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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.