There are a few vegetables that grow almost wild in New Orleans gardens. One of them can be seen climbing trees or completely covering fences. That vegetable is the mirliton.
Madam of the Mirliton: Garden of Eden in the Heart of Central City New Orleans
Over the past weekend I discovered Jeannette Bell at an eat-locally-challenge event on Oretha Castle Hayley Blvd. and she has almost like a little farm in the heart of Central City in New Orleans.
For about ten years she’s had this huge lot with all manner of plants, flowers and vegetables. She calls it Fleur d’Eden and is located at 2111 Baronne right off Jackson on the downtown-lake side of the street.
The most spectacular thing there is the vast mirliton plants she has stretching on a trellis from the front of the property all the way to the back as this video shows.
Most of the time we get the majority of these light and flavorful vegetables from Mexico and they call them chayote. Only problem is they don’t last very long after you get them from the store and who knows what they put on them in the process of field to grocery shelf. Our local mirlitons are better.
I bought two of her young mirliton plants, one for me and one for my brother, and I’m going to plant mine along the fence. I tried doing this a few years ago in a pot and all I got were leaves. She told me they have to go in the ground so the roots can spread out. So I’m going to try again.
Around here the plants produce fruit in the fall, a time when New Orleanians prepare favorite holiday dishes like stuffed mirliton with shrimp or mirliton casserole. And these things are good just steamed or sliced and simmered in a little butter in a skillet. They don’t even need any salt. Yum, yum.
As I was leaving Jeannette told me about her Garden on Mars project she’s working on in another part of the city for reclaiming land and vacant lots for food production. And it’s on Mars Street.
As photos and articles attest on her site it seems like Ms. Bell is pretty much a celebrity in her own right. She says wants people to start growing more mirlitons and other local vegetables in their yards instead of having to import them from afar. It’s a lot healthier and better for the local economy and community.
I can get behind that. I’ll keep you updated on how my mirliton plant produces.