The mamou plant was very popular throughout Acadiana in the early 20th century.
Cough medicine made by our ancestors was usually a tea made from the crushed red seeds or roots of the plant.
A sick person was given the boiled liquid that was usually flavored with sugar or honey. The drink was said to alleviate flu symptoms and additionally provided the user with lots of vitamins. The concoction is still used by some families and traiteurs as a treatment for medical disorders.
The shrub is easily identified by its leaves, which looks like those of the chicken tree. There are some thorns throughout the stem.
Planting the seeds is fairly easy. Like with okra seeds, beans get better results when soaked in water for a day before planting. I have also had some success in transplanting the shoots from the parent plants.
There is a town in Evangeline Parish named Mamou. In 1907 the town was developed by C. C. Duson. Four years later, the town was incorporated.
The town was so named because it was located in the Mamou Prairie.
There are many theories as to how the name originated. One of the legends has it that the prairie was named for American Native Indian, Chief Mamou. Others believe it came from a similar sounding native word which meant “big hunting ground.”
Some think that because of its vast size the early English settlers called it Mammouth Prairie. The French, familiar with the family name Mamou, changed Mammouth Prairie to Mamou Prairie.
Years ago, while in the computer business, we did work for Tony Chachere. Chachere had asked us to print the mailing lists for his first cookbook, titled “Cajun Country Cookbook,” which included the recipe that became his Original Creole Seasoning. The elderly gentleman was quite a story teller.
Prior to starting his food business, he had worked as a traveling drug salesman during the Great Depression. At age 30, he started his own drug wholesale business, the Louisiana Drug Company. He created Mamou Cough Syrup and Bon Soir Bug insect repellent. The company became a million-dollar business, and Tony retired at a very early age, for the first of his three retirements.
He described Mamou Cough Syrup as being sold in a brown flask bottle. The label was white, with “MAMOU” across the top in red letters. Some said it tasted worse than Hadacol.
Author Revon Reed in his book “Lache Pas La Patate” gives a fanciful account of the naming of Mamou Prairie, “When the prairie was first settled by Europeans, they brought their animals, including heards of cattle. Mother cows with their calves were everywhere on the prairie. “Maa” the calves would call out. “Moo,” the mother cows would respond.”
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