Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE TALLOW TREE.

Croton sebiferum.

The Tallow Tree is a native of China, and resembles in appearance a pear tree. The trunk is short and thick, and the bark smooth. They are usually planted in plains, and in regular order, somewhat like the cherry orchards of England. The leaves are either of a dark purple or bright red; the blossoms yellow: this at a little distance gives the plantation the effect of an extensive flower-garden. The fruit is enclosed in a husk like that of a chesnut. This husk opens of itself when the fruit is ripe, and displays three white grains, about the size of a nutmeg. These contain the vegetable tallow so useful in China. The machine by which the fruit is bruised is a wheel moved backward and forward in the trunk of a tree, which is shaped like a canoe, lined with iron, and fixed in the ground. The axis of the wheel is attached to a long pole, which is laden with a heavy weight and suspended from a horizontal beam. The berries thus bruised and divided are exposed to the action of steam for a considerable time, until they become very soft, when they are quickly thrown upon layers of straw, covered up again with other layers of straw, and spread about as quickly as possible. Men do this with their feet; and, as the berries are very hot, and of course warily trodden on, the operation is said to bear a striking resemblance to dancing. The appearance of a number of men, gravely performing sundry evolutions on their toes, has been described as irresistibly ludicrous, particularly as it is unaccompanied by music. By this process large cakes are formed of the mingled grain and straw. The cakes thus formed are afterwards pressed in the same manner as the bruised seeds of the oil plant.

[graphic][merged small]

Pressure is not the only method of obtaining the tallow, for it is sometimes procured by boiling the bruised seed in water, and collecting the oily matter that floats on the surface. The tallow is hard and white, and has all the sensible properties of that from animals. Du Halde says, that three pounds of vegetable oil are mixed with every ten pounds of tallow, and that a quantity of wax is used to give it consistence. The best candles are also coated with wax. When properly prepared they burn almost without smoke, and quite free from a disagreeable smell. It does indeed often happen that the candles prepared with Vegetable Tallow burn with a great flame, throw out much smoke, and consume very quickly; but this must be attributed to a slovenly and dirty mode of preparation, and to the nature of the wick, which is made of the bamboo, dry and light, and not unlike the wick of a rushlight. Candles made by Europeans of this tallow have been found very nearly equal to those of wax.

THE BAMBOO TREE.

Arundo Bambos.

66

They built them here a bower of jointed cane :
Strong for the needful use, and light and long
Was the slight framework, rear'd with little pain.
Lithe creepers, then, the wicker sides supply,
And the tall jungle grass fit roofing gave.”

SOUTHEY's Curse of Kehama.

The great reed called the Bamboo shoots up a considerable number of canes, from the same bottom, which are nearly of the thickness of a man's thigh, and grow to the height of fifty to eighty feet. The leaves are small, narrow, and pointed, springing from the knots. The trees wave in the wind, presenting a very elegant feathery appearance. The pith of the young shoots, which is of a white colour, makes an excellent pickle, of as soft a consistence as beet-root. Williamson thus describes its important use to the natives of India in the construction of their dwellings.

K

« PreviousContinue »