Whether eaten on their own or included as part of a myriad of creations in the kitchen, the pecan tree yields a versatile nut that is the only naturally occurring major nut tree in North America. While they began in the US, they have since been planted on every continent except for Antarctica. Even so, it is still estimated that 80% of the world’s supply of pecans comes from the United States.
Healthful and delicious, pecans are a treat that has an interesting history as well as a tasty future!
History of Pecan Day
Pecans have a documented history that dates back to the 16th century, although they were likely around long before that, growing in the wild. This tree grows well near water and the nuts are easy to get the meat from the shell. As the pecan is native to the southern parts of North America, it is sometimes called “America’s own nut.”
The first cultivated planting of a pecan tree in the United States is recorded to have taken place in 1772 in Long Island, New York. Not long afterwards, on March 25,1775, a pecan tree was planted by George Washington at his Mount Vernon estate. That particular tree’s famous roots grow even deeper as the sapling was gifted to him by Thomas Jefferson, who had planted a few pecan trees from the southern US at his own estate in Monticello, VA.
During this same period, settlers used community gardens to plant pecan trees along the Gulf Coast in the southern parts of the United States, eventually leading to the growth of this important industry. By 1919, Texas had honored the Pecan tree by making it into its state tree. While contested by some, Albany, Georgia, is considered by many to be the pecan capital of the United States, boasting over 600,000 pecan trees in the locale.
Pecan Day was established to celebrate this deciduous tree that was enjoyed by the founding fathers of the United States and continues to be shared with the world. First cultivated by Native Americans, it has been transplanted to other countries around the planet, but has failed to achieve as wide of use or popularity outside of the United States.
In any case, the pecan is a nut that is certainly worth celebrating anywhere in the world, and Pecan Day is the best day to do so!
How to Celebrate Pecan Day
Just a little bit of thought can encourage people to come up with all kinds of creative ways to show their love for pecans – like grabbing a handful to munch on, adding them to salads, making a delightful pecan pie, eating pecan crusted fish for dinner, or having pecan ice cream!
Take part in celebrating Pecan Day by using some of the following ideas, or come up with some creative ones of your own in honor of the day:
Throw a Pecan Day Party
Invite some friends and family over and share the joy by throwing a fun Pecan Day party! Pecans are a wonderful party snack that can be served in a variety of styles such as popular praline-flavoured pecans. Pecans are extremely versatile because they work with many different flavors, whether sweet or savory, spicy or mild.
Delectable items that could happily be served at a Pecan Day party include:
- Pecan Pie (a pastry pie crust with corn syrup and pecan filling)
- Pralines (nuts coated in sugar, corn syrup, milk and butter)
- Pecan-crusted Fish (tilapia, salmon, trout, halibut, or others)
- Pecan Turtles (candy treat with chocolate and caramel)
- Pecan Shortbread Cookies
- Chicken Salad Sandwiches (made with pecans, grapes and mayonnaise)
For more recipes, try the website for the American Pecan Council, offering not only recipe ideas but much more information about the entire pecan industry.
Grow a Pecan Tree
Plant a lovely and productive pecan tree to make it a memorable day to always come back to. If planting a sapling, it may take an average of 6-7 years to see a yield of nuts, so it’s a long-term investment to wait for the harvest. But certainly, it’s a worthwhile investment that is good for providing food as well as putting oxygen back into the air and doing something good for the earth.
Practice Pronouncing Pecan
North America is a large place with many different subcultures and local accents. The Pecan is just one of many words that is pronounced differently depending on the location. It’s a highly debated topic that has a lot to do with the divide between north and south in the United States.
One legitimate pronunciation of the word is: “puh-KAHN”. The accent is on the second syllable and it is pronounced with the jaw dropped.
But another, equally legitimate, way to pronounce the word is: “PEE-can”. Here, the accent is on the first syllable and the mouth makes a wide smile while saying it.
The first pronunciation is particularly northern and the second is southern but also could be related to whether people live in the city or in rural areas.
Considering that the trees first grew in the south, it’s possible that the second is the correct pronunciation. However, going further back, the nut was actually named from an Algonquin (Native American) word that described “nuts which required a stone to crack them”.
So, it’s likely that neither of the above pronunciations is exactly correct and an Algonquin Native American would need to be consulted to find out the true pronunciation!
Share the Health Benefits of Pecans
When making treats out of pecans and sharing them at a party, don’t forget to tell friends and family about the nutritional value that pecan nuts can bring. Check out these health benefits that pecans can provide, including:
- Protein, Healthy Fats, and Fiber that help with energy
- Important Vitamins and Minerals including Iron, Copper, Manganese, Zinc, Vitamin E, and Phosphorus
- Ability to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels in the blood
- Contains Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium to help reduce blood pressure
- Acts as a healthy snack to replace sugary snacks, which helps those with diabetes and heart health issues
- A good sources of healthy, Omega 3 Fats that can help to reduce inflammation pain that leads to problems such as arthritis
- Filled with antioxidants that can help to protect the cells from damage
Buy a Nutcracker
The pecans that are purchased in-store have been packaged and processed but, for people who are serious about pecans, it might be fun to buy the whole nuts and crack them at home.
Nutcrackers can come in all shapes and sizes, from the very functional to kitschy and decorative. Sometimes they come in a set, with different levers, tongs, and ratchets, that can be used in different capacities.
For purists and die-hard pecan lovers, it might be worthwhile to invest in an electric nutcracker. But those who prefer a more rudimentary method can use a hammer or mallet to crack open the outer shell. Pliers could also work as a way to crack the nutshell. Then, once it is open, use a fork or other sharp object to pick out the nutmeat. And enjoy!