Many know and love the flavor of Texas pecans, but not everyone knows the history of how the many varieties of flavorful pecans grown here were discovered. Imagine exploring such a vast state in search of meaty, high producing, wild pecan trees in the late 1800s. They were surprisingly few. In fact, many find it difficult to believe that a single San Saba Pecan tree is at the heart of such a wide-reaching industry.
The Mother Pecan Tree Meets the Father of the Industry
Risien had quite an affinity for pecans. In fact, he enjoyed the natural delicacies so much that he organized a pecan show – believed to be the very first – in hopes that he would find a superior specimen of pecan. Well, he did. Unfortunately, when Risien asked if he could see the tree the pecans came from, the winning exhibitor brought him to a tree that had been sawed down into practically nothing. Only a single branch of the tree remained! The exhibitor had sawed off all of the other branches in order to harvest the nuts.
The History Behind the San Saba Pecan
Eventually, Risien purchased the land that the prize producing pecan tree was on and, over time, it regrew its crown. It also began producing its thin-shelled fruits again. This likely fueled Risien’s dream. He wanted a whole orchard of these trees. Because of this, he tried desperately to replicate the tree that produced those delicious pecans he had fallen in love with. After decades of work and more than 1000 pecan nuts that failed to produce trees bearing the same fruit, he finally figured out that budding and grafting could provide the prized pecans he dreamed his orchard would hold.
Although the true age of the San Saba Pecan is unknown, it is clear that groves of mature pecan trees existed in the San Saba region as far back as the mid-1700s, which is when Coronado and other explorers came upon them. Of course, the early settlers did not look at the pecan in the same way as the Native Americans. It was not originally thought of as a source of food or revenue. Because of this, these trees were not important. In fact, it is believed that thousands of pecan trees were cut down by early settlers to make way for farm land and fields for grazing cattle.
With such a rich history behind it, the San Saba is the pecan that sets the bar for all other pecans. This historic tree has paved the way for a wide array of varieties and inspired countless recipes that will be prepared for generations.
Hi! My name is Kristen Millican and I am so glad you have stopped by! Our family has been harvesting and selling pecans since 1888. I love sharing various pecan recipes, stories about life on our pecan farm, and so much more!