The pecan (Carya illinoinensis) is a species of hickory native to Mexico and the southcentral and southeastern regions of the United States
"Pecan" is from an Algonquian word variously referring to pecans, walnuts and hickory nuts, or more broadly to any nut requiring a stone to crack. There are many variant pronunciations, some regional and others not. The most common American pronunciation is /piˈkɑːn/; the most common British one is /pɪˈkæn/. Unusually, there is little agreement in the United States, even regionally, as to the "correct" pronunciation
The pecan tree is a large deciduous tree, growing to 20–40 m (66–131 ft) in height, rarely to 44 m (144 ft). It typically has a spread of 12–23 m (39–75 ft) with a trunk up to 2 m (6.6 ft) diameter. A 10-year-old sapling will stand about 5 m (16 ft) tall. The leaves are alternate, 30–45 cm (12–18 in) long, and pinnate with 9–17 leaflets, each leaflet 5–12 cm (2.0–4.7 in) long and 2–6 cm (0.79–2.36 in) broad.
A pecan, like the fruit of all other members of the hickory genus, is not truly a nut, but is technically a drupe, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk. The husks are produced from the exocarp tissue of the flower, while the part known as the nut develops from the endocarp and contains the seed. The husk itself is aeneous, oval to oblong, 2.6–6 cm (1.0–2.4 in) long and 1.5–3 cm (0.59–1.18 in) broad. The outer husk is 3–4 mm (0.12–0.16 in) thick, starts out green and turns brown at maturity, at which time it splits off in four sections to release the thin-shelled nut.
The seeds of the pecan are edible, with a rich, buttery flavor. They can be eaten fresh or used in cooking, particularly in sweet desserts. One of the most common desserts with the pecan as a central ingredient is the pecan pie, a traditional Southern U.S. dish. Pecans are also a major ingredient in praline candy.
In addition to the pecan seed, the wood is also used in making furniture and wood flooring as well as flavoring fuel for smoking meats.
Pecans were one of the most recently domesticated major crops. Although wild pecans were well known among the colonial Americans as a delicacy, the commercial growing of pecans in the United States did not begin until the 1880s. Today, the U.S. produces between 80% and 95% of the world's pecans, with an annual crop of 150–200 thousand tons from more than 10 million trees. The nut harvest for growers is typically around mid-October. Historically, the leading pecan-producing state in the U.S. has been Georgia, followed by Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, the largest orchard being Stahmann Farms in south-central New Mexico; pecans are also grown in Alabama, California, Florida, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Hawaii. Outside the United States, pecans are grown in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Peru, and South Africa. They can be grown from USDA hardiness zones approximately 5 to 9, provided summers are also hot and humid.
Pecan trees may live and bear edible seeds for more than 300 years. They are mostly self-incompatible, because most cultivars are clones derived from wild trees which show incomplete dichogamy. Generally, two or more trees of different cultivars must be present to pollinate each other.
Choosing cultivars can be a complex practice, based on the Alternate Bearing Index (ABI) and their period of pollinating. Commercial planters are most concerned with the ABI, which describes a cultivar's likelihood to bear on an alternating years (index of 1.0 signifies highest likelihood of bearing little to nothing every other year). The period of pollination groups all cultivars into two families: those that shed pollen before they can receive pollen (protandrous), and those that shed pollen after becoming receptive to pollen (protogynous). Planting cultivars from both families within 250 feet is recommended for proper pollination.
In 100 g, pecans provide 691 Calories and over 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for total fat. Pecans are a rich source of dietary fiber (38% DV), manganese (214% DV), magnesium (34% DV), phosphorus (40% DV), zinc (48% DV) and thiamin (57% DV). Pecans are also a good source (10-19% DV) of protein, iron, and B vitamins. Their fat content consists mainly of monounsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic acid (57% of total fat), and the polyunsaturated fatty acid linoleic acid (30% of total fat)
Before European settlement, pecans were widely consumed and traded by Native Americans. As a food source, pecans are a natural choice for preagricultural society. They can provide two to five times more energy per unit weight than wild game, and require no preparation. As a wild forage, the fruit of the previous growing season is commonly still edible when found on the ground. Hollow tree trunks, found in abundance in pecan stands, offer ideal storage of pecans by humans and squirrels, alike.
Pecans first became known to Europeans in the 16th century. The first Europeans to come into contact with pecans were Spanish explorers in what is now Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. These Spanish explorers called the pecan, nuez de la arruga, which roughly translates to "wrinkle nut". They were called this for their resemblance to wrinkles. The genus Carya does not exist in the Old World. Because of their familiarity with the genus Juglans, these early explorers referred to the nuts as nogales and nueces, the Spanish terms for "walnut trees" and "fruit of the walnut". They noted the particularly thin shell and acorn-like shape of the fruit, indicating they were indeed referring to pecans. The Spaniards took the pecan into Europe, Asia, and Africa beginning in the 16th century. In 1792, William Bartram reported in his botanical book, Travels, a nut tree, Juglans exalata that some botanists today argue was the American pecan tree, but others argue was hickory, Carya ovata. Pecan trees are native to the United States, and writing about the pecan tree goes back to the nation's founders. Thomas Jefferson planted pecan trees, C. illinoinensis (Illinois nuts), in his nut orchard at his home, Monticello, in Virginia. George Washington reported in his journal that Thomas Jefferson gave him "Illinois nuts", pecans, which Washington then grew at Mount Vernon, his Virginia home.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Photos Kato Pyrgos 13/5/2016 by Michael Hadjiconstantis.