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History of Nuts - Pecans


   The pecan is part of the large Juglandaceae family, as is the walnut. Pecan trees are indigenous to a much wider area of North America than the southern regions of the United States we usually associate with this nut. Historians are not certain whether the pecan originated in the northern part of the United States and then slowly expanded to the more southern regions where most of the pecans are grown now, or pecans were native to a wider area of North America from the very beginning.
   The history of pecans is closely related to the history of Native Americans. In the southern central United States, pecans were a staple of Native Americans since ancient times. American Indians knew, as did many ancient people; that they could collect this precious nut, full of what today we would call “nutritional goodness”, and keep it for long periods in its shell- a shell that seals in the goodness, prevent spoilage, and seals out damaging pests and oxygen. Pecans were carefully stored to be used when there was a shortage of other foods. Jasper Woodroof in his book, Tree nuts, tells us that the American Indians traded pecan for other goods and that, as they traveled, they planted pecan trees near their campsites to provide trading capital for their descendants. Careful selection was made for plants that would yield the largest pecans with a thin shell.
   Nut milks made from pecans were used by the North American Indians, just like almond, hazelnut, pine nut, walnut, and other nut milks were used by the Chinese and Europeans of past centuries. In the days before our modern high-powered kitchen blenders and food processors, pecans were pounded with a mortar and a pestle, then water was added and blended well with the finely ground pecans to yield a delicate milk. The native Americans knew the value of these nut milks that we have encountered in Europe and the China over the ages, a reminder tat nut milk needs to become a much more important part of modern diet. These nut milks were easy to digest for the very young sick, and aging, and provided lasting energy for everyone.

   In more recent history, since the Europeans settled in the southern regions of the United States, pecans have been a key food for years in bakery products from fruitcakes to pies. The pecan pie is the best-known example of these baked products.

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