orchard

Fruit was very popular in New France. The most popular fruit trees were acclimated and protected in winter with straw wraps. Growing trees in espalier was widespread in Europe and practiced in Canada as well.

Berries, cultivated or wild, are also very popular. They are harvested in large quantity then dried or made into jam.

Pehr Kalm, a Swedish botanist and student of Linnaeus, came to Canada in 1749 and jotted down his observations about the gardens he saw here, including this: 

 Fruit trees grow very well in the Montréal area. The main fruits I saw here are various types of apple and pear, all very good. It should be noted that if apples grow well in Québec, pear do not acclimate well. Peaches grow neither voluntarily or well. Some trees become somewhat hardened, but it is necessary to wrap them in straw every winter. Previously I mentioned vines imported from France. Some plum trees were imported from there as well, and they have acclimated well here and need no special care in winter.

PRUNING ON ESPALIERS

Planted against fences, trees grown in espalier were protected from the wind and benefited from a microclimate. If we compare today’s new varieties with the old ones grown in espalier, such as those cited by Quintinie (1624-1691), creator of King Louis XIV’s kitchen garden, we notice that the latter have vanished. Having become delicate, they were replaced with new varieties.

The main goal of pruning is to keep the plants healthy by removing branches that are diseased, damaged or dead. Another goal of pruning is to shape a plant as it grows, to make it smaller or thicker according to the use to which it is destined. With fruit trees, pruning helps make the tree more productive. There are many ways to prune a tree: limiting its growth when it has become invasive, rejuvenating it by removing old wood, sculpting it to produce topiaries, espaliers or dwarf trees.

Espalier pruning is meant to shape the tree as it grows by choosing in advance the shape of the mature tree and by guiding the limbs. To do this, the tree is planted at the foot of a wall, against a trellis, and the limbs attached thereto. The tree, therefore, grows in two dimensions and gives the impression of a climbing plant. Apple trees, pear trees and vines are all very popular choices for this treatment. 

According to an old adage, black-current elixir can maintain health and make the old appear younger than they are. Its berries are used to make jellies, jams, syrups and wine. Infusions of black currant are recommended for rheumatism, gout and for kidney and bladder troubles.

Very popular in New France, it eventually surpassed black currant. Pehr Kalm noted its presence in kitchen gardens at Montréal and Québec. Its cultivar led to the development of the American black current which is easier to grow.

The pear tree originated in Asia Minor. Unknown in Egypt and Syria, pears were enjoyed in Greece where they were introduced from north of the Balkans. Pliny mentions some forty types. The Romans spread it through Europe. In the 17<sup>th</sup> century, as was the case with apples, there were desert pears, cooking pears and cider pears. The pear tree is best suited for temperate regions, but some species have been able to survive our winters, most particularly in the Montréal area. It grows well in espalier and the walls protect it from spring frosts, its worst enemy.

Easy to grow, the apple tree was already known in prehistoric times. Originating in central Asia, the apple was known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome where 32 varieties were listed. Very popular in the Middle Ages, it could be found in the orchards of Louis XIV where Quintinie (1624-1691, creator of King Louis XIV’s kitchen garden) grew at least eight varieties. The first settlers brought plants from Normandy to New France. They acclimated quite easily. Today, worldwide, there are over 7,000 varieties.
 

 Marking apples, a technique for the glory of king and fruit

King Louis XIV, the Sun King in his château at Versailles, wanted to eat only foods that were out of the ordinary and that were apart from the foods of common mortals. For him to accept to eat fruit, necessary for his health, a marking technique was used on apples and pears. The choicest fruits were selected at the beginning of summer and bagged. At the end of summer, a sort of mask in the king’s likeness was placed on the fruit. In early autumn, the masks were removed and, the fruit having ripened, there was a green portrait of the king on the fruit, distinguishing it from ordinary produce.

The origin of this technique dates from well before the Sun King. Toward the end of the 12th century, the Andalusian Arab agronomist Ibn Al’Awwam mentioned the technique in The Book of Agriculture. Marking apples was also very popular during the 19th and early 20th centuries, as can be seen at international exhibitions. At the time, this technique allowed producers of luxury fruit at Montreuil, near Paris, to face ardent competition from overseas competitors. Today, it is in Asia that marked fruit seem to be fashionable as gifts laden with symbolism, decorative objects, and even gifts to the gods.

Vines were present in Egypt at the end of the Tertiary period and are mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. Its name comes from the Latin vinum meaning “wine.” In ancient Greece, where they venerated Dyonysus, vines and wine were symbols of civilization. Viniculture was introduced in Gaul by the Romans. On his first voyage to Île d’Orléans, Jacques Cartier noted the presence of wild vines (vitis riparia) laden with grapes on the island. However, he said these grapes were neither as sweet or as large as those of France. Nevertheless, he named the island Île de Bacchus. In the 15th century France, vine sap was used on skin sores and as an eye lotion.