The name ‘pecan’ stems from Native American and means ‘a nut that requires a stone to crack.’ However, over the years pecan developers, like E.E. Risien, grafted and developed pecan varieties that now have a very thin shell. The shells are so thin, or "paper shell" as they are referred to, that you can easily crack many pecans between your fingers.
Most people believe that pecans are the nut that originated from Texas. Texas and Georgia are the largest producers of pecans in the US. Texas declared the pecan as its official health nut in 2001. The pecan tree is also the state tree of Texas since 1913. In Texas, the growing and selling of San Saba pecans are highly popular as San Saba claims to be ‘The Pecan Capital of the World.’ But do pecans really originate from Texas?
Are Pecans the Native Nut of Texas
We know that Texas has declared the pecan as its official health nut. But so has Alabama, Arkansas, California, and Oklahoma. Alabama named the pecan its official nut in 1982 and Arkansas in 2009. California has pecans, walnuts, pistachios, and almonds as its four-state nuts. And Oklahoma has an official state meal that includes pecan pie. The symbolism of pecan is important to several states. To answer which state or country pecans are native to can be a little complex. There are several regions that started selling, cultivating, or both of the pecan nuts a few centuries ago. So we have to dig up a little history of Pecans.
History of Pecans
Although pecans have a long history in Texas and the South, they were first known to the Europeans in the 16th century. Before Europeans settled in America, Native Americans would commonly consume pecans. These healthy nuts were a natural choice as a source of food for the pre-agricultural society.
Later in the 16 century, Europeans who came in contact with pecans were early Spanish explorers residing in regions we now call Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. The Spanish then took pecans to trade in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The early Spanish explorers referred to pecans as Nueces and Nogales, which translates to ‘fruit of the walnut’ and ‘walnut tree respectively,’ as the shape and texture are similar to a walnut. They then named the pecan as nuez de la arruga which translates as ‘wrinkled nut.’
Pecan Cultivation Today
The popularity of pecans has continued through the centuries, and today the US is the largest producer of pecans. In fact, 80% of pecan cultivation is done in the US, mainly in Georgia and Texas. There are several pecan farms and pecan companies all across the United States. Most pecans farms are found in the South Central part of the US.
Most pecan farms, like Millican Pecan Company, are part of fourth or fifth generation pecan growers. Pecan farms not only grow pecans, but also sell pecans and pecan products. From pecans in-shell to roasted pecans, and pecan pralines to pecan pie, pecan farms offer a wide variety of pecan products to satisfy your taste buds.
Pecans in a Nutshell
What we know is that pecans are native to South-central America. Pecans started gaining popularity in the 16th century in Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. Since Texas is one of the major producers of the finest quality inshell pecans, it enjoys the status of the native state of pecans. Whether pecans hail from Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, or Mexico, they are the nation’s pride as the health nut.