Wild Fruits: Thoreau's Rediscovered Last Manuscript

Overview

"This wonderful book is both a practical and a philosophical field guide to the natural gifts of the American countryside."—Audubon
The final harvest of our great nature writer’s last years, Wild Fruits presents Thoreau’s distinctly American gospel—a sacramental vision of nature in which "the tension between Thoreau the naturalist and Thoreau the missionary for nature’s wonders invigorates nearly every page" (Time). In transcribing the 150-year-old manuscript’s cryptic handwriting and complex notations, Thoreau ...

See more details below
Paperback ((Bradley P. Dean, Editor))
$14.60
BN.com price
(Save 18%)$17.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (36) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $5.63   
  • Used (26) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

"This wonderful book is both a practical and a philosophical field guide to the natural gifts of the American countryside."—Audubon
The final harvest of our great nature writer’s last years, Wild Fruits presents Thoreau’s distinctly American gospel—a sacramental vision of nature in which "the tension between Thoreau the naturalist and Thoreau the missionary for nature’s wonders invigorates nearly every page" (Time). In transcribing the 150-year-old manuscript’s cryptic handwriting and complex notations, Thoreau specialist Bradley Dean has performed a "heroic feat of decipherment" (Booklist) to bring this great work to light. Readers will discover "passages that reach for the transcendentalist ideal of writing new scriptures, yet grounding this Bible in a vision of practical ecology" (Boston). Beautifully illustrated throughout with line drawings of the natural life Thoreau considers on his walks, Wild Fruits is "well worth any nature lover’s attention" (Christian Science Monitor).

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Thoreau's Walden (1854) is regarded both as a masterpiece of American prose and as a forerunner of modern environmentalism. Its author spent much of the 1850s learning what botany could teach him about the New England woods he chronicled. Thoreau brought that knowledge to bear on this sometimes very beautiful essay about plants, fruits and nuts, left incomplete at his death in 1862 and here printed for the first time. Thoreau's brief preface echoes the passions of Walden: "What are all the oranges imported into England to the hips and haws in her hedges?" The rest of the work is arranged fruit by fruit: we begin with elm-fruit ("most mistake the fruit before it falls for leaves, and we owe to it the first deepening of the shadows in our streets"), and proceed through several dozen entries to sassafras, skunk cabbage, strawberries, cranberries, juniper berries and, finally, "winter fruits." Though many plants' entries comprise just a few sentences, some offer plenty of room to meditate. Huckleberries prompt a 20-page essay, and pitch pine leads Thoreau to explain how "the restless pine seeds go dashing over [snow] like an Esquimaux sledge with an invisible team until, losing their wings or meeting with some insuperable obstacle, they lie down once for all, perchance to rise up pines." Though the book as a whole reads like the rough draft it is, plenty of individual essays and sentences retain Thoreau's famous confidence and attention. Editor and Thoreau scholar Dean (Faith in a Seed) appends copious notes, along with passages from Thoreau's still unpublished, unfinished The Dispersion of Seeds. Illustrations by Abigail Rorer. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When he died in 1862, Thoreau left the fragmentary manuscript of Wild Fruits, itself to be part of a projected natural history of Concord. Dean, director of the Media Center at the Thoreau Institute, has edited Thoreau's manuscript, publishing it for the first time. Thoreau proposes to shift his focus from himself and the examination of his own deliberate life in nature to the careful observation of nature itself. Toward this end, he offers a series of paragraphs or brief essays describing the condition of each of the wild fruits he finds around Concord and supplementing these accounts with notes on the relevant lore. Thoreau writes with the same incisive style and dry wit characteristic of Walden. If this books lacks Walden's scope, it continues its spirit. Dean includes textual notes, a glossary, and a chronology as well as a succinct but substantive introduction. In bringing forth Wild Fruits, he has performed an immense service. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Thoreau (1817-62) protests the desecration of the landscape, reflects on the importance of preserving wild spaces for instruction and recreation, and envisions a new American scripture. Difficulties with the handwriting, method of composition, notations, and pagination have kept his final observations and meditations from being published previously. Now Dean, director of the Media Center at the Thoreau Institute, has wrought it into print and added voluminous notes. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Victor A. Kramer
Wild Fruits is scripture. Dean has done Thoreau, and readers, a real service by carrying the message forward.
Book
Kirkus Reviews
A work that has escaped publication since Thoreau wrote it, Wild Fruits will only strengthen the author's renown for his unique voice. A keeper of the Thoreau flame and Thoreau scholar, Bradley Dean (editor of a similar Thoreau work, Faith in a Seed, 1993, prematurely described in these pages as "no doubt [the] final Thoreau book of the century"), has now transcribed and brought to life still another of the Concord naturalist and philosopher's manuscripts that was never published in his lifetime. It is, as Dean wisely characterizes it, both a sacramental and scriptural work. The product of years of naturalistic observation, these lovely essays—some extended, some as short as a sentence—about flowers, bushes, and trees were originally culled by their author for lectures he delivered. They reveal his characteristic Transcendentalist views, his never-ending search "to find God in nature." A mix of empirical science, philosophical speculation, and occasionally tart wit, they are wonderfully pleasing for the knowledge they evince and for their calm, melodious cadences. Fortunately, too, Thoreau the keen and distinctive thinker is ever-present. Indignant, for example, at his contemporaries' failure to appreciate the huckleberry, he likens their obtuseness to the loss of "natural rights," thus giving fresh meaning to an ancient term. While never intruding on—in fact, scarcely explaining—Thoreau's prose, Dean artfully provides notes glossing terms, names, and references that might be obscure to a modern reader. He thus makes this 150-year-old work fully accessible to everyone. A work of often incandescent prose likely to find many readers among historians, naturalists,literary scholars, and, most of all, those who have long loved and learned from the author of Walden and other beloved texts. (Line drawings throughout; 3 facsimile manuscript pages.)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393321159
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Edition description: (Bradley P. Dean, Editor)
  • Pages: 430
  • Sales rank: 1,014,408
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Bradley P. Dean, an independent scholar living in West Peterborough, New Hampshire, has written extensively on Thoreau's life and writings, and has edited two of Thoreau's previously unpublished booklength manuscripts.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


WILD FRUITS


Most of us are still related to our native fields as the navigator to undiscovered islands in the sea. We can any afternoon discover a new fruit there which will surprise us by its beauty or sweetness. So long as I saw in my walks one or two kinds of berries whose names I did not know, the proportion of the unknown seemed indefinitely, if not infinitely, great.

    As I sail the unexplored sea of Concord, many a dell and swamp and wooded hill is my Ceram and Amboyna. Famous fruits imported from the East or South and sold in our markets—as oranges, lemons, pine-apples, and bananas—do not concern me so much as many an unnoticed wild berry whose beauty annually lends a new charm to some wild walk or which I have found to be palatable to an outdoor taste. We cultivate imported shrubs in our front yards for the beauty of their berries, while at least equally beautiful berries grow unregarded by us in the surrounding fields.

    The tropical fruits are for those who dwell within the tropics. Their fairest and sweetest parts cannot be imported. Brought here, they chiefly concern those whose walks are through the marketplace. It is not the orange of Cuba but rather the checkerberry of the neighboring pasture that most delights the eye and the palate of the New England child. For it is not the foreignness or size or nutritive qualities of a fruit that determine its absolute value.

    We do not think much of table fruits. They are especially for aldermen and epicures. They do not feed the imagination as these wildfruits do, but it would starve on them. The bitter-sweet of a white-oak acorn which you nibble in a bleak November walk over the tawny earth is more to me than a slice of imported pine-apple. The South may keep her pine-apples, and we will be content with our strawberries, which are, as it were, a pine-apple with "going-a-strawberrying" stirred into them, infinitely enhancing their flavor. What are all the oranges imported into England to the hips and haws in her hedges? She could easily spare the one, but not the other. Ask Wordsworth, or any of her poets who knows, which is the most to him.

    The value of these wild fruits is not in the mere possession or eating of them, but in the sight and enjoyment of them. The very derivation of the word "fruit" would suggest this. It is from the Latin fructus, meaning "that which is used or enjoyed." If it were not so, then going a-berrying and going to market would be nearly synonymous experiences. Of course, it is the spirit in which you do a thing which makes it interesting, whether it is sweeping a room or pulling turnips. Peaches are unquestionably a very beautiful and palatable fruit, but the gathering of them for the market is not nearly so interesting to the imaginations of men as the gathering of huckleberries for your own use.

    A man fits out a ship at a great expense and sends it to the West Indies with a crew of men and boys, and after six months or a year it comes back with a load of pine-apples; now, if no more gets accomplished than the speculator commonly aims at, if it simply turns out what is called a successful venture, I am less interested in this expedition than in some child's first excursions a-huckleberrying, in which it is introduced into a new world, experiences a new development, though it brings home only a gill of berries in its basket. I know that the newspapers and the politicians declare otherwise—other arrivals are reported and other prices quoted by them—but that does not alter the fact. Then I think that the fruit of the latter's expedition was finer than that of the former. It was a more fruitful expedition. What the editors and politicians lay so much stress upon is comparatively moonshine.

    The value of any experience is measured, of course, not by the amount of money, but the amount of development we get out of it. If a New England boy's dealings with oranges and pine-apples have had more to do with his development than picking huckleberries or pulling turnips have, then he naturally and rightly thinks more of the former; otherwise not. No, it is not those far-fetched fruits which the speculator imports that concern us chiefly, but rather those which you have fetched yourself in the hold of a basket from some far hill or swamp, journeying all the long afternoon, the first of the season, consigned to your friends at home.

    Commonly, the less you get, the happier and the richer you are. The rich man's son gets cocoa-nuts and the poor man's pignuts, but the worst of it is that the former never goes a-cocoa-nutting and so never gets the cream of the cocoa-nut, as the latter does the cream of the pignut. That on which commerce seizes is always the very coarsest part of a fruit—the mere bark and rind, in fact, for her hands are very clumsy. This is what fills the holds of ships, is exported and imported, pays duties, and is finally sold in the shops.

    It is a grand fact that you cannot make the fairer fruits or parts of fruits matter of commerce; that is, you cannot buy the highest use and enjoyment of them. You cannot buy that pleasure which it yields to him who truly plucks it. You cannot buy a good appetite, even. In short, you may buy a servant or slave, but you cannot buy a friend.

    The mass of men are very easily imposed on. They have their runways in which they always travel and are sure to fall into any pit or trap which is set there. Whatever business a great many grown-up boys are seriously engaged in is considered respectable, and great even, and as such is sure of the recognition of the churchman and statesman. What, for instance, are the blue juniper berries in the pasture, considered as mere objects of beauty, to church or state? Some cowboy may appreciate them—indeed, all who really live in the country do—but they do not receive the protection of any community; anybody may grab up all that exist; but as an article of commerce, they command the attention of the civilized world. Go to the English government, which of course represents the people, and ask, "What is the use of juniper berries?"—and it will answer, "To flavor gin with." I read that "several hundred tons of them are imported annually from the Continent" into England for this purpose; "but even this quantity," says my author, "is quite insufficient to meet the enormous consumption of the fiery liquid, and the deficiency is made up by spirits of turpentine." This is not the use, but the gross abuse, of juniper berries, with which an enlightened government, if ever there shall be one, will have nothing to do. The cowboy is better informed than the government. Let us make distinctions and call things by their right names.

    Do not think, then, that the fruits of New England are mean and insignificant while those of some foreign land are noble and memorable. Our own, whatever they may be, are far more important to us than any others can be. They educate us and fit us to live here. Better for us is the wild strawberry than the pine-apple, the wild apple than the orange, the chestnut and pignut than the cocoa-nut and almond, and not on account of their flavor merely, but the part they play in our education.

    If it is of low tastes only that you speak, then we will quote to you the saying of Cyrus, the Persian king, that "it is not given to the same land to produce excellent fruits and men valiant in war."


    I mention these phenomena in the order in which they are first observed.


ELM


    Before the tenth of May (from the seventh to the ninth), the winged seeds or samaræ of the elms give them a leafy appearance, or as if covered with little hops, before the leaf buds are opened. This must be the earliest of our trees and shrubs to go to seed. It is so early that most mistake the fruit before it falls for leaves, and we owe to it the first deepening of the shadows in our streets.


DANDELION


    About the same time, we begin to see a dandelion gone to seed here and there in the greener grass of some more sheltered and moist bank, perhaps before we had detected its rich yellow disk—that little seedy spherical system which boys are wont to blow to see if their mothers want them. If they can blow off all the seeds at one puff, then their mothers do not want them. It is interesting as the first of that class of fuzzy or downy seeds so common in the fall. It is commonly the first of the many hints we get to be about our own tasks, those our Mother has set us, and bringing something to pass ourselves. So much more surely and rapidly does Nature work than man. By the fourth of June they are generally gone to seed in the rank grass. You see it dotted with a thousand downy spheres, and children now make ringlets of their crispy stems.


WILLOWS


    By the thirteenth of May the earliest willows (Salix discolor) about warm edges of woods show great green wands a foot or two long, consisting of curved wormlike catkins three inches long. Like the fruit of the elm, they form conspicuous masses of green before the leaves are noticeable, and some have now begun to burst and show their down—and thus it is the next of our trees and shrubs to shed its seeds after the elm.

    Three or four days later the Salix humilis and the smallest of our willows, Salix tristis, commonly on higher and drier ground than the ash and the early aspen, begin to show their down. The Salix tristis is generally gone to seed by the seventh of June.


SWEET FLAG


    As early as the fourteenth of May, such as frequent the riverside pluck and eat the inner leaf of the sweet flag and detect small critchicrotches, which are the green fruit and flower buds. The old herbalist Gerarde thus describes them: "The flower is a long thing resembling the cattails which grow on hazel; it is about the thickness of an ordinary reed, some inch and a half long, of a greenish yellow color, curiously checkered, as if it were wrought with a needle with green and yellow silk intermixt."

    By the twenty-fifth of May this bud, before it has blossomed and while yet tender, is in condition to be eaten and would help to sustain a famished traveller. I often turn aside my boat to pluck it, passing through a dense bed of flags recently risen above the surface. The inmost tender leaf near the base of the plant is quite palatable, as children know. They love it as much as the musquash does. Early in June I see them going a-flagging even a mile or two and returning with large bundles for the sake of this blade, which they extract at their leisure. After the middle of June, the critchicrotch, going to seed, becomes unfit to eat.

    How agreeable and surprising the peculiar fragrance of the sweet flag when you first bruise it in the spring! That this plant alone should have extracted this odor surely for so many ages from the moist earth!

    Gerarde says that the Tartars hold the root "in such esteem that they will not drink water (which is their usual drink) unless they have just steeped some of this root therein." Sir John Richardson tells us that "the Cree name of this plant is watchuske-mitsu-in, or `that which the muskrat eats,'" and that the Indians of British America use the root of this plant as a cure for colic: "About the size of a small pea of the root, dried before the fire or in the sun, is a dose for an adult.... When administered to children, the root is rasped, and the filings swallowed in a glass of water." Who has not when a child had this same remedy administered to him for that complaint—though the medicine came recommended by a lump of sugar, which the Cree boys did not get—which perhaps was longest in use thus by the Indians. Thus, we begin our summer like the musquash. We take our first course at the same table with him. These are his greens, while we are also looking for dandelions. He is so much like us; we are so much like him.


MOUSE-EAR


    About the twentieth of May I see the first mouse-ear going to seed and beginning to be blown about the pastures and whiten the grass, together with bluets, and float on the surface of water. They have now lifted themselves much higher above the earth than when we sought for their first flowers. As Gerarde says of the allied English species, "These plants do grow upon sandy banks and untoiled places that lie open to the sun."


MAPLES


    I begin to see the white-maple keys on the water as early as the twenty-eighth of May. Gerarde's account of the seeds of the "Great maple" of European mountains applies to these. Having described the flowers, he says, "After them cometh up long fruit fastened together by couples, one right against another, with kernels bumping out near to the place in which they are combined; in all the other parts flat and thin like unto parchment, or resembling the innermost wings of grasshoppers."

    About the twentieth the similar large green keys of our white maple are conspicuous. They are nearly two inches long and half an inch wide, with waved inner edges to the wings, like green moths ready to bear off their seeds. By the sixth of June they are about half fallen, and I notice that their fall takes place about the time that the great emperor moth (Attæus cecropia) comes out of its chrysalis, and it is sometimes found in the morning wrecked on the surface of the river amid them.

    The red-maple keys are not half so large as the white, but many times as beautiful. You notice the little fruit just formed early in May, while some trees are still in flower. As it increases in size, the maple tops acquire a browner red, almost a birch red. About the middle of May, the red maples along the edges of swamps, their fruit being nearly ripe, are among the most beautiful objects in the landscape, and more interesting than when in flower, especially if seen in a favorable light.

    I stand now on a knoll in the midst of a swamp and observe a young red maple at its base a few rods off, on one side with respect to the sun. The keys are high-colored, a sort of pink scarlet, and hang down three inches or more. Masses of these double samaræ with their peduncles gracefully rising a little before they curve downward, and only a little darker shade than the fruit, are unequally dispersed along the branches and trembling in the wind.

    Like the flower of the shad bush, this handsome fruit is seen for the most part against bare twigs, it is so much in advance of its own and of other leaves. It is fairly ripe about the first of June, and much of it is conspicuously light-colored instead of scarlet. It is in the midst of its fall about the seventh of June. By the first of June most trees have bloomed and are forming their fruit. Green berries also begin to be noticed.


STRAWBERRY


    The strawberry is our first edible fruit to ripen. I begin to find them as early as the third of June, but commonly about the tenth or before the cultivated kinds are offered. They are in their prime the last of June. In meadows they are a week later, and they linger there till late in July.

    Even old Tusser, who confines himself mostly to the coarser parts of husbandry, sings in his homely strain under "September":


Wife, into the garden, and set me a plot, with strawberry roots, of the best to be got: Such growing abroad, among thorns in the wood, well chosen and pricked, prove excellent good.


The old herbalist Gerarde, writing before 1599, gives us this lively account of the English strawberry, which is sufficiently applicable to our own. He says:


The strawberry hath leaves spread upon the ground, somewhat snipt about the edges, three set together upon one slender footstalk, like the trefoil, green on the upper side and on the nether side more white; among which rise up slender stems, whereon do grow small flowers, consisting of five little white leaves, the middle part somewhat yellow, after which cometh the fruit, not unlike to the mulberry, or rather the raspis, red of color, having the taste of wine, the inner pulp or substance whereof is moist and white, in which is contained little seeds. The root is threaddy, of long continuance, sending forth many strings, which disperse themselves far abroad, whereby it greatly increaseth.


Of the fruit he adds, "The nourishment which they yield is little, thin and waterish, and if they happen to putrify in the stomach, their nourishment is naught."

    By the thirtieth of May I notice the green fruit; and two or three days later, as I am walking, perhaps, over the southerly slope of some dry and bare hill, or where there are bare and sheltered spaces between the bushes, it occurs to me that strawberries have possibly set; and looking carefully in the most favorable places, just beneath the top of the hill, I discover the reddening fruit, and at length, on the very driest and sunniest spot or brow, two or three berries which I am forward to call ripe, though generally only their sunny cheek is red. Or else I notice one half-turned on the sand of the railroad causeway, or even on sand thrown out of a ditch in a meadow. They are at first hard to detect in such places amid the red lower leaves, as if Nature meant thus to conceal the fruit, especially if your mind is unprepared for it. The plant is so humble that it is an unnoticed carpet. No edible wild fruit, except the bog cranberry (Vacciniæ oxycoccus), and that requires to be cooked, lies so close to the ground as these earliest upland strawberries. Hence, Virgil with propriety refers to the strawberry as "humi nascentia fraga"—"strawberries growing on the ground."

    What flavor can be more agreeable to our palates than that of this little fruit, which thus, as it were, exudes from the earth at the very beginning of the summer, without any care of ours? What beautiful and palatable bread! I make haste to pluck and eat this first fruit of the year, though they are green on the underside, somewhat acid as yet, and a little gritty from lying so low. I taste a little strawberry-flavored earth with them. I get enough to redden my fingers and lips at least.

    The next day, perhaps, I get two or three handfuls of ripe berries, or such as I am willing to call ripe, in a similar locality, the largest and sweetest where the vines hang over the sand; and at the same time, commonly, I get my first smelling—aye, even tasting—of that remarkable bug (one of the Scutellaridæ) which we are wont to say tastes exactly as a certain domestic bug smells—and thus I am set up for the season. This bug, as you know, "has only to pass over a fruit to impart to it" its peculiar odor. Like the dog in the manger, he spoils a whole mouthful for you, without enjoying them himself. It is wonderful by what affinity this fellow can find out the first strawberry.

    You seek the early strawberries on any of the most favorable exposures, as the sides of little knolls or swells, or in and near those little sandy hollows where cows have pawed in past years, when they were first turned out to pasture, settling the question of superiority and which should lead the herd. Sometimes the berries have been dusted by their recent conflicts.

    I perceive from time to time in the spring and have long kept a record of it, an indescribably sweet fragrance, which I cannot trace to any particular source. It is, perchance, that sweet scent of the earth of which the ancients speak. Though I have not detected the flower that emits it, this appears to be its fruit. It is natural that the first fruit which the earth bears should emit and be, as it were, a concentration and embodiment of that vernal fragrance with which the air has lately teemed. Strawberries are the manna found, ere long, where that fragrance has been. Are not the juices of each fruit distilled from the air?

    This is one of the fruits as remarkable for its fragrance as its flavor, and it is said to have got its Latin name, fraga, from this fact. Its fragrance, like that of the checkerberry, is a very prevalent one. Wilted young twigs of several evergreens, especially the fir-balsam, smell very much like it.

    Only one in a hundred know where to look for these early strawberries. It is, as it were, a sort of Indian knowledge acquired by secret tradition. I know well what has called that apprentice, who has just crossed my path, to the hillsides this Sunday morning. In whatever factory or chamber he has his dwelling-place, he is as sure to be by the side of the first strawberry when it reddens as that domestic-smelling bug that I spoke of, though he lies concealed all the rest of the year. It is an instinct with him. But the rest of mankind have not dreamed of such things as yet. The few wild strawberries that we have will have come and gone before the mass know it.

    I do not think much of strawberries in gardens, nor in market baskets, nor in quart boxes, raised and sold by your excellent hard-fisted neighbor. It is those little natural beds or patches of them on the dry hillsides that interest me most, though I may get but a handful at first—where, however, the fruit sometimes reddens the ground and the otherwise barren soil is all beaded with them, not weeded or watered or manured by a hired gardener. The berries monopolize the lean sward now for a dozen feet together, being the most luxuriant growth it supports, but they soon dry up unless there is a great deal of rain.

    Sometimes it is under different circumstances that I get my first taste of strawberries. Being overtaken by a thundershower as I am paddling up the river, I run my boat ashore where there is a hard-sloping bank, turn it over, and take shelter under it. There I lie for an hour in close contact with the earth and in a fair way to find out what it produces. As soon as the rain begins to hold up, I scramble out, straighten my legs, and stumble at once on a little patch of strawberries within a rod, the sward all red with them, and these I pluck while the last drops are thinly falling.

    But it is not without some misgivings that we accept this gift. The middle of June is past, and it is dry and hazy weather. We are getting deeper into the mists of earth; we live in a grosser element, further from heaven these days, methinks. Even the birds sing with less vigor and vivacity. The season of hope and promise is passed, and already the season of small fruits has arrived. We are a little saddened because we begin to see the interval between our hopes and their fulfillment. The prospect of the heavens is taken away by the haze, and we are presented with a few small berries.

    I find beds of large and lusty strawberry plants in sproutlands, but they appear to run to leaves and bear very little fruit, having spent themselves in leaves by the time the dry weather comes. It is those earlier and more stunted plants which grow on dry uplands that bear the early fruit formed before the drought.

    In many meadows, also, you find dense beds of rank leaves without fruit, yet some meadows produce both leaves and fruit, and these are they whose clusters are handsomest. In July these ranker meadow strawberries are ripe, and they tempt many to trample the high grass in search of them. They would not be suspected for aught that appears above, but you spread aside the tall grass and find them deep in little cavities at its roots, in the shade, when elsewhere they are dried up.

    But commonly it is only a taste that we get hereabouts, and then proceed on our way with reddened and fragrant fingers till that stain gets washed off at the next spring. The walker in this neighborhood does well if he gets two or three handfuls of this fruit in a year, and he is fain to mix some green ones and leaves with them, making a sort of salad, while he remembers the flavor of the ripe ones. But it is not so up-country. There they are prosaically abundant, for this plant loves a cool region. It is said to be "a native of the Alps and the forests of Gaul," but to have been "unknown to the Greeks." A hundred miles north from here, in New Hampshire, I have found them in profusion by the roadside and in the grass and about the stumps on the adjacent hillsides in newly cleared land everywhere. You can hardly believe with what vigor they grow and bear there. They are not far off, commonly, from where trout lurk, for they love the same sort of air and water, and the same hut commonly offers the traveller amid the New Hampshire mountains strawberries and trout rods. In the vicinity of Bangor, as I am told, they are found at the roots of grass where it is up to your knees, and they are smelled before they are seen, in hot weather—also on mountains whence you see the Penobscot fifteen miles off and the white sails of a hundred schooners flapping. There, sometimes, where silver spoons and saucers are scarce but everything else is plentiful, they empty countless quarts into a milk pan, stir in cream and sugar, while the party sits around with each a big spoon.

    Hearne, in his Journey to the Northern Ocean, says that "strawberries [the Oteagh-minick of the Indians is so called because it in some measure resembles a heart], and those of a considerable size and excellent flavor, are found as far north as Churchill River," especially where the ground has been burned over. According to Sir John Franklin, the Cree name is Oteimeena, and Tanner says that the Chippeway name is O-da-e-min—all evidently the same word, as they have the same meaning. Tanner says that the Chippeways frequently dream of going to the other world, but when one gets to "the great strawberry, at which the Ie-bi-ug [or spirits of the dead] repast themselves on their journey," and takes up the spoon to separate a part of it, he finds it turned to rock, the soft red-sand rock which is said to prevail about Lake Superior. The Dakotahs call June Wazuste-casa-wi, "the moon when the strawberry, is red."

    From William Wood's New England's Prospect, printed about 1633, it would appear that strawberries were much more abundant and large here before they were impoverished or cornered up by cultivation. "Some," as he says, "being two inches about, one may gather half a bushel in a forenoon." They are the first blush of a country, its morning red, a sort of ambrosial food which grows only on Olympian soil.

    Roger Williams says, in his Key, "One of the chiefest doctors of England was wont to say, that God could have made, but God never did make, a better berry. In some parts, where the natives have planted, I have many times seen as many as would fill a good ship, within a few miles' compass. The Indians bruise them in a mortar, and mix them with meal, and make strawberry bread ... having no other food for many days." Boucher, in his Natural History of New France, printed in 1664, tells us that all the land is filled with an incredible and inexhaustible quantity of raspberries and strawberries; and in Loskiel's History of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Indians of North America, especially the Delawares (1794), it is said, "Strawberries grow so large and in such abundance, that whole plains are covered with them as with a fine scarlet cloth." In the year 1808 a Mr. Peters, a Southerner, wrote to a Philadelphia society to confirm the statement that a tract of forest containing some eight hundred acres somewhere in Virginia, as it appears, having been burned in the last century, strawberries came up profusely. "The old neighbors," says he, "dwelt much on the exuberant plenty, and general cover of the strawberries; which, they said, could be scented, when perfectly ripe, from a great distance. Some of them described the vast surface and waste of flowers, when the plants bloomed, in a style that, if the fact had not been well attested, would have appeared fiction. This inimitable gala dress of nature, and the immense number of bees, with their busy hum, frequenting the blossoms and fruit, with the rugged and diversified mountains on the borders [of the tract], would have furnished a scene of pastoral imagery, for poetic description."

    The historians of New Hampshire towns tell us that "strawberries are less abundant than in former days, when the land was first cultivated." In fact, hereabouts the strawberries and cream of the country are gone. That ineffable fragrance which gives to this berry its Latin name can never exhale from our manured fields. If we would behold this concentrated perfume and fruit of virgin and untoiled regions in perfection, we must go to the cool banks of the North, where perhaps the parhelion scatters the seeds of it; to the prairies of the Assineboin, where by its abundance it is said to tinge the feet of the prairie horses and the buffaloes; or to Lapland where, as one reads, the gray rocks that rise above the lowly houses of the Laps "blush literally crimson with the wild strawberries—those wondrous strawberries that spring up everywhere in Lapland, whose profusion is such that they stain the hoofs of the reindeer, and the sledge of the traveller, yet are so delicate and matchless in flavor, that the Czar himself sends for them, by estaffettes, all the long way to his summer palace of Tsazkoy Chèlè." In Lapland, that twilight region where you would not expect that the sun had power enough to paint a strawberry red, still less mature it! But let us not call it by the mean name of "strawberry" any longer because in Ireland or England they spread straw under their garden kinds. It is not that to the Laplander or the Chippewayan; better call it by the Indian name of heart-berry, for it is indeed a crimson heart which we eat at the beginning of summer to make us brave for all the rest of the year, as Nature is.

    You occasionally find a few ripe ones of a second crop in November, a slight evening red, answering to that morning one.


GALLS AND PUFFS


    Not to mention the various beautiful fruit-like galls which form on oaks as soon as the leaves start—huckleberry apples, and so on. I notice by the sixth of June (and after) great baggy, light-green puffs on the panicled andromeda, some with a reddish side, two and a half or three inches through. They resemble those abortions to which the Canada plum is apt to turn in muggy weather, and they hang on black and shrivelled till winter. You also see now very light and whitish, but more solid juicy, puffs on the swamp pinks, which have a fungus-like smell when broken.

    A peculiarly sluggish and mephistic character whom I used to know informed me that he called these "swamp apples." He said that he liked them, and he judged that he "ate as much as three bushels of them when he was a boy"! I thought as much. That is what he was raised on, then.

(Continues...)

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction
Wild Fruits 1
Related Passages 241
A Thoreau Chronology 273
Glossary of Botanical Terms 276
A Note on the Provenance of the Manuscript 278
A Note to the Reader 279
Manuscript Facsimile 280
Editor's Notes 285
Works Cited 377
Acknowledgments 386
Index 389
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)