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ten different processes by hand and machinery. A correspondent to the Saturday Magazine states that “very old drying linseed oil, when spread in a thin layer and left for many months exposed to the sun, assumes a consistency very much resembling Caoutchouc, and may be used for many of the purposes to which the latter is applied.”
The Jatropha elastica, or Syringe-tree of Cayenne in South America, from which a great supply of caoutchouc is obtained, is a tall, straight, branchless tree, with leaves at the top resembling the manioc; green on the upper and white on the under surface. Each of the seed-pods contain three kernels, which, boiled in water, form a sort of butter or lard, used for culinary purposes in Cayenne. The natives apply the caoutchouc to a variety of purposes. They make it into bottles with very narrow necks, through which a reed is introduced; the bottles are then filled with water, and one is given to each guest at an Indian entertainment; the reed is put into the mouth, the bottle is squeezed by the hand, and water is thereby squirted through the reed. This odd mode of supplying the guests with drink obtained for the
tree from which the caoutchouc is produced the name of the Syringe-tree.
A juice more or less resembling the caoutchouc may be procured in a similar manner from various trees growing in warm climates.
The bark, more especially the leaves, of the white mulberry abound in a milky-juice which is found to have more or less of the properties of caoutchouc, according to the climate in which the tree grows. It is thought by many to be owing to this property in the leaves of the mulberry that the coccoons of the silk-worm have so much more tenacity of fibre than those of any other insect that feeds on the leaves of trees.
THE BUTTER TREE.
THE Sheah tree, from which the inhabitants of Kabba, in Africa, prepare their vegetable butter, very much resembles the American oak; the fruit of it has somewhat the appearance of the Spanish olive. From the kernel of this, the butter is prepared. This is done by boiling it in water. The kernel is covered with a sweet pulp, under a thin green rind; and the butter produced from it, besides the advantage of its keeping the whole year round without salt, is whiter, firmer, and of as rich a flavour as the best butter made from cow's milk. The growth and preparation of this commodity seems to be amongst the first objects of African industry, and it constitutes a main article of their inland commerce.
In India, in the neighbourhood of Behar, a tree called by the natives “mahwah" produces a fruit of which the properties are similar to those of the African Sheah. The seeds are full of oil of the consistence of butter or “ ghee,” which is obtained by expression; the natives frequently mix it with that substance, being much cheaper. They use it as ghee in their victuals and in the composition of some sorts of sweetmeats; they also burn it in their lamps. It is regarded as a salutary remedy for wounds and for eruptions on the skin. At first it is of the consistence of common oil, but soon coagulates. After being kept some time, it acquires a bitterish taste and rancid smell. This might be avoided if more care were taken in its preparation.
The tree, strange to say, will grow in the most barren ground, even amongst stones and gravel.
At Sierra Leone there is also a tree known by the name of the Butter and Tallow Tree, from the yellow greasy juice its fruit yields when cut.
Of another tree, called “phulwah," the seed is collected about August. On opening the shell of the seed, or nut, which is of a fine chesnut colour, smooth and brittle, the kernels appear, of the size and shape of a blanched almond: these are bruised on a smooth stone to the consistence of cream or of a fine pulpy matter; this is put into a cloth bag, with a moderate weight laid on, and left to stand till the oil or fat is expressed, which becomes immediately of the consistence of hog's lard, and is of a delicate white colour.