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cabbageMilk and cookies, Valentine’s Day and flowers, peanut butter and jelly some things are just meant to be together. For St. Patrick’s Day it’s corned beef and cabbage, which has been an American tradition since the 1800s. But did you know that cabbage became popular as a result of a damaging agricultural fungus?

More than 150 years ago, Ireland was a large agricultural nation, many Irish people were tenant farmers and the potato, imported from South America, was a staple crop. In the mid 1800s potato plants started to show signs of a strange disease that caused potatoes to rot. This disease spread across Ireland, drastically reducing their potato production, causing mass starvation economic devastation, and what is known today as the Irish Potato Famine.

The culprit behind the famine was late blight or potato blight (Phytophthora infestans), a fungus-like airborne microbe not native to Ireland. The Irish Potato Famine is just one example of how invasive species can devastate the environment and agricultural systems in an area, consequently affecting the lives and livelihoods of people in that region.

With the devastation the potato famine had brought to Ireland, the Irish turned to cabbage as a primary source of sustenance. Many affected by the agricultural ruin fled the country for America, bringing with them an assortment of cabbage dishes. One popular dish is bacon and cabbage. Yes, I said bacon, and no I do not mean corned beef. Originally bacon was a primary source of protein for the Irish because of the high cost of beef. It was cheap, and readily available. Once in America the situation changed. Corn beef was the cheaper alternative and quickly became an Americanized version of cabbage and bacon.

In Florida, cabbage remains a wonderful affordable vegetable that is widely grown; ranking 3rd in the nation accounting for approximately 13% of U.S. cabbage production.  Cabbage can be readily found in season from November to June.

So while donning your greenest attire and feasting on your annual corned beef and Florida cabbage, you can education your family and friends about the wonderful history of cabbage and its abundant heritage in Florida.

Check out these great cabbage-inspired recipes:

Hearty Florida Cabbage Soup

Hearty Florida Cabbage Soup

Baked Cabbage Egg Rolls 

Bake Cabbage Egg Rolls

Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage

Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Eight Caribbean nations are partners in the program. Now it has jumped the pond.

LinusLookalikeKingston2

Agricultural Detector Dog Kingston with poster featuring Linus at the airport in Shannon, Ireland.

Thanuja Hall, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection canine handler who works preclearance at the airport in Shannon, Ireland, sent us photos of her canine partner, Kingston, in front of a Don’t Pack a Pest sign she has on display there.

Kingston bears a strong resemblance to Linus, the detector dog at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport and the face of Don’t Pack a Pest program since its inception in 2011. Beagles are the preferred breed for inspecting travelers’ luggage for undeclared items that might be transferring invasive species.

The Don’t Pack a Pest program is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture and Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Its goal is to remind international travelers to declare agricultural items in luggage in order to avoid transporting invasive pests and diseases.

Partnering nations include Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. Johns, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands.

If you’re traveling to Shannon, Ireland, say hello to Thanuja and Kingston for us. But first, check www.dontpackapest.com to ensure you are not carrying contraband in your luggage.

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St. Patrick’s Day marks the sight of people wearing green everywhere, either to celebrate or avoid being pinched. St. Patty’s Day is associated with a number of religious and cultural traditions, and the luck of the Irish, of course. However, there was a time when the Irish were not so lucky. Ever heard of the Irish Potato Famine? Let’s go back to the 1800s.

More than 150 years ago, Ireland was a largely agricultural nation, many Irish people were tenant farmers and the potato, imported from South America, was a staple crop. In the mid-1800s, potato plants started to show signs of a strange, new disease that rotted potatoes and made them inedible. This disease spread across Ireland, drastically reducing Ireland’s potato production, causing mass starvation, devastation and what is known today as the Irish Potato Famine.

The culprit behind the famine was Phytophthora infestans, a fungus-like airborne microbe not native to Ireland. The Irish Potato Famine is just one example of how invasive species can devastate the environment and agricultural systems in an area, consequently affecting the lives and livelihoods of people in that area.

Closer to home, in 2004, another fungus in the Phytophthora family, sudden oak death (Phytopthora ramorum), was found in a North Florida nursery.

Florida is a sentinel state for invasive pests and diseases, as it serves as an international hub for travel, trade and tourism. Left unmanaged or unregulated, Florida could easily become a major port of entry for undetected plant pests and diseases. However, agencies like USDA and FDACS/DPI serve to protect citizens and the environment and agriculture industries that play such a large role in their daily lives by monitoring, regulating and researching pests and diseases. Just last year, Florida was affected by citrus black spot, Mediterranean fruit flies, laurel wilt and the redbay ambrosia beetle, the Oriental fruit fly, Mikania micrantha, the peach fruit fly and the European pepper moth, among so many other plant and apiary pests and diseases.

Don’t just wear green. Help keep Florida green by supporting USDA and FDACS/DPI efforts. You can help by becoming aware of invasive pests and diseases threatening Florida, and by making sure that when you travel, you don’t pack a pest. Learn more about Florida’s plant and apiary industries at http://www.freshfromflorida.com/pi.

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