Hammond, Louisiana: Strawberry Capital of America

Linda Cannon and her daughter Kim

Linda Cannon and her daughter Kim

Had a great birthday lunch with my special friend Linda Cannon and her daughter Kim in Hammond, Louisiana, “The Strawberry Capital of America.”

The City of Hammond is north of New Orleans and east of Baton Rouge, and was founded around 1818 by Peter Hammond, a Swedish immigrant who started growing trees to carve into products for the maritime industry. In 1854, the railroad came through, which made the area extremely important agriculturally and, a little later, in dairy farming. In the late 19th century, Sicilian immigrants settled around Hammond, and they were (and still are) fantastic farmers, who shipped their produce to larger markets by rail.

imageHammond is the largest city in Tangipahoa Parish and the hub of Louisiana’s premier strawberry-growing region that includes the towns of Amite, Independence, and Ponchatoula, a town that calls itself the Strawberry Capital of the World. (Sounds like there’s a friendly rivalry going on).

Fried Catfish with Shrimp Creole at Brady's

Fried Catfish with Shrimp Creole at Brady’s

But back to lunch — we ate in the Historic Downtown District at the bistro-ish Brady’s. I had a perfectly medium-rare Asian tuna salad. Linda’s pasta with a light sauce and shrimp was delicately seasoned, and Kim’s fried catfish with shrimp Creole was an eye-popping dish large enough to fed all three of us.

Strawberry Waffle with Vanilla Ice Cream at Tope la

Strawberry Waffle with Vanilla Ice Cream at Tope la

For dessert we walked around the corner to the hip restaurant Tope la, where I just had to have something with strawberries. The strawberry waffles with vanilla ice cream filled that bill, and it also filled me up so much that on my way back to Baton Rouge I had to fight nodding off behind the wheel.

I learned three things on this trip: 1. Not much makes you happier than spending time with an old friend. 2. There are plenty of tempting restaurants in Hammond, a quaint and thriving town overshadowed by the larger New Orleans and Baton Rouge. 3. Just about every town in Louisiana began with an interesting story, one that we modern folks typically haven’t heard.