It’s Pecan Harvest Time!

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It won’t be long before we will be planning our holiday meals. No matter how you pronounce the word “pecan”, they will probably be included in many of those delicious holiday dishes.

Pecan trees are native to North America with over 90% of the world’s pecan crop coming from the United States. Pecan trees are unique to the Southeastern United States. They like a hot and humid climate, lots of water, and deep, well-drained, sandy-loam soils. Because of a pecan’s tree specialized climate needs, most pecan trees in North Carolina are grown in the coastal plain region of the state.

The name “pecan” is a Native American word that was used to describe nuts requiring a stone to crack. Pecan trees produce nuts on alternate bearing years-one year heavy, one year light. Pecan trees can live to be over 200 years old. When someone decides to grow pecan trees, they will need patience as growing pecan trees is a long-term commitment. It takes several years before pecan trees start producing pecans. Most new and improved varieties begin to produce pecans within five to six years, but older, traditional varieties take longer.

The top three pecan producing states are Georgia, Texas, and Alabama. The pecan capital of the world is Albany, Georgia, which boasts more than 600,000 pecan trees. In 1995, Georgia pecan wood was selected by the Atlanta Committee to make the handles of the torches for the 1996 Olympic Games. The torches were carried in the 15,000-mile USA relay and in the lighting of the Olympic flame in Atlanta on July 19. 1996. North Carolina is usually in the top ten pecan-producing states, and is on the northern edge of the commercial pecan-producing region in the United States.

The pecan is heart healthy and contains antioxidants, 19 vitamins and minerals and healthy fat. One ounce of pecans provides 10% of the recommended daily fiber intake. However, many of us probably think of pecan pie during the holidays. The pecan pie was actually created by French people who had settled in New Orleans. In case you are counting, on average there are about 78 pecans are used in the average pecan pie.

Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.

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