Pecans – Fun Facts & Trivia

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. November is pecan season here in NW Louisiana. There are quite a few pecan trees in hubby’s pastures and even one in my own backyard and they’ve all been carpeting the ground with their fruit the past few weeks. And since I’ve got pecans on my mind lately I thought I’d share some facts and trivia I discovered

HISTORY

  • Pecans are the only nut tree species that originated in America.
  • Native American tribes have relied on pecans as a valuable food source for thousands of years. They harvested pecans from the wild and incorporated them into their diets, using the nuts fresh from the tree and also storing them for later use. Pecans served as a crucial source of nutrition, especially during the lean winter months. The name “pecan” is actually a Native American word that comes from the Algonquin word “paccan” that was used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.”
  • The introduction of pecans to European settlers was a significant milestone in pecan history. Early European explorers and colonists encountered pecans in the New World, and they were quick to recognize their value. Pecans were collected, cultivated, and integrated into European cuisine. This marked the beginning of the pecan’s journey from a regional Native American staple to a broader American and international audience.
  • During the American Civil War, pecans played a vital role in providing sustenance to both soldiers and civilians on both sides. Pecans were a readily available food source in the South, and their nutritional value made them a valuable addition to rations. Pecan trees dotted the landscape, providing a reliable and accessible food source when other supplies were scarce.

SOME  TRIVIA

  • Pecan trees come in a wide range of varieties, In fact there are over 1,000 varieties but just a few of them make up the majority of the production in the US and each has its own unique characteristics. Here are three of the more popular varieties
      • The Stuart pecan is one of the most common varieties. It’s known for its robust flavor and large-sized nuts. These pecans are popular for their rich, buttery taste and versatility in various recipes. They also do well farther north than most other pecan varieties.
      • The Desirable pecan lives up to its name, offering a desirable taste. Another thing that sets it apart is its relatively easy-to-crack shells, which can be a time-saver for home bakers and commercial producers alike.
      • The Elliot pecan is appreciated for its consistent quality and reliable production, making it a favorite choice among pecan growers. Its moderate size and thin shell also make it a popular pick.
  • Pecans thrive in primarily the Southeast and South Central states. Georgia is often called the “Pecan State” and leads the nation in pecan production, contributing approximately 100 million pounds to the annual harvest. Texas is another major pecan producer as are New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arizona (I was surprised that I didn’t see Louisiana and Mississippi in that list).
  • In Native American culture, pecan trees are seen as symbols of strength, endurance, and wisdom, representing the connection between humans and nature.
  • The pecan pie is a quintessential American dessert and is believed to have originated in the southern United States. One theory is that it was created by the French people who had settled in New Orleans. The classic pecan pie consists of a sweet, gooey filling made from pecans, sugar, butter, and often corn syrup, all nestled in a flaky pie crust.
  • Pecan pralines are another true Southern delight. Pecan pralines are a confectionery masterpiece that combine the richness of pecans with a sweet, buttery, and creamy caramelized sugar mixture. The result is a texture that’s simultaneously smooth and crunchy, with the unmistakable taste of pecans running through every bite.
  • Thomas Jefferson had pecan trees imported from Louisiana for his Monticello orchards.
  • During World War II, pecans played a surprising role in the war effort. Pecan oil, extracted from pecans, was used in the production of explosives and lubricants. The nut’s high oil content made it a valuable resource for the military.
  • Pecan shells have also been utilized in unusual ways. During WW II roasted pecan shells were often used as a substitute for coffee. And they have more recently been utilized as a base material for mulch and even as a natural abrasive in industrial cleaning products.
  • Georgia pecan wood was selected by the Atlanta Committee to make the handles of the torches for the 1996 Olympic Games. The torches were carried in the 15,000-mile U.S.A. relay and in the lighting of the Olympic flame in Atlanta on July 19, 1996.

STATISTICS

  • In 2022 there were approximately 407,000 acres of bearing pecan trees.
  • The U.S. produces about 80 percent of the world’s pecan crop.
  • It takes around 12 years for pecan trees to mature enough to begin producing pecans.
  • Pecan trees can live for several centuries, and some of the oldest known pecan trees in the U.S. are estimated to be well over 200 years old.
  • Pecans are one of the largest fruit-bearing trees. The largest pecan tree on record had a canopy that spanned over 200 feet.
  • Pecans are not only tasty but also incredibly nutritious. A one-ounce serving provides around 196 calories, 2.6 grams of protein, 20.3 grams of healthy fats, and a good dose of dietary fiber. They are also an excellent source of vitamin E, manganese, and other essential nutrients. These nutrients make pecans a nutritious snack or ingredient for various dishes.
  • And average Pecan pie uses about 78 pecans.
  • The “Oldest Continuous Pecan Festival” in the U.S. is the Sorghum Festival and Pecan Festival in the small town of Blairsville, Georgia, which has been celebrating pecans for over 50 years.

 

So there you have it, my curated list of everything you always wanted to know about pecans. Did any of this surprise you? Do you have a favorite recipe that includes pecans? Do you even like pecans?  Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for one of my books.

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Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.

73 thoughts on “Pecans – Fun Facts & Trivia”

  1. I was surprised by a lot of the information you gave us. I do like pecans, but I don’t have a special recipe with pecans in it.

  2. That is a lot of pecan information. I can tell you that in Oklahoma, as a child, I picked thousands of pecans. My aunt had a farm where we would use a tractor to shake the tree and then take gunny sacks and pick them up. I had the bright idea one day to layout a bed sheet before hand. I was a hero. The good thing was that it was not in the hot weather and we got to eat pralines. I so miss them. I lived in Dodridge Arkansas for a while. We had pecans there too but we didn’t shake the tree and we had to watch out for the alligators when we were picking.
    Maria Leeper

  3. Thanks for all the info! I absolutely love pecans. Pecan pie is the best. They are also good in brownies and fudge. I grew up picking up pecans at my grandparents house. Not fun to step on.though.

  4. Testing 1,2,3….

    Yay! I think I made it! LOL I’ll have to head out to help my mother Winnie! Thanks for the post!

  5. I like pecans! I like to eat them just by themselves. I don’t like pecan pie, though. I like adding pecans to cookie recipes, though.

  6. I love pecans, but they are very expensive in the north so I use them sparingly. I love them in ice cream turtles. I was surprised about uses for the shells.

  7. Pecans are my go to nut in baking and loved them anyway! I do not really like the pie though – just too sweet for me!

  8. I love pecans . I love pecan pie and also use them in banana nut bread and brownies. I love to eat them in salads, just plain or any other way that you fix them. They are my favorite nut.

  9. I love these little learning experiences. I like pecan pie but can only eat a bit since it’s so sweet. Another yummy dish is baked sweet potatoes or butternut squash with marshmallows and pecans on top. Thanks for the chance to win a prize.

  10. Have you tasted the pecan-shell “coffee”? An intriguing substitute. Will have to see how common that choice was–some cowboy(s) or farmer(s) had to have come up with the idea before it became a “known” substitute. Intriguing idea for a trapper or other loner craving a hot beverage…

  11. Winnie,

    Do you pronounce it as pe-can (like in tin can) or pe-con (like saying ‘con’ for conman)?

    This was an informative post and the most surprising thing to me is how old and large the trees can grow but I didn’t know most of the other info either. All I knew was I like to snack on them haha…

  12. Winnie- I love pecans, I’m excited that next week when I go back to Texas to have Thanksgiving, I’m getting my mom’s pecan pie. Now to see if I can wait a week and a 1/2 to enjoy.
    Yanks for all the fun facts about pecans. The state tree of Texas.

  13. I love the picture where the pecan is breaking out from its green shell protection reminded me of hone, where we would have hickory nut trees. Loved all the information.

  14. Good afternoon Winnie, yes, I was surprised by some of the pecan facts. We have 2 trees which give us pecans. My husband shells them puts them in freezer ziploc, bags and we enjoy them throughout the year. We put them in brownies, cakes, rum cake and they are delicious just like that, I really do love pecans. My brother has about 18 pecan trees in New Mexico. Thank you for all the info. Have a great day and a great week.

  15. We had a men’s pie baking contest at our church in Texas and the pastor made chocolate pecan pie, it was very tasty. My husband does not like, so I do not make pecan pie.

  16. I Love Pecans my daughter always makes her Pecan Pie’s for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Thanks for sharing the post with us today! Have a Blessed Day!

  17. I love pecans. Pecan pie has always been my favorite pie. I unfortunately have to watch sugars and carbs, but a small slice has to be eaten at Christmas. I also love to eat pecans on my sugar free ice cream and just a handful as a snack. There were some facts I knew about pecans but many were new. Thank you!?

  18. I love pecans. Pecan pie has always been my favorite pie. I unfortunately have to watch sugars and carbs, but a small slice has to be eaten at Christmas. I also love to eat pecans on my sugar free ice cream and just a handful as a snack. There were some facts I knew about pecans but many were new. Thank you!?

  19. Loved the info on the pecans. Yes, we do love pecan pies… I also make pecan fudge, turtles, breads & more cooking items. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!!!!

  20. I enjoy pecans in chocolates and in pastries… a neighbor gave my sister a whole bunch… it is taking me forever to crack them all open, LOL!

  21. Thank you for all of the info, Winnie! I love pecans. I live in the Northeast, so I just purchase mine, as well as walnuts, at the grocery store. They’re delicious. I add pecans (or walnuts) to hot oatmeal with cinnamon and maple syrup. Yum. And I like them in any baked goods. Interesting that pecans played a vital role in providing a healthy and accessible food source for soldiers during the War Between the States.

  22. For people with gluten sensitivity, pecan pie is delicious without crust. Just make as usual and pour into a casserole dish and bake as usual. we do this every pecan pie holiday now.

  23. This was an interesting block, and I love pecans. However, I thought the black walnut also originated in North American.

  24. Hi Winnie. I never knew all those fact about pecans. I love pecan pie. I do not make it from scratch. Go bless you.

  25. We do love pecans at our house. I tend to use more walnuts when baking, but I grew up in the North and the walnut was always the nut of choice back then. I have bee n making pralines for years and they do taste much better with pecans than with walnuts. My sister makes “Fairy Brittle” which is a pecan based brittle and delicious. She gave me the recipe, but my microwave must be much more powerful than hers. Even after reducing the cooking time multiple times, mine always burns. We tend to eat our pecans roasted and lightly salted. I like adding them to tossed salads. When I do a chicken salad, I mix in sliced green grapes, celery, pecans, and mayonnaise.
    I find it interesting that they say the pecan is the only nut native to North America when there are others that are also. The same article I checked listed the pecan as the only major tree nut, but then listed all these others. The others are not as popular or as big a cash crop, but black walnuts (which are all wild), butternuts, hickory nuts, American beechnut, American Chestnut (which almost became extinct), hazelnuts, and acorns (which few people use for food today) are all native to North America.

    • Hi Patricia. I’m not sure either, except several sources stated it’s the only tree that ORIGINATED in North America, perhaps they mean other nut tree are also native elsewhere

      • I did check, and the nuts I mentioned above are all native to parts of North America. I guess it is primarily because pecans are the largest and most commercially valuable of the nuts. One f the sources I looked up stated the pecan was the only native nut and then went on to list all the others that were also native. Whatever. What is important is how delicious they are and how easy they are to shell.

  26. I love pecans! When I lived in Mexico as a child, my grandparents had a pecan tree in their back yard with a tire swing hanging from it & us grandkids had hours of fun swinging on it. My grandpa was a horticulturalist, and before NAFTA, he had apple trees. When NAFTA went into effect he couldn’t sell his apples, so he had to cut down the apple trees and planted pecans. Now my uncle & cousins (who still run the farm) harvest and sell those pecans!
    I’m not fond of pecan pie because it’s too sweet for me, but I love to toss a handful of pecans into a bowl of ice cream or make pecan pralines! The worst part of pecans is getting the nut meats out of the shell without getting too much of the red dust from inside the shell on your skin… that is quite the irritant!

    • My problem with cracking and peeling pecans was trying to get whole or full half nut meats. I usually broke them when I cracked them or when I tried to dig them out of the shell or clean them

  27. Thank you Winnie for sharing these facts. Oh Wow. Such cool facts about this one little nut. I had no idea. I knew a few things but this list is so cool. Thanks again. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  28. Interesting! There are a couple of very large pecan orchards in OK & KS that we drive by when traveling to family/friends’ homes.

    I don’t like pecans just to eat raw & especially don’t like pecan pie! I can handle a few in the frosting of German Chocolate Cake & I love Pecan Praline ice cream from Baskin Robbins (mostly for the crunchy, sugary coating – haha), but that’s about the most of it. Roasted pecans on a sundae are good if they’re small & toasty, but I have to be careful not to eat too many… they make my throat & tongue & ears itch. I have some mild allergies to raw nuts.

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