SHREVEPORT — Poo-Poo Butler and Doris Wilson are pulling tomatoes, squash and cabbage from the truck farm they have tended for many years in Bossier City.
They sell them at Lucky Liquor, deep in Shreveport’s Ledbetter Heights — a stone’s throw from downtown, around the corner from Millennium Studios Shreveport and down the hill from First United Methodist Church of Shreveport.
When purple-hulled peas are ready, you are likely to see Wilson and maybe Butler, too, sitting in front of the bar — with its quirky mural identifying the establishment — shelling those peas. “We are famous for our purple hulls,” Butler said.
“We go to the garden in the morning and I go and shell them and put them in a beer box and it keeps them cool until the next morning,” Butler said.
But customers also like to buy them in the pod.
“A lot of old ladies like to shell them the old-fashion way,” Butler said.
On that day, what’s ripe is cabbage, squash, tomatoes. What’s sold each day is fresh picked.
Fans also relish the greens, but you will have to wait for those. They go in the ground in August and will be ready in January.
So the couple’s produce is really up for grabs almost all year, although sporadically, so you really have to call the bar to see what is in and if the vegetable stand is open.
If the name Lucky Liquor sounds familiar, and if you have seen HBO’s “True Blood,” you’ll know it has made the bar famous. It’s featured in the opening credits of the TV show, which makes its home in the fictitious Bon Temps.
“The building is the first thing you see,” said Chris Jay, staffer with Shreveport-Bossier Convention Tourist Bureau.
“Fans of the hit regularly turn up to take photographs and chug cocktails,” Jay said in a story he did for “Louisiana Kitchen.”
“They come from all over,” Wilson said.
The 4-acre truck farm is within sight of one of the area’s busiest corridors at Interstate 20 and Barksdale Air Force Base, but feels like the middle of the country.
“The pea patch is right out there,” Wilson said, pointing to lush plants.
“These are the tomatoes and there is the row of cabbage. Oh, and the corn is just about ready,” she added, pointing to corn laden with cobs which dripped with silk.
“If they are ripe, they will be brown,” she said of the silks.
“Oh, and the squash is just about ready to pick and eat. There will be a ton,” Butler added. “Oh, and these are the Irish potatoes.”
“He lets the cabbage get enormous. He will not pull it until it gets like this,” continued Wilson, stretching her arms way out.
“Another two weeks and the bell peppers will be ready,” Wilson added.
Pointing out the watermelon vines, she spreads out her arms and says they go all the way down the long row to the other side of the field — eight rows.
“They are mixed in with the purple hulls and the corn gives them shade. Watermelons need the sun, but they also need shade, so they don’t burn,” Wilson continued.
And, there is cantaloupe, Irish potatoes and there’s the okra. “It is just now beginning to bloom. Once it starts, we can’t keep it. We have to pick it every other day. It grows until September. We have to chop it down every year. We had to get ready for the mustard and turnip greens,” Butler interjects.
Irish potatoes, rutabagas, tomatoes, pepper cabbages, cucumbers and in the winter, collards for fellow farmer Pete Burks.
Everything they plant by hand.
“When you plant by hand, you know it is in the ground. By machine, you don’t know if (seeds) have dropped,” Wilson said.
They chop with a hoe and irrigate with water hoses.
“I just like to do it,” said Butler, who has a full-time job.
“He sleeps it. He breaths it. He thinks he is in heaven to be out here and looking at the garden,” Wilson said.
And he loves to eat what he grows. As she tours, Wilson also gives cooking lessons, relating simple ways to prepare the goodness which sprouts up from the earth.
For the squash: “Cut up bacon into tiny pieces and a little onion. Once the onion and bacon are cooked down, add squash and a little water and a slow fire.”
For the purple hulls: “Put in a ham hock — we use ham hock and neck bones — and put them on a low fire and let them cook about three hours.”
Both Wilson and Butler spent time gardening when they were children. Perhaps their love of the earth and gardening bubbles up from separate childhood memories.
Wilson spent every summer with her grandmother in Coushatta, who was famous for her crowder peas, but who grew everything and had a smokehouse where she smoked her own meat.
“The only thing she bought at the store was meal, flour and sugar,” Wilson said.
Butler lived and worked on a farm in Benton, where his family grew vegetables.
So when you have a hankering for fresh produce, Lucky Liquor is another source to mine.
The tomatoes are in. And the purple hulls should be ready soon. Wilson is ready to shell them.
However, you will have to patiently wait for the greens.