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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Out of Africa
Greg Grant, June 22, 1997

With the recent passing of Juneteenth, I thought it would be a good time to examine Africa's horticultural and landscape contributions to the South. As with most days, we might as well start in the kitchen. Several of our southern staple foods hail from the continent of Africa.

Were you aware that peas are from Africa? Of course when we say "peas" in the South, we all know what we're talking about. In the North, "peas" would mean English or green peas (Yuck!). There, they refer to OUR peas as cowpeas or field peas. As a kid we had peas at almost every meal. Purple hull peas for everyday, and cream peas for holidays. It's still imperative at home that the freezer be filled with peas each summer.

Do you like gumbo? Apparently "gombo" is an African word for okra which also hails from Africa. Once again, a lot of folks who aren't from the South don't eat okra. I had lunch with a couple the other day that was raised in the midwest. As she helped herself to the bright red pickled beets from the salad bar I made some "off color" remark about how she could possibly eat those things. She was quick to point out that they were very good but she wouldn't touch "that slimy" pickled okra I had on my plate.

Sweet potatoes have been cultivated for so long that their native origin is somewhat obscure. Although they have long been thought to be a product of Africa some suggest that they are originally native to tropical America. It would make sense however for them to have been brought from Africa to the West Indies. Although true yams are native to the Orient and aren't grown here, the word "yam" apparently originated in Africa and became synonymous with sweet potatoes in the South.

Can you imagine the South without big sweet watermelons? Yep, the watermelon, one of are most famous crops, is from Africa as well.

A number of flowers and ornamental plants are from Africa too. Most plants with "cape" as part of the name picked that up from the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. Some plants like the cape jasmine and African marigolds weren't actually native to Africa but were first found cultivated there.

Flowering plants that owe their existence to Africa include periwinkles, gladiolus, montbretia, crinum lilies, cape honeysuckle, and plumbago.

The rural South has always been famous for its yard art. Does anybody remember seeing "bottle trees" in the yard. I own three myself. The bottle tree concept originated in Africa as a way to trap evil spirits before they entered the home. Ever listened to the howling of an open bottle in the wind? Once those spirits get trapped in the bottles they make a lot of racket about wanting out!

So you see, not only did Africa help build the South, it helped build southern gardens as well.