Friday, December 9, 2011

Louisiana Pecans

A recent acquisition in the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners, located at Tulane University's Southeastern Architectural Archive, is Gary Paul Nabhan's Renewing America's Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent's Most Endangered Foods (2008).

Among his endangered foods, Nabhan includes the Centennial Pecan, a hardy propagation with a delicate flavor developed by a plantation slave known only as "Antoine," who grafted scionwood from a native tree found on the Anita Plantation onto rootstocks growing at Oak Alley Plantation (St. James Parish). Antoine's pecan became famous when it was named "Best of Show" at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1876).

In the late nineteenth century, New Orleans seedsman Richard Frotscher was selling the pecan under the name "Centennial," and also propagated his own pecan, known as "Frotscher" or "Frotscher's Egg Shell Pecan." Other Louisiana pecans were developed by William B. Schmidt of New Orleans (the "Pabst"), Duminie Mire of Union (the "Van Deman"), and Sebastian Rome of Convent (the "Rome"). The so-called Jewett pecan, named in honor of Colonel Stephen Jewett, originated from a nut purchased in New Orleans that was planted in Scranton, Mississippi by the young son of Charles M. Cruzat. The original Jewett pecan tree was still standing in 1904.

Read more about the history of pecan agriculture in The Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture 1904 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1905), pp. 405-416. Images above by B. Heiges for this publication, which is available via Google Books.

Additional resources related to Louisiana pecans may be found in the Garden Library of the New Orleans Town Gardeners and the Louisiana Research Collection, both part of Tulane University's Special Collections Division. Notable among these holdings are nurseryman William Nelson's Price List of Trees and a Practical Treatise on Pecan Growing and Richard Frotscher's Almanac and Garden Manual for the Southern States, both printed by New Orleans printer George Müller. These and other titles may be searched through Tulane's online public access catalog here.

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