It’s hard to imagine the agricultural landscape of the state of California before the mass cultivation of the orange or the wine grape, but I ran across an interesting 1855 article from the Daily Alta California that gives readers a glimpse of how these two crops were perceived in the mid-19th century before their mass cultivation.
To be sure, southern California, as the article notes, was already producing an abundance of orchard and vineyard fruit, like grapes, pears, peaches, and figs, but it’s really fascinating to read first-person perceptions of two crops that would eventually become so integral to the state’s economy and identity.
Some of the editors of the San Francisco paper received a package of “delicious” oranges from the orange groves of Los Angeles resident, Benjamin Wilson. The editors note that the city of Los Angeles was already famous for producing orchard fruits, but they add that “the orange has not been very extensively cultivated.” Apparently in the mid-1850s, some oranges were being grown in Los Angeles in addition to a “flourishing” orange grove located at the San Gabriel Mission.
“…and we doubt not that two or three years hence Los Angeles oranges will be found upon every fruit stand in the State.”
To say the least.
Wilson, according to the short article, was also experimenting with wine grapes and it’s mildly humorous to read the Daily Alta editors prognosticate (correctly!) that California would one day become a major wine producer and exporter.
“…and we believe the time is not far distant when California will be an exporter of wine.”