A brief history lesson: How strawberries became a cash crop in Ponchatoula

PONCHATOULA, La. -- "They had the pine straw from the forest. They had the railroad that runs through the center of Ponchatoula."

Local historian Jim Perrin offers a glimpse on how Ponchatoula became the strawberry capital of Louisiana.

Pine needles acted as a mulch for the strawberries and the railroad made it possible for large quantities of berries to get from point "A" to point "B" without spoiling. And that's all it took for the quaint town of Ponchatoula to start harvesting strawberries by the crate load after 1900.

"Everybody picked strawberries. Getting there at the break of dawn, picking strawberries, putting them in pints, taking them to the packing shed where they were packed into 24 pint crates," says Perrin.

Ponchatoula was a prosperous harvesting town, supplying Chicago, markets in the North East and smaller shipments to New Orleans. Refrigerated railroad cars helped, of course, often stopping at local ice companies for a re-fill, but a new type of berry brought even more good fortune.

"They developed a superior type of strawberry plant called the Klondike and that had better shipping qualities," says Perrin.

Klondike strawberries were the real deal. They were delicious and durable enough to turn Ponchatoula’s new cash crop into a staple that's still enjoyed to this day.

"It's a delicious fruit, it tastes good by itself, with cream, with ice cream and any number of ways,” says Perrin.