The pecan tree is a large North American tree that bears sweet edible nuts. The nuts range from 1 to 2.5 inches in length and are deep brown in color. A pecan tree usually ranges from 70 to 100 feet in height, but can grow as tall as 170 feet. In addition to the nuts, pecan trees yield strong hard timber used in flooring and furniture.
The pecan belongs to the Juglandaceae family, along with the hickories and black walnuts, but in a separate genus.
The pecan (Carya illinoensis, Koch) is native to the Americas and naturally distributed in the Mississippi Valley and the river valleys of Texas. The Indians introduced pecans to the white man by trading for tools and trinkets. In this way, the traders moved the pecan from its native range to the eastern states.
Pecans grow well on a wide range of soil types, but do best on soil that has sand or a sand-loam texture with a clay subsoil. Pecans do well on most soils that are well-drained and do poorly on soils that are water-logged or subject to frequent flooding.
Growing pecan trees may present problems. One problem is nut production because the pecan tree is "alternate bearing," producing a large crop one year, followed by a small crop the next. This is related to the fruiting cycle of the peacan tree which bears a crop, loses its leaves in the early fall and does not build up an adequate food reserve to produce many pecans the next year. In the year when the tree produces few pecans, it increases its reserve to produce a crop the following year. Thus the cyclic production pattern continues. Alternate bearing can be controlled to usually too costly for most homeowners. Therefore the recommended varieties are proven ones that will produce consistently in the dooryard situation.
Predators, such as squirrels and birds, pose another problem. It has been estimated that 1 squirrel will consume approximately 25 kg (54 pounds) of pecans in a given season.
the pecan – a healthy nut
Several studies on nuts, including pecans, have shown that blood cholesterol levels can be lowered when nuts are incorporated into the diet. Pecans actually contain plant components with antioxidant properties, which can slow the oxidation or "rusting" of LDL (low-density lipoproteins), otherwise known as bad cholesterol. University research has confirmed that pecans also contain plant sterols, which have been in the news recently for their cholesterol-lowering ability.
Just one ounce of pecans (a small handful or about 15 halves) has more zinc – an important nutrient for proper growth and strong immunity – than a 3.5-ounce piece of skinless chicken. Most good sources of zinc are foods of animal origin, but pecans happen to be a plant-based source.
Over half the fat (56 percent) found in pecans is monounsaturated fat and another 29 percent is polyunsaturated fat. This means that almost 90 percent of the fats (oils) in pecans are heart-healthy!