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The cochineal has been tried by Mr. Veitch, at his little Quinta of the Gorgulho, but has not yet been found to succeed. At this pleasing little spot, the botanist will find the lotus glaucus, lavandula pinnata, several of the asparaginia, barilla, and the gnaphalia crassifolia, among the rocks—with the hyoscyamus Madeiranensis, and several species of capsicums, besides numerous acacias, the hibiscus, and the datura arborea. But to specify the thousand exotics that perfume the air, and clothe with their luxuriant vegetation every garden, would be to enumerate the choicest of our hot-house plants growing in a state of nature.
The magnificent fruit-market of Funchal is beautifully situated in a grove of noble plane trees. Here, besides the usual fruits of Europe, the orange, lemon, grape, green figs, and pomegranates, &c., we have bunches of the most delicious bananas, (musa Paradisiaca,) piles of guavas, custard apples, and alligator pears—this latter is the fruit of the laurus Persea-it grows to a great size, and, when eaten with pepper and salt, is most delicious. The water and Valencia melons, with gourds and pumpkins of enormous growth, and the numerous tribe of curcurbitæ, which cost hardly any trouble in their cultivation, give the market a singularly rich appearance. Here, for the first time I tasted the fruit of the cactus triangularis ; it has a pinkish rind, grows to the size of a pear, the pulp nearly transparent, studded with black seeds, and has a most exquisite flavour—but it requires to be thoroughly ripe. The Cape gooseberry, the fruit of the physalis edulis, so much admired when carried as a preserve into Europe, grows in every hedge, and is one of the solonece with which this island so much abounds; and we must not forget the Sechium edule or Tchoo-tchoo, which is one of the finest and most delicate vegetables ever eaten.
I never saw a fishmarket equal to that of Madeira. The rival tints of the tenants of the water have often been contrasted with those of the air, by their respective admirers; for my own part I must give the palm to the fish—there is a glowing metallic lustre to be found in the scale rarely to be met with in the feather. A choicer spot could not be selected by the icthyologist than Madeira, as it combines all the fishes of the Mediterranean, with many of those of the West Indies, and the coast of Africa ; and its insular position catches, on their way, many migratory shoals, besides the regular frequenters. The murenæ, so much esteemed by the
Romans, are caught here of a great size, and the manner of taking them is peculiar. The fisherman seats himself on a rock, when the tide is coming in, singing, as he says, to charm the fish; as the water reaches the hole where the eel is, he comes out, when the fisherman captures him with a pair of large wooden nippers. Much as they were valued by the ancient Heliogabali, we tried them in every possible way, but could not liken their flavour to any thing but singed wool. The tunny fish, of immense size, often amounting to several cwt., are daily exposed in market. These, both fresh and salted, form a favourite food of the lower classes, and large quantities, cut up in junks and pickled, are sent into the interior—it has something the taste of coarse beef-steak, but makes a most admirable dish when corned. It is not, however, my intention to say more of the fish of Madeira, or enumerate the several specimens I have carried home with me, as a work upon the subject has just appeared, from the pen of the Rev. Mr. Lowe, who has been long resident in the island, and whose capability of producing such a book is already known to the scientific world.*
Oct. 31. I set out at an early hour with a friend, to visit the bluff headland of the “Brazen Head.” The morning was delightful, and the groups of peasantry, coming into market, which we met along the picturesque roads, made the scene quite enchanting. Companies of eight or ten, in some places, sat under the umbrageous shadow of a pine, eating their morning's meal, or completing their toilette, before entering the town ;-others hastened along, loaded with the various produce of their gardens, consisting of enormous pumpkins, piles of the most delicious grapes, bunches of yellow bananas, or strings of crimson pomegranates, and others carrying fowl, firewood, skins of wine, or fish, to Funchal. Each little party was preceded by its guitar player ;the instrument is small, with wire strings, and much in use among the natives. At times the performer accompanied it with his voice, and the whole group joined in the chorus. The Madeiranese, both men and women, are a fine race, much more so than those of the mother country. The men were well dressed, somewhat in the costume of English sailors, with little caps, not unlike inverted funnels, called carapucas on the tops of their heads; these
* For a new method of preserving fish, see Appendix A.
are worn more for ornament than use, as they could not be the least protection against the weather; this crowns the head-dress of the women also, being placed over the white muslin handkerchief which covers the head and hangs down over the shoulders. The gay chintz gowns and scarlet pelerines of the females gave them an air of lightness, and added much to the picturesque appearance of the groups.
The road is, in many places, very precipitous ; and here and there the rugged sides of the ravines afford opportunities of seeing the stratification, which breaks out occasionally in horizontal layers of scoriacious basalt, with bands of tufa rising in terraces ; between the interstices of these, springs the most luxuriant vegetation—the asclepium and globularia longifolia, now in full blossom ; higher up, the myrtle and the dwarf olive; and immediately at our feet the harefoot fern, and that species of house-leek common to the island, (sempervivum glutinosum,) the glutinous juice of which, when boiled into a jelly, is used by the fishermen to coat their nets, as a preventative against the rot. As we proceeded into the
hills, the cassia bicapsularis covers the fields, making them gay with its light yellow blossoms; the beautiful convolvulus altheafolia, and that elegant purple feathered grass, the paniculum repens, creeps through every wall and hedge-row; and the oxalis purpurea mingles with the Madeirian violet. Thousands of the rarest plants and most beautiful flowers adorn the landscape, and open one of the widest fields for the botanist and the lover of nature. Farther on, and at a greater elevation, the country becomes more barren, a red ferruginous earth taking place of the green verdure of the valleys we had left, and masses of scoria, covered with origanums, burst through the surface. The attention is here arrested by a number of natural walls of basalt, rising to the height of eight or ten feet above the surrounding level, covered with white lichens, and having small stunted plants of shumac creeping among their chinks and crannies; their irregular outline makes them look like so many castellated forts running along the hills. The soil is here so poor that it only affords a crop of rye every third year, and as soon as the grain is reaped, the ground is sown with broom, which, when well grown, is burned to manure the land for the subsequent crop. Clumps of those beautiful alpine monarchs, the pinus pinea and pinus pinaster, start up around you as you ascend, and the seed of the latter is much eaten here, as well as in Portugal. In the midst of the barrenness of this high elevation, an occasional cottage will present itself wherever a stream of water from the hills can be led amongst its orange groves—the walls coated with tomata, little gardens of sweet potato spread before the door, and figs and olive trees surrounding the enclosure, which is walled in by the impenetrable fence of the agave and prickly pear. The vines are raised from the ground on light trellises of cane placed horizontally-in many cases supported on stone pillars.
At length we reached the head, which juts out boldly into the sea, with a perpendicular face of rock several hundred feet high—a narrow ridge, with barely room for two to pass abreast, joining it to the mainland. The view from this point was very grand. The hills of Madeira rose in the back-ground, and the mists that hung upon them during the morning, like a great gauze curtain, were now either dissolving before the bright rays of the infant sun, or curling in wreathes along the ravines, as the light sea-breeze crept up the mountains. Funchal, embosomed in its rich evergreen foliage,
lay before us—the ships in the harbour riding proudly on the swell, or spreading out their sails to dry, like so many birds of the ocean about to take wing. The fishing-boats below us appeared the merest specks; and the shoals of enormous porpoises that gambolled round the rocks, looked but the breaking of a tiny wave. A transitory shower hanging over the distant Dezertas* gave us a lovely rainbow ; and the different light breezes that darkened at times the azure blue of the clear water beneath us, appeared so many things of life engaged in sham fight as they coursed along its tranquil surface. Large flocks of rock pigeons wheeled round our heads ; they exist in prodigious numbers on the island, and are considered a great delicacy.
The face of this enormous cliff presents an extraordinary appearance, with the different layers of red and yellow tufa, black scoriæ and columnar basalt, intersected by extraordinary dykes at different elevations. Caverns of great size run along the coast, into which the sea washes with tremendous fury. The roofs of these are coated with scoria and small pebbles, although the sea, at the highest, never reaches to within many feet of them; this seems to me one of the proofs that the sea originally washed these parts, and has since receded, or, to speak more correctly, the land has risen ; a further confirmation of which is the followinga high pillar, intended originally for shipping wine, now distant fifty-four yards from high-water mark, is to be seen on the Funchal beach ; it was built about forty-six years ago, and the water then washed its base. At the foot of it will be found several plants of the solanum Sodomeum, or famous apple of Sodom.
Great quantities of eels are taken upon this part of the coast, and we met several of the natives returning from fishing. My companion, a German botanist, well known in Funchal, purchased some, but having already filled all his capacious pockets with the wonders of the vegetable world, he, without a moment's hesitation, placed some six or eight of the live eels in the crown of his large straw hat, and, to keep them down, bound it under his chin with his pocket-handkerchief. Poor good-natured man, his costume and appearance were at all times a source of ridicule and amuse
* The Ihlas Dezertas are three small and uninhabited rocky islands lying to the S.S.E. of Madeira.