Pontchatoula farmer Heather Robertson standing among the 2012 planting of bananas on her farm. The banana project is funded with support from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry via a USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant.
A common refrain at New Orleans farmers markets is the novelty song “Yes, We Have No Bananas.” It’s from the 1923 Broadway revue "Make It Snappy.” Though the French Market was resplendent in bananas back in the 1920s, in today's localvore markets bananas are not part of the equation. Isn’t that funny? They grow all over town.
You know, one of the benefits of open-air farmers markets is their flexibility and mobility. By contrast, brick and mortar retail is land-locked, and thus unable to respond to changes in neighborhoods. Farmers markets are nimble. They can pack up and relocate to sunnier spots.
The Louisiana mirliton is disappearing. But, there is hope.
In recent years, Lance Hill has become an unexpected mirliton midwife. He has assembled a fleet of farmers, backyard growers, and foragers to search for and propagate disappearing heirloom varieties of this unique vining, chayote squash. They scour farmers markets, garage roofs, storm fences and other places where fruit can still be found. I just viewed video footage of an incredible mirliton orchard in Harvey.