Pecan – Carya illinoinensis


…pecans in the South, the jumbled

flavor of them suddenly in my mouth,

wordless, confusing,

crowding out everything else.

By Gregory Djanikian

This native of rich bottom lands of the south especially likes streamside plantings. When the pecans are ripe (and sometimes before) they drop to the ground. They are some of the easiest to harvest with relatively this shells. After they have dropped to the ground they make an intense litter problem, the squirrels having cracked them wide open spilling the nutmeats and shells everywhere. The name pecan means ‘a nut needing to be cracked with a stone,’ in the Algonquian language.


When you think of the South and nuts, the only one that comes readily to mind is the Pecan. It has become the nut symbol for the South. It has been declared the state tree for Alabama and Texas. April has been made National Pecan Month.


Even with its popularity in the South, the pecan was not introduce to the European theater until the 16th century when Cabeza de Vaca first recorded finding it and reported its use to Spain. It was then that he brought bushels of the familiar nut back to Europe with him for the Spanish crown to sample.


The bark and leaves of the pecan tree are astringent and have been formulated into a decoction to treat TB. The powdered leaves are rubbed onto the skin for the treatment of ringworm.


The nuts of the pecan have been used by Native Americans as food for centuries, in both the raw and cultivated forms. The Native Americans were in fact the first to cultivate them. The nut is rich with a buttery flavor. Dishes made with them become known as ‘rich’ dishes. They can be eaten fresh, out of hand, or cooked into desserts or savory dishes. The traditional dessert of the South, the Pecan Pie, is well known for its richness of flavor and is often consumed in small portions!

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