Perique: Photographs by Charles Martin

A look inside Louisiana’s perique tobacco tradition

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    Perique seed pods.

    Photograph by Charles Martin; courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

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    The ash and seed mixture is spread by hand.

    Photograph by Charles Martin; courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

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    Tin cans are used to prop the frame lids open during the day, to regulate temperature.

    Photograph by Charles Martin; courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

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    Weeks-old seedlings are collected for transplanting.

    Photograph by Charles Martin; courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

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    Perique dries for a few weeks.

    Photograph by Charles Martin; courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

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    The wilted leaves are pulled off the stalks.

    Photograph by Charles Martin; courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

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    Leaves are beaten gently on metal drums to remove dirt and dust.

    Photograph by Charles Martin; courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

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    Perique: Photographs by Charles Martin

    Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Perique comes only from one place—St. James Parish, on the Mississippi River, where farmer Pierre “Perique” Chenet began selling pressure-fermented tobacco in 1824. He learned his technique, according to local legend, from Choctaw and Chickasaw natives who aged tobacco in hollow logs instead of barrels.

For eight years, Charles Martin has been out in the tobacco fields and curing barns of St. James Parish documenting the planting, harvest, and aging of perique tobacco. His black-and-white photographs are now on display at the Williams Research Center in New Orleans. Perique: Photographs by Charles Martin runs through February 2, 2013.

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