Produce is a broad category that includes all fruits and vegetables grown in Louisiana. The top four types of produce grown in the state are tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries and satsumas. Other types of produce grown commercially include southern peas, bell peppers, mustard, navel oranges, okra, cabbage, cauliflower, mayhaws, squash, Irish potatoes, peaches, sweet corn, eggplant, cucumber and tabasco peppers. Tomatoes trace their origins back to the Aztecs in 700 A.D., where it is believed they are native. Although Americans love tomatoes today, that was not always the case. It was not until the pre Civil War period that the tomato became a kitchen vegetable. After that point, tomatoes have been a staple food item throughout the world. Watermelons can be traced back to southern Africa, but the first recorded watermelon harvest occurred 5,000 years ago in Egypt. Strawberries can trace back to the Romans and possibly even the Greeks. These berries gained their name when children threaded them into straw and offered them for sale. Strawberries were discovered in America in 1588, but commercial strawberry production in Louisiana first began in 1876. Satsumas are a type of citrus fruit. Citrus are among some of the oldest fruits known to man. In the early 1800s, satsuma trees were introduced to the United States. By the 1890s, satsuma trees were planted extensively across South Louisiana parishes.
Louisiana’s vegetable and fruit crop production is quite diverse and has improved from earlier years. Agriculture research by the LSU AgCenter has developed varieties that thrive in Louisiana growing conditions. More than 60 different types of produce are grown commercially statewide. Regardless of the commodity, weather is an annual factor in the success of each crop. Heavy spring rains or late spring freezes can wreak havoc on the crops. Production methods differ depending on the type of fruits or vegetable grown. Produce farmers have to monitor many aspects of their growth including soil fertility, weed management, insect management and water availability. The production of fruits and vegetables is very labor intensive, so finding available work force is also a factor that farmers must manage. Vegetables are sold on the fresh market and to processors, with many supermarkets and retailers buying their products directly from Louisiana growers.
Whole fruits and vegetable harvested fresh from the plant are the primary product. Once harvested, they are either consumed fresh or sent to processing. Depending on the type of produce, processing methods are varied. Tomatoes, for example, can include canned tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, and ketchup to name a few. Strawberry products include preserves, juices, wines, sauces and purees. Strawberry flavoring is also very popular in dairy products.
The nutritional value of fruits and vegetables vary according to the type. According to the MyPlate guidelines established by the United States Department of Agriculture, fruits and vegetables should be an vital part of your daily diet. MyPlate recommends that each meal contain half of a plate of fruits and vegetables.
The tomato plant is the Louisiana state vegetable and the strawberry is the Louisiana state fruit.
Strawberry Delight Cake
1 18 ½-ounce box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix
1 8-ounce package Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1 8-ounce container Cool Whip, thawed
1 16-ounce frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed
Prepare cake mix according to package directions.
Allow cake to cool and split layers in half.
Beat cream cheese; add Cool Whip.
Drain half of the syrup from strawberries; add strawberries and ½ syrup to cheese mixture. Beat well.
Frost each layer and top cake with a heavy frosting. Refrigerate. Improves second day.
Louisiana Farm Bureau Women Cookbook, Page 253
Submitted by Grace Graugnard of St. James Parish