There might be very few things in this world that are as American as apple pie; but pecans would probably be one of them. The pecan tree is native to North and Central America and has been a valuable food source for Native Americans for hundreds of years. In fact, one of the reasons why it is regarded as one of the most valuable species of nuts in North America is because it naturally grows in the area. The pecan industry in North America started as early as the 1700’s and today, the United States produces 80% of the world’s pecans.
Although the pecan is yet to achieve the popularity of other nuts like almonds and walnuts outside the United States, worldwide demand for the nut has been growing in recent years. Here are interesting details about the pecan that might explain why more and more people are joining the list of pecan nut consumers.
- It takes 12 years for a pecan tree to mature. When grown in ideal conditions, it can live and stay productive for up to 300 years.
- Pecan wood is often utilized for the manufacture of furniture, paneling and flooring.
- Although pecan trees are abundant in the United States, the city of Albany, Georgia boasts of having more than 600,000 pecan trees, earning it the title of “Pecan Capital of the U.S.”
- Pecans are related to walnuts but are much sweeter in flavor. They also have a higher fat content (73 – 75%), consisting mostly of linoleic and oleic fatty acids. Because of their oily composition, pecans can become rancid very quickly in warm temperatures and high humidity. Shelled pecans are best kept inside a glass container in the refrigerator to maintain freshness.
- The fats found in pecans are classified as monounsaturated and are recommended for the maintenance of a healthy heart. The nuts are also rich in Vitamin E and the mineral, zinc.
- In the past, the Native Americans valued the pecan not only as a food source but as a nutritious ingredient for drinks as well. Pecan milk was made by mixing pounded pecans with water, and fed to infants and the elderly. They also made a pecan-based fermented beverage called “powcohicora.”
- Pecan pie is the most popular dish made from pecans. Its origin, however, is still subject to debate. According to some, the pie was invented by a wife of a Karo Corn Syrup executive to increase syrup sales, while others suggest that the first pecan pies were made by poor families in Alabama and Georgia who had pecans and corn syrup readily available in their kitchens. Still, there are those who maintain that pecan pies originated in New Orleans.
- Pecans are so popular in Texas that the pecan tree was declared as its state tree in 1919. Butter pecan, an ice cream flavor that is very popular with Americans, is a Texan concoction.