab apple, Pyrus baccata. Many oriental species have been introduced for ornamental purposes and are grown for their beautiful flowers.
Pears are widely used as table fruits and great quantities are canned. A beverage, Perry, similar to cider is made from the juice. In North America, California, Oregon, Washington and New York are the leading producers. There is a large export trade with Europe.
Pyrus communis is indigenous to Eurasia and was known since ancient times. It resembles apple but is a bit longer and more upright. The flowers are generally white and are formed with the leaves. The typical pyriform fruit has a persistent calyx. Common pear is sweeter and juicier than apple, and the flesh contains numerous grit or Stone Cells, a specialized type of cell with very thick walls. Pears are not as hardy and have a more restricted rang than apples. They do best in heavy soils with considerable humus and good drainage and regions with a more equable climate, especially near large bodies of water. They propagate from seed or by grafting. Pears are widely grown in Europe where over 5,000 varieties are known. France is the leading producer. The United States produces about 25 percent of the world crop with Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand also having significant acreage. Pears are harvested before they are entirely ripe.
Chinese pear, also known as Sand Pear, Pyrus pyrifolia var. culta, is the source of many of the varieties grown in North America for cooking purposes and storage. This Chinese native produces flowers just before the leaves. The large fruit has a deciduous calyx and a very gritty, hard flesh with excellent storage qualities. It is frequently used in hybrids and grafting with the common pear.
Medlar, Mespilus germanica, is a small tree with branches that spread at right angles. It is indigenous to Europe were several varieties are cultivated. The fruit is brown and apple-shaped with a harsh flesh and acid flavor. It is used more for jellies and jams rather than eaten fresh.
Quince, Cydonia oblonga, was cultivated in ancient times. It was highly prized by the Romans. It is indigenous to Western Asia from Iran to Turkestan and may still be found in the wild. There have been very little changes made to the cultivated plant. It is a small tree of 15-20 feet in height with many crooked branches. The large fruit is round or pear-shaped. The leaves are densely tomentose beneath and the fruit is wooly when young. The golden flesh is hard and quite unpalatable. The seeds have a mucilaginous covering and are of value in medicine. The fruit is usually used for jelly and marmalade, often mixed with pears and apples. It is also canned.
These are drupes with fleshy fruits and a single seed enclosed in the hard inner portion of the ripened ovary wall. Three sections in the fruit are: the outer skin or epicarp, the fleshy edible mesocarp and the stone or endocarp that contains the seed. Most of the drupes of temperate regions belong to the genus Prunus. They are all trees and shrubs that often exude a natural gum. The bark, leaves and seeds contain a glucoside, Amygdalin that is readily converted to prussic acid and may cause poisoning.
Apricot, Prunus armeniaca, is native to Asia where it still grows in the wild state. It was cultivated in China as early as 2,000 B.C. and soon reached India, Egypt, Persia and Armenia. It was introduced into Europe in the First Century. This is a small tree 20-30 ft. in height with pink flowers produced before the leaves. The fruit is peach like in color and shape and is velvety when young with a yellowish-orange flesh. The stone is smooth and flattened. The apricot is susceptible to frost and is grown only in warmer temperate climates, principally in China, Japan, Turkey, Northern Africa and warmer parts of North America. It does not respond well to pruning. Apricots are eaten fresh or as dried, frozen, canned, candied and when made into a paste. A substitute for almond oil is extracted from the seeds.
Cherries are trees with birch like bark, white or pinkish flowers that are produced in clusters, and small, smooth, long-stemmed fruits with a round smooth stone. They are indigenous to Eurasia and were cultivated in ancient times. There are over 1,200 varieties that have been in cultivation and these belong to two distinct species. The fruits of the native American cherries are of little commercial value.
Cherries are mused as table fruits, in pies, for glacé fruits and in canning. In the last case they are often bleached in fumes of sulfur and treated with brine and sodium sulfite to harden the flesh. Cherry brandy and marashino are distilled from cherry juice. The juice is also used for cherry cider, jelly and syrup. A fixed oil is obtained from fresh seeds.
Cherries are extensively grown in temperate regions and are especially important in Europe. Several species of Japanese Flowering Cherry, mainly Prunus serrulata, are cultivated for ornamental purposes.
Prunus avium is a tall long-lived tree with yellow or greenish fruit. It has a restricted range in North America and is grown only in areas with an equable climate, such as New York, the Lake States and the Pacific Coast. There are over 600 varieties in cultivation. They are used mainly for their fresh fruit.
Prunus cerasus is a smaller tree with a heavy wood and red fruits. The main growing areas in North America are New York, Wisconsin and Michigan. They are used primarily for canning purposes and freezing. Over 300 varieties are grown.
Peach, Prunus persica, is of great importance in North America. The tree is indigenous to China where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. Many varieties have been developed there and legends have been associated with the fruit. The peach reached the Mediterranean region very early in history and the Romans grew at least six varieties. It reached North America with the earliest colonists. It is now cultivated in most temperate climates of the world, especially in Southern Europe, The United States, South Africa, Japan and Australia. There are over 3,000 varieties grown, few of which reach commercial status.
The tree is low, rather short-lived and susceptible to frost injury and low temperatures. The attractive pink flowers are produced before the leaves. The round fruits have a velvety skin and a compressed, pitted or furrowed stone. The plant does best in a sandy soil. Commercial orchards are usually near large bodies of water.
Peaches are eaten fresh or canned. A considerable quantity is also dried or frozen. Fixed and volatile oils, similar to almond oils, are obtained from the seeds. Peach stone charcoal ahs been used as a filter for gas masks.
Prunus persica var. nectarina is a variety of peach. It has a smooth skin and is somewhat smaller. The principal growing areas are California and Texas.
Plums are small trees or shrubs with white flowers and large, smooth, clustered fruits with a bloom. The smooth stones are flattened. Commercial plums in North America are derived from three main sources: European plums, native America species and Japanese species. There is a great diversity in climatic requirements among the three. Plums are used in a variety of ways, such as fresh fruit, canning, cooking and jams. They are picked when mature but not completely ripe if they are to be eaten fresh. For canning and jams they are allowed to ripen longer and for prunes they are fully ripe. California and Michigan have led the production in North America.
Prunus domestica is indigenous to Eurasia where it still grows in the wild. It has been cultivated since before 100 B.C. The Lake Dwellers of Switzerland and the Romans and Greeks knew it. It is the best known and most widespread of all the plums. It was transported to America by the early colonists and is now grown on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the lake States. It is a large tree, 30-40 ft. in height, with variously colored fruits. There are over 950 varieties, especially in Europe. Included are the green gages, egg plums and prunes. Prunus insititia, a smaller and hardier plum, has also been grown as long and occurs wild in Europe and Asia. Varieties include the Damson and Bullace Plums. The sloe, P. spinosa, is another plum used in Europe for making liquors.
The several American plums were derived from indigenous species in recent times. They are hardy and are grown in the Mississippi Valley and in the South where European types do not thrive. Several species are Prunus americana, P. hortulana and P. nigra. The fruits of the last two species are small and not very palatable but are used in preserves and marmalades.
The beach plum, Prunus maritima that grows in sandy soil from southern Maine to Virginia, is used to make an excellent preserve and could eventually become of greater commercial importance.
Prunus salicina and other species from Japan were introduced into California at the end of the 19th Century. Luther Burbank and other plant breeders developed over 100 new varieties and hybrids. These plums are a much wider range of cultivation than any other type.
These are really plums with high sugar content. Large fruits of European varieties are picked and the skin is ruptured. They are then dried either by artificial hear or in the sun, after which they are allowed to “sweat” for several weeks. They are finally graded and “glossed.” The latter process consists of heating in steam or salted boiling water, glycerin, or fruit juice. It gives a glossy appearance to the surface and also sterilizes the skin. The prune industry is especially important in western California and Oregon.
Gourd fruits are trailing tendril-bearing herbs, often of a very large size. The fruit is a Pepo, a modified berry with a hard and firm rind. They include several edible forms such as squash, pumpkin and cucumber, the melons and watermelons and the ornamental gourds.
The melon, Cucumis melo, is believed to have originated as a wild plant in Southern Asia. It is ancient and was known to the Egyptians and Romans. The melon reached Europe in the 17th Century. It is now cultivated in most warm temperate climates. Several different kinds of melons are grown.
The Netted or Nutmeg Melon is the type grown in greatest quantity in North America. It is also known as Muskmelon and erroneously Canteloupe. This melon has a soft rind and netted markings on the surface. There are many varieties. The true cantaloupe is a European melon that is not grown in North America. It has a hard warty rind and dark yellow flesh. The winter melons, such as the Casaba and Honeydew, are larger, smoother and more spherical types. They require a longer season but hold up well in storage.
Melons grow best in fertile soil and in a long growing season, with a high temperature and abundant moisture and sunlight. Muskmelons are almost ripened on the vines because this increases the sweetness and flavor. The winter melons are ripened in storage. In North America, California, Arizona and Colorado lead the production.
Citrullus vulgaris is indigenous in tropical Africa where native people have used it since ancient times. It was cultivated for centuries, reaching Egypt and India very early in history, as indicated by its Sanskrit name and appearing in Egyptian paintings. Watermelon is an annual plant with extensive vines that may cover a whole field and large fruits that may weight over 50 lbs. The reddish or pink pulp is very sweet and juicy with white or black seeds. The varieties differ in the shape of the fruit, its color and the thickness of the rind. The plant requires a fertile sandy soil with abundant sunshine. The fruits are picked when fully ripe and resist damage in shipment.
A variety, Citrullus vulgaris citroides, with a white, more solid flesh is called the Citron Melon or preserving melon. It is used in jams, jellies and preserves. Because of its high pectin content it is added to fruit juices that do not jell readily.
By the 21st Century seedless watermelons arrived on the market, but these do not have as desirable flavor as those that bear seeds.
Grapes are technically berries, but their importance warrants special discussion. They grow wild in many temperate portions of America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Birds are known to have distributed them very widely. Modern cultivated grapes have been derived from European and American species. They are grown in home gardens over most of America. In the United States California leads the production with over 90 percent of the crop.
Vitis vinifera is one of the oldest of all cultivated plants. It is believed to have originated in the Caspian Sea region of Western Asia. Grapes are often mentioned in the Bible. They have been grown in Egypt before 4,000 B.C. and were highly developed by the Greeks and Romans. They were spread all over Europe with the Roman civilization and now are found in all temperate regions.
The grape is a woody, climbing, tendril-bearing vine with large palmate leaves; small, insignificant sweet-smelling flowers; and large clusters of fruits. The European species has ellipsoidal fruits with a solid flesh, high sugar content and a relatively thin skin that does not slip off the flesh readily. In nature the vines grow rapidly and each a considerable length, but in cultivation they are pruned back until they are short stout stumps, 3-4 ft. in length. Grapes prefer a loose, well-drained soil and hillsides are often used. Cuttings often propagate them. The European grape is the source of most of the wine grapes. It is common all over Europe, especially in the Mediterranean region. This species is very susceptible to various fungi and insect pests, particularly the root louse, Phylloxera. At one time this insect threatened the entire grape industry. American grapes are not as susceptible and they are now used as rootstocks on to which the European varieties are grafted. Lord Baltimore introduced Vitis vinifera into North America as early as 1616 but it did not thrive. Despite many attempts it has never produced high quality wine in the eastern part of the continent. This is due probably to its susceptibility to cold and pests. West of the Rocky Mountains the growing of European grapes has become one of the main industries, especially in California. This species is used for wine, raisins, and as a table grape. The introduction of the Sharpshooter leafhopper into California in the latter part of the 20th Century has had a devastating effect on the grape industry there because the insect vectors a bacterial disease that kills the vines. Special care must now be taken to eliminate breeding reservoirs for this insect near the vineyards.
Native American grapes that have been domesticated and many horticultural varieties of these are grown in Eastern North America. Hybrids between these native species and the wine grape also exist. The northern Fox Grape, Vitis labrusca, of eastern North America has given rise to the greatest number, including such well-known types as the Concord, Catawba, Delaware and Niagara that are grown primarily in the Great Lakes region. The Muscadine Grape, V. rotundifolia, has given rise to the Scuppernong, a long-lived, vigorous variety extensively grown in the Atlantic and Gulf States. Vitis vulpina and V. aestivalis are also cultivated.
American grapes are larger and hardier than the European species. The fruit is round with a more watery flesh and a thin skin that slips off very easily. Their flavor is much more pronounced. They are consumed fresh and for making grape juice, jams, jellies and wine. The wild types are especially flavorful and excellent for making jelly.
Grapes are the source of raisins and the dried currants of commerce. Raisins are dried grapes prepared from wine grapes with a high sugar content and firm flesh. Both seeded and seedless varieties are marketed. The best quality is used for table raisins that are merely dried in the sun. Cooking raisins are prepared from poorer grades and treated with lye and sulfur before drying. Their cost is also more than the sun dried types. California leads the production of raisins in North America.
These are small dried grapes prepared from a variety that grows in Greece. It is a very old type, dating to 75 A.D. Currant growing has always been an important industry in Greece.
The term “berry” has been used in different ways. Technically a berry is a thin-skinned one-celled fleshy fruit with seeds scattered through the flesh. According to this definition the tomato, grape, eggplant and many other fruits are berries, while such fruits as the strawberry, raspberry and blackberry are not berries but rather aggregate compound fruits (Hill 1952). For the present the term will be used to include the common bush fruits, or berries, of cultivation and the mulberry. In almost all of these fruits wild plants serve as an important source of the crop, although domesticated forms are developed.
Blackberries and raspberries belong to the genus Rubus that includes many species and a vast number of hybrids.
These are erect, decumbent or creeping shrubs, usually armed with prickles and thorns. The erect “canes” die down to the ground every few years and are renewed from the rootstalks. The velvety black fruits are aggregate fruits that consist of numerous ovaries of the flower ripened into small drupelets. When picked the fruit does not separate from the somewhat fleshy receptacle. Blackberries can be grown anywhere except in regions with severe winters or extreme heat or drought. The blackberry is almost entirely an American fruit with large wild stands growing in high rainfall areas of southern Chile and northwestern North America. The cultivated forms have been derived mainly from Rubus alleghaniensis, R. argutus and R. frondosus. Trailing species are known as Dewberries that include R. flagellaris, R. trivialis and R. vitifolius. Blackberries are used fresh and for jams, cordials, preserves and canning.
Rubus loganobaccus that originated in California has very large fruits with less flavor than blackberry. It is grown for canning. The loganberry is usually considered to be a hybrid between a blackberry and a raspberry, but it may be a distinct species or a variety of R. ursinus. It principal use is for juice.
These are smaller shrubs, usually with vigorous, erect bushy habit. The are small plants less than one foot tall at higher latitudes. They have small bristles or prickles. The aggregate fruit separates form the receptacle when ripe leaving a cavity on one side. Black raspberries are derived from Rubus occidentalis of eastern North America while the red raspberries come from R. idaeus of Europe or its American var. strigosus. The European species has been cultivated since ancient times and was highly prized by the Greeks and Romans. Raspberries are especially hardy and can be grown as far north as Alaska and northern Canada. They are used fresh or cooked and in jams, jellies, vinegar and as a flavoring. Large quantities are canned and frozen.
The greatest source of blueberries and huckleberries is from wild plants grown especially in northeastern North America. The plants are low ericaceous shrubs, common on acid soil throughout eastern North America. In the huckleberry the fruit is a berrylike drupe, while in the blueberry it is a true berry. Huckleberries occur primarily in the wild state, with Gaylussacia baccata being the principal species. Blueberries are cultivated in many areas on sandy or clayey acid soil and give a much greater increase in size and yield over the wild fruit. In the blueberry barrens of Maine and adjacent New Brunswick the plants are so abundant in the sterile acid soil that they can be subjected to a kind of cultivation. Yields are maintained by burning the area. Often the berries are so numerous that they can be harvested with a cranberry rake. Blueberries are eaten fresh or cooked, chiefly in pies, and large quantities are canned and frozen. Huckleberries are distinctive in being especially flavorful in pies although they contain comparatively larger pits. The principal eastern low-bush species are Vaccinium myrtilloides, V. angustifolium and V. vacillans; the high-bush species of greatest importance include V. atrococcum and V. corymbosum. Valuable western species include V. ovatum and V. membranaceum.
Cranberries are low trailing woody plants typically found in bogs and wet acid soil throughout Northeastern North America and Northern Europe. The fruit is a true berry. The American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, has been cultivated since 1840. It is grown in acid sandy or soil or peat bogs that can be flooded during the winter and spring. The berries are harvested with machinery today, but earlier were raked from the fields. The cranberry industry in the United States is of great importance in Wisconsin and Massachusetts and New Jersey. Most of the crop is canned or made into a beverage. Wild plants of V. macrocarpon and a smaller V. oxycococcus furnish some fruit for local consumption. A small highland or mountain cranberry (the Lingonberry), V. vitis-idaea, is more firm and spicy and is grown in Scandinavian countries. The closely related American species, V. vitis-idaea var. minus, is boreal and grows in arctic or alpine areas.
These berries are usually classified in the genus Ribes, although the gooseberries are sometimes placed in the genus Grossularia. They are low, hardy, bushy plants and are well adapted to cold climates. The currants are usually smooth with the flowers and fruits in racemes. In gooseberries the stem is usually armed with spines or prickles and the flowers and fruits are solitary.
Currants are indigenous in both the New and Old Worlds The common red and white currants, Ribes sativum, are natives of Eurasia. They were grown in Europe during the Middle Ages and were early brought to America where they have become naturalized in many areas. Several varieties are grown, mainly for domestic use. The plants easily suffer from neglect. They attain their best development in cool humid regions. The European black currant, Ribes. nigrum, also a native of Eurasia, is not widely grown outside Europe. There are several wild species in America with edible fruit, the most important of which is R. americanum. Currants are used primarily for jellies, jams, sauces, pies and wine. Amerindians used them as fresh fruit and additions to other foods, especially meat.
The European Gooseberry, Ribes grossularia, is grown in the cooler parts of both Europe and America. The tart round fruits may be red, yellow, green or white and hairy or smooth, according to the variety. The most important native American species is Ribes hirtellum.
Not a true berry, mulberry is a multiple accessory fruit derived from a whole inflorescence. The actual fruits are little achenes that are surrounded by the fleshy sepals and grouped together with the fleshy axis to form the so-called syncarp. Mulberries are indigenous in both Asia and America. The fruits are very juicy but do not have pronounced flavor. They are often fed to livestock.
The black mulberry, Morus nigra, is an ornamental tree 40-60 ft. in height and native to Asia Minor and Persia. It has been cultivated since ancient times. Mulberries are frequently mentioned in the Bible and the tree was familiar to the Greeks and Romans. It reached Europe in the 12th Century and is now naturalized in both Europe and America where it is planted mostly in the warmer areas. The fruit is black or dark red and is used as a dessert.
The fed mulberry, Morus rubra, is the largest of the genus and is native to eastern North America. The bright red or blackish fruits are mostly fed to livestock. The wood has some value.
The white mulberry, Morus alba, with white or pinkish fruits, is a small tree that is less hardy than the other species. It is native to Asia and was introduced into both Europe and America for its leaves that serve as food for the silkworm. The fruits are of little value. In Europe the wood is used and a yellow dye is obtained from the roots.
The strawberry is an important small fruit in most temperate climates. However, it is very perishable. It is not a berry but an aggregate accessory fruit, consisting of a number of small dry achenes embedded on the surface of a large fleshy receptacle. The strawberry is a low perennial herb with a very short thick stem and trifoliate leaves. It produces numerous runners that root at the tip and are used to propagate the plant. They have been grown in Europe since the 14th Century and in America since colonial days. They require only good soil, a temperate climate and lots of sunshine. In the United States their cultivation has been of commercial importance since 1860. Harvesting begins in the South in the winter and progresses northward with the advancing season until summer when they fruit in the more northern areas. There are three main sources of cultivated strawberries of which there are hundreds of varieties. The native plant of Eastern North America, Fragaria virginiana, was grown by the early settlers and taken by them to Europe where it has been cultivated since the 17th Century. The European Fragaria vesca, is the source of the ever-bearing types. However, the majority of the cultivated forms are derived from Fragaria chiloensis, native to Western America from Chile northward to the mountains of Mexico. This species is less hardy than the others, but the fruits are especially large and flavorful. Strawberries are used primarily as a dessert, but they are also canned, frozen and used in jams and preserves and as a flavoring.