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Carya illinoinensis (Pecan)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Fagales > Family: Juglandaceae

Pecan nuts

Pecan nuts. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ]

Indigenous from south-eastern USA through to eastern Mexico. Pecans were harvested by indigenous North American tribes well before the arrival of European settlers in the 1500's. They were introduced to Spain in the 1600's and are now grown in all temperate regions of the world although the USA remains the main producer. Pecans have a high fat content (about 71%) but most of it is unsaturated (the more healthy type). They are an excellent source of phosphorus, thiamin, copper and zinc, and a good source of iron and potassium.

The indigenous distribution of Carya illinoinensis is in south-eastern USA including the lower and middle Mississippi Valley and through to eastern Mexico. It thrives in open woodlands on river flood plains that are well drained. Trees can live for hundreds of years and reach 50 m in height with a trunk diameter of 2 metres. Pecans were harvested by indigenous North American tribes well before the arrival of European settlers in the 1500's. They were introduced to Spain in the 1600's and are now grown in all temperate regions of the world although the USA remains the main producer. Within the USA, Georgia produces more than a third of total US production, the latter of which totals about 200 000 unshelled pecans annually.

Pecans have a high fat content (about 71%) but most of it is unsaturated (the more healthy type). They are an excellent source of phosphorus, thiamin, copper and zinc, and a good source of iron and potassium.

Uses

  • Pecans are often eaten as a snack - raw or roasted.
  • They are used extensively in baking (e.g. muffins, cakes).
  • Pecan pie is a popular recipe.

References

  • Sauer, J.D. 1993. Historical geography of crop plants - a select roster. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Text by Hamish G. Robertson  


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