Louisiana’s place in the history of pecans is of great significance. While not recognized as one of the larger pecan-producing states, Louisiana is known to yield a significant yard crop, credited with the successful grafting of pecan trees, for the promotion of improved varieties and for using the strategically placed Port of New Orleans for the global export of the pecan.
Antoine’s Improved Variety
Around 1846, it was Antoine, the first name-only slave gardener from New Orleans, who was credited as the first to successfully propagate pecans. By grafting a superior wild pecan to seedling pecan stocks, he created a new pecan plant, or as we call it today, an improved variety. His new pecan, Centennial, was named as an honor for winning the Best Pecan Exhibited award at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Antoine’s plantings lead to the first official planting of improved pecans.
After Antoine’s propagation success, it was New Orleans seedsman, Richard Frotscher, who promoted this improved variety throughout the South. Frotscher was a German immigrant who was friendly with Antoine’s plantation owner, Hubert Bonzano, another German immigrant and owner of Oak Alley Plantation outside of New Orleans. He took the promotion of improved pecans even further by spending time educating his customers on grafting, budding and top-working pecans in order to further improved varieties.
An International Gateway
The fact that pecans were a decidedly Southern crop, along with the strategic position of the Port of New Orleans, helped the pecan become a viable export product. From the shores of Louisiana, up the Mississippi river and through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, pecans were shipped around the globe. The success of the pecan trade through the Port of New Orleans led to more pecan orchards being planted in Louisiana and other regions throughout the South.
While Louisiana cannot boast of the largest or most prolific amount of pecans being harvested in any one state today, it will be forever linked to the very early success of the pecan industry. Louisiana can be easily recognized and given credit for landmark advances and promotion of pecans and the global popularity of this true American nut.