The History of The Pecan

Did you know that the pecan is the only major tree nut indigenous to North America? Peanuts come from South America; almonds come from Africa, the Middle East, and India; walnuts come from Asia; cashews come from Brazil. But the pecan is uniquely ours and has been here for thousands of years. No matter how you say it – pee-KAHNS, pee-CANS, PEE-cans, or pick-AHNS – this is America’s nut.

The History of the Pecan

Like so many all-natural food sources, pecan trees started as a wild species. Found originally in the American South, the American southcentral areas and Mexico, the pecan is the only nut born and raised in the Americas.

Understandably, native Americans were familiar with pecans. In fact, the term “pecan” derives from an Algonquian word meaning “requiring a stone to crack.” When European settlers began inhabiting America, they learned of the pecan. In short order, they grew to love the versatility of the pecan as a snack and baking ingredient.


A Background on the Wild Pecan

In the wild, clusters of pecan trees are known as orchards. They tend to grow close to waterways where they can get an easy source of nourishment. Usually, pecans ripen sometime in the late fall months. At that point, they can be removed from the trees by hand or allowed to fall to the ground.

With more than 1,000 varieties of pecans, every tree in an orchard could have its own unique type of nut. Of course, some of the differences between pecans are quite subtle, while others are pronounced. If you’re eager to find out more about the many flavors of fresh pecans, you can always set up a home-based taste test. Get a few varieties and try them all. Then, compare and contrast their nuances. You might be amazed at how quickly you can pick one type from another!

After the 17th century, both native Americans and settlers began seeing pecan trees as a potential source of income. Pecans could be traded and were integral dietary components, especially during times of difficult harvests. Some very influential people, including George Washington, were early proponents of pecan farming.

Although Georgia has become synonymous with pecans, the state’s farmers stayed away from pecan tree harvesting for a while. Now, though, Georgia is the leading producer of pecans. Collectively, Georgian farmers send more than 100 million pounds of pecans to buyers and food manufacturers around the globe. Though up to 90% of pecan trees still are cultivated in Georgia and other American places, pecan tree planting has moved overseas as well.

Modern Pecan Tree Farming

Today, pecan trees are still cultivated and harvested in more systematic ways. Thanks to improvements in agribusiness and advanced tools, pecan growing, harvesting and processing are more efficient and reliable than ever.

At Pecan Nation, we’ve been planting pecan trees in orchards for five generations. We currently steward more than 7,000 acres of pecan trees. Truly, our passion has been promoting and perfecting pecans. You could say we’re nuts for America’s native nut!

If you’ve limited your pecan intake to pies and desserts, we invite you to see the pecan in a new light. Order any of our savory or sweet pecans to try as snacks. You’ll find them to be a rich source of delicious nutrition any time the craving for a tasty nibble strikes. Plus, you can check the code on every Pecan Nation bag to see which of our thriving orchards your pecans came from.

health benefits of pecans infographic


Pecans in Georgia

Although Georgia was a little slower to adopt the pecan industry, America’s nut began to gain popularity in the late 1800s with Georgia farmers. By the early 1900s, pecan trees were being planted over thousands of acres by farmers and landowners. The industry continued to grow, and now Georgia is the leading producer of the pecan, with farmers growing around 100 million pounds of pecans per year. Georgia pecans are world-famous for their unmatched taste and quality.

Because of its rich history, the pecan is special in North America. When you purchase a bag of pecans, you’re supporting your local or regional farmers and vendors. You’re enjoying an important piece of American history. You’re buying a clean, healthy product from a source you know and can trust rather than importing it from a place that lacks the same food regulations and cleanliness restrictions. Here at Pecan Nation, we take this one step further – each bag of our pecans features a code that you can enter on this site and see the exact orchard that produced the pecans you’re enjoying.

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