Do strawberries grow in Louisiana? Yes, they do. The quaint little town of Ponchatoula, which is north of Lake Pontchartain and New Orleans, holds a Strawberry Festival every April. There is music, entertainment, a king and queen, and of course, strawberries to eat. Ponchatoula holds fond memories for me. It was the first place we stopped when moving to Louisiana. The center of town had a cement pond with large alligator swimming in it. It was August and steamy hot. We had no air conditioning in our car and that was the first time I’d seen an alligator. Truly thought I’d moved to another land–a memorable moment.
World’s Longest Bridge
As a bit of trivia, the The Lake Ponchartrain Causeway bridge connects New Orleans with the north shore of the lake, ending in Ponchatoula. It is the longest bridge in the world and 40,000 cars cross it each weekday. The town of Ponchatoula has changed little over the years. Still a tiny community and tall pine trees sway in the breeze from the lake waters.
Do strawberries grow in Louisiana?
Perhaps a little surprising, but there are several parishes (counties) in Louisiana where strawberries are grown commercially, primarily Livingston and Tangipohoa Parishes. The farms are typically family owned and they grow other fruits and vegetables are throughout the rest of the year. Louisiana strawberries are plentiful in grocery stores now.
Later in April and May, many of these farmers open their fields to the public for picking the remaining strawberries. Our sweet neighbor, Essie, took us one year. I was immersed in picking the huge berries hidden in the bushes, while my two-year-old son ran up and down the rows stomping on anything he could find. Quite distressing to Essie, but I wasn’t about to stop picking the strawberries.
Louisiana strawberries are grown primarily in Livingston and Tangipahoa Parishes. The rich, loamy and silty soil in these parishes is great for growing strawberries. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the logging industry was prominent in these regions; railroads were built to carry out the huge cypress and hardwood trees.
Alas, the trees and timber industry was gone within a few years. Hungarian and Italian immigrants who had moved in to help with the logging were left without work. One of the crops they raised to fill the void was strawberries. The railroad lines carried the strawberry produce to markets in New Orleans and as far away as Chicago.
Currently, strawberries are grown primarily on family owned farms, many by descendants of the original settlers. Louisiana strawberries are sold locally, to grocery stores and farmers markets. In 2013, the LSU Agricultural Service reported 80 farmers with 361 acres of land producing a total of 762,025 flats of strawberries at a value of $12,436,248. Quite different from the huge commercial strawberry crops grown in California and Florida. For example, California was projected to have 41,000 acres of strawberries growing in 2013.
New varieties of strawberries have been introduced with fall transplantings. This means that strawberries are available in the winter months beginning with Thanksgiving. It is possible to find fresh strawberries year-around.
A person can grow strawberries in their garden. However, they are best transplanted from stock in October. The plants need full sunlight, a raised bed to provide drainage, rich silty soil and a large area. Since I have none of these in my backyard, I’ll stick to purchasing the berries in a grocery store.
There’s a good reason to eat strawberries. They are very healthy containing generous amounts of Vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants. In addition they are low in fat and calories.
You really don’t need a recipe for strawberries. Strawberries are best eaten fresh–add to cereal, salads. My favorites are strawberry ice cream and strawberry pie. Strawberries spoil quickly–so need to be consumed soon after purchasing. For our strawberry picking adventure, we returned with several flats of strawberries. I found my mother’s recipe for strawberry jam and also froze many of them.
Fresh Fruit Cocktail Bowl
Here’s a family favorite recipe. Any available fresh fruits can be added to the salad (and/or canned fruits). I use the juice from the mandarin oranges and pineapples for a dressing. I found this was a good way to get my children to eat fruit. This is a basic recipe:
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
- 1 banana, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup seedless grapes
- 1-8 oz can pineapple tidbits with juice
- 1-11 oz can mandarin oranges with juice OR 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup minature marshallows (optional)
- 1/2 cup pecan nut pieces (optional)
Mix all ingredients together. Chill and serve.