New Orleans has always been famous for its wide, tree-lined boulevards. It gives a certain beauty to the city that is often absent from other cities in America. One thing that I’ve always wondered upon, though, is the lack of edible plant material. I can recall when I was young that both sets of my grandparents had numerous fruits and veggies growing in their yards, be it merliton, figs, grapes, pecans, and even pepper bushes. I just don’t see that much these days.
(Hollygrove Market Garden, photo courtesy LSU Ag Center)
Many of the local dishes and drinks we in New Orleans take for granted came from similar gardens like my grandparents’, such as brandied cherries, stuffed mirliton, and pecan pie. The sad thing is that many New Orleanians are “resting on their laurels”, so to speak, and are neither growing or making such delicious things these days. Many of the old fig and pecan trees are long cut down, and, if vegetation is even replaced, have ornamentals there instead. While I appreciate the beauty of such plants and the fact they provide shade and fresh air, I think we’re missing out on not only our collective culture, but also a relatively easy source of food in our own yards and public spaces. I personally wish I had more space, but at least we have a bountiful collection of rosemary in the front of our home, which I pulled a half-dead, scrawny rose bush out to put in.
It is refreshing to see the revamping of places that citizens of this fair, though worn-down, city frequent, though I only see more ornamentals being planted—palms, live oaks, and flowery trees I don’t recognize. It makes no sense why a city wouldn’t want to have a little food security by planting something like a fruit tree instead.
In lieu of any municipal response, private groups have taken the lead, The local Viet community, which, unlike many residents of the city, are still big gardeners on the whole, are working on a large greening project out in the East. Aquaculture seems to be the big push of larger urban gardens in the area of late. There are 10s of 1000s of empty/abandoned lots in New Orleans; I don’t see why a few couldn’t be privately purchased by an individual or group for a local neighborhood garden or small orchard.
All this talk of “food deserts” and obesity might go to the wayside if more of us were out-and-about growing our own food.