The North American Pecan

April 10, 2023

The North American Pecan

Learn More About This Heart-Smart, NUTritional Superfood

When most of us think “pecans,” we think of dessert. Whether baked into a pie, sprinkled on a sundae, or hand-placed atop our world-famous DeLuxe® Fruitcake, it’s easy to associate pecans with sugary treats. Rich and buttery, with a naturally sweet flavor, pecans are the perfect accompaniment to any after-dinner indulgence. But, these little nuts have much more to offer than just the perfect crunch for our Pecan Cakes

Packed full of healthy fat, protein, and fiber, pecans are nutrient-dense super nuts. But, that’s not all! We've only just cracked the surface of everything this little nut has to offer. Join us in taking a deeper look at pecans, where they come from, and their nutritional breakdown—all while discovering new ways to enjoy them.

The Evolutionary Origins of Pecans 

Scientists have spent decades studying the evolutionary relationships between pecans and their plant ancestors. Per modern molecular phylogenetics, the branch of science that analyzes hereditary molecular differences to gain insight into an organism's evolutionary relationships, researchers now believe pecan trees are the distant genetic descendants of walnut trees. 


If you recall from biology class, all life is organized based on descending ranks of hierarchy—life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. In this case, pecan trees are the lowest classification of species in a long line of plant parentage, starting with walnuts. While the evolutionary progression might be difficult to grasp, this connection makes sense when comparing the physical attributes of these three nuts. Rather similar in shape, size, and structure, walnuts, hickory nuts, and pecans are often confused. 

Each is characterized by a hard, thick outer shell with a partitioned inner nutshell. The flavor profile of each nut is also quite similar—soft and buttery, with a slightly sweet taste—making each rather popular in everyday baking and cooking. 


Image Source:

The Discovery of Pecans 

Like many early discoveries, the documented discovery of pecans has a somewhat questionable authenticity. Many history books will ascribe credit to a Spanish conquistador by the name of Hernando de Soto. In 1538, de Soto embarked on a mission to conquer what is now Flordia and its surrounding regions for the Spanish crown. While traveling nearly 4,000 miles throughout the region that would later become the southeastern United States, de Soto happened upon the region we now call Arkansas. It was in this region de Soto and his men “discovered” pecans, which they called “nuez de la arruga,” which roughly translates to "wrinkle nut.” Amazed by their taste, de Soto’s men took to cultivating pecan trees as they pressed through the North American interior. By 1711, Spanish colonists were prolifically growing pecans throughout the American Southwest. 

However, not all bestow credit on the adventurous Spaniard. Prior to de Soto’s quest, indigenous North American tribes had been cultivating the growth of pecans as a primary source of food. Harvested, cracked, and then pounded into a fine powder, pecans were combined with water to add flavor to broths and boiled vegetables. In fact, the origins of the name “pecan” can be traced back to the Algonquin people—a North American Indian tribe with close cultural and linguistic relations to the Odawa, Potawatomi, and Mississauga tribes. Originally, pecans were called “paccan” or “a nut requiring a stone to crack.” Later,  French settlers changed the name the “pacanes.” The name’s origins provide ample credence that Native Americans, not de Soto, should be credited with the pecan’s discovery. 

Pecan Regionalities & Varieties

The pecan is the only major nut treat grown indigenously in North America with roughly fifteen states as production leaders. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. Because pecans are primarily only grown in the United States, they are considered one of the most valuable nut species in the region, with North America producing 80-95% of the entire world’s supply. 



Image Source: Noble Research Institute 

While there are more than five hundred different types of pecans, the majority of pecans grown are limited to a dozen or so varieties. These include Western, Desirable, Stuart, Burkett, Wichita, and native pecans. As a homage to pecan indigenous origins, many other varieties are named after Native American tribes such as Cheyenne, Sioux, Apache, Osage, Pawnee, Mohawk, Kiowa, and Choctaw.

Despite these distinctions between varieties, it’s uncommon to find the variety name listed on a package of pecans. Instead, you’ll find labels referencing the nut’s size and color—distinctions that provide more comparison between varieties than the varieties’ names. Descriptors like “golden brown” or “amber” are typically used when describing the color, while “mammoth” and “small topper” describe the size. 

What is Pecan Tree Grafting?

One of the reasons why the variety of pecans is less important than a pecan’s color or size is because pecans grown from seeds are not always true to type. Meaning, a pecan produced by one variety of tree will not always produce a tree identical to that of its parent. Seems pretty odd, but it’s true. 

Unlike other types of plants, every new pecan tree grown from a nut planted in the ground produces pecans that are slightly different than the tree from which it originated. This means, varieties of pecans have a spectrum of normalcy and are subject to significant variations. However, pecan growers have found a way to express some level of control over this natural phenomenon through a process called “grafting.”


Video Source: Pecan Tree Grafting, Oklahoma Gardening

Grafting is a horticultural technique that joins two plants so that they appear to grow as a single plant. In grafting, the upper part, or “scion” of one plant is attached to the root system, or “rootstock” of another plant. Because they are clonally produced, trees grown by grafting will produce nuts that are identical to the source of the grafted wood. This process enables pecan tree growers to proliferate one type of pecan nut variety without having to natively plant new pecan trees. 

The Navarro Pecan Company 

Since the majority of pecans grown are native to the American Southwest, it only makes sense that the world’s largest pecan sheller would be located in Texas. Positioned in the same county as Collin Street Bakery, the Navarro Pecan Company is located in Corsicana, Texas. 

Navarro Pecan’s 200,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility operates on a 24-hour basis and processes more than 50 million pounds of pecans annually. With the capacity to refrigerate more than 20 million pounds of pecans at any point in time, Navarro Pecan is able to maintain peak pecan freshness all year round—a fairly convenient feature for our bakery, since our primary product, our DeLuxe® Fruitcake, contains 27% pecans by volume.

Pecans: A True Superfood

When it comes to pursuing a healthy lifestyle, there are four components to keep in mind—sleep, stress management, exercise, and nutrition. Typically, the area in which most people struggle to maintain a healthy balance is nutrition. This is primarily because of a lack of education. Take, for example, the consumption of fat. Fat has become a pejorative term for anything perceived to be unhealthy. However, certain kinds of fats are necessary components of a healthy diet. The tricky task is to distinguish between good fats and bad fats.

Take, for example, unsaturated fats. Liquid at room temperature, these kinds of fats are considered beneficial to our health and wellness. Predominantly found in foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, unsaturated fats have been proven to improve cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and stabilize heart rhythms. There are two primary categories of “good” unsaturated fats. These are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. 


Monounsaturated fats can be found in avocados, seeds such as pumpkin and sesame, oils such as olive, peanut, and canola, and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in sunflower, corn, and soybean oil, walnuts, and various kinds of fish. The reason this distinction is important is that recent research has shown that most individuals do not eat enough healthy unsaturated fats. The American Heart Association suggests, “8-10 percent of daily calories should come from polyunsaturated fats, and there is evidence that eating more polyunsaturated fat—up to 15 percent of daily calories—in place of saturated fat can lower heart disease risk.” To this end, frequently eating foods such as pecans, can help to encourage a well-balanced nutritional lifestyle. According to American Pecan Council,

”Pecans are a complex whole food, packed with multiple health-promoting nutrients and bioactive compounds.”

A complex combination of proteins, unsaturated fat, dietary fiber, antioxidant vitamins, and phytonutrients, every handful of pecans is a nutritional powerhouse of good, clean energy. Furthermore, according to studies conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Scientific research suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as a part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.*

*One serving of pecans (28g) contains 18g of unsaturated fat and only 2g of saturated fat.

The Best Ways to Enjoy Pecans

Like most other nut varieties, pecans can be bought in a handful of different forms—shelled, unshelled, halves, pieces, raw, roasted, salted, and unsalted—the list could go over forever! Outstandingly versatile, pecans, in some form or another, can substitute for just about any ingredient. 

  • Substitute peanut butter with pecan butter—an excellent alternative for any nut butter, pecan butter is naturally sweet, rich, and hearty
  • Substitute cornmeal with pecan meal—gluten-free, keto-friendly, and paleo-conscious, pecan meal is a great alternative for desserts and dinners
  • Substitute wheat flour with pecan flour—ground finer than pecan meal, pecan flour is a great gluten-free, grain-free baking alternative
  • Substitute olive oil with pecan oil—distinctively lighter in taste than olive oil, pecan oil is a perfect alternative for dressings and marinades 
  • Substitute traditional milk with pecan milk—dairy-free and lactose-free, pecan milk has a rich, creamy flavor while offering a healthy, vegan alternative to traditional milk 


Image Source: American Pecan Council

Speaking of Enjoying Pecans, Try This Recipe!

All this talk of pecans is making us hungry. Luckily for you, we have a crackin’ good recipe for you to try. Turn pecans from a naturally-sweet snack into a salty and savory herb creation with this simple, three-step recipe from the American Pecan Council: 

Garlic Herb Pecans

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Active Cooking Time: 40 minutes



1 large egg white, beaten

2 cups raw pecan halves

3 tsp extra virgin olive oil or pecan oil

2 tsp garlic powder

1 to 2 tbsp fresh chopped herbs such as rosemary, thyme, chives, or dill

1 tsp salt


Preheat your oven to 300-degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.


In a large bowl, beat the egg with a fork until frothy. Add pecans and stir until coated. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, garlic powder, herbs, and salt. Pour mixture over pecans and stir to coat evenly. Spread pecans in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.


Bake pecans for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through. Allow pecans to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to four days. Makes 2 cups.


Try Our Pecan Brittle!

Our Pecan Brittle is the crunchy, sweet treat you never knew you needed. Made the old-fashioned way, cooked inside a copper kettle, and cooled on a marble tabletop, our brittle is a homestyle delicacy. Buttery and nutty, one bite of our brittle will have you hooked.


Please login to comment.

Don't have an account?

Sign Up for free
Latosha Spence
September 7, 2022
Great information
Stephanie Bursey
September 8, 2022
Sounds Absolutely Delicious
Debbie Green
September 8, 2022
Pecan pie is my favorite
Cordelia Albritton
September 9, 2022
I buy pecans at Texas Pecan quite often. They are always good and fresh with great flavor.
September 12, 2022
Best Fruit Cake ever!
Collin Street Bakery
October 7, 2022
Thank you !
September 12, 2022
Best fruit cake ever!
Collin Street Bakery
October 7, 2022
Thank you for the kind words!
dolores baccus
September 14, 2022
Love pecans.
Collin Street Bakery
October 7, 2022
So do we!
diana Rodriguez
September 16, 2022
Your products are delicious But I’m also looking for bakery items for my diabetes friends, got any?
Collin Street Bakery
October 7, 2022
At this time we don't offer any sugar free options But we do say to enjoy in moderation.
Peggy gibson
September 20, 2022
Love love this place
Collin Street Bakery
October 7, 2022
We love to hear that!
April 14, 2023
Love your pecans.
Anita Hoefle
April 14, 2023
Nice read
K. Fisher
April 14, 2023
The email messages you send are so fun AND educational. . .this time, about PECANS! Who would've known all the history on pecans, but we should've counted on you to know all about those wonderful pecans, right? There are a lot of things we Americans take for granted, but you've come up with yet another history lesson & fun reading. YOU'RE THE BEST. . .ALONG WITH THE BEST FRUITCAKE EVER!
Laura Bailey
April 15, 2023
Very i9nteresting article about pecans
Mrs Kathryn A Spealman
April 17, 2023
I like the pies.
Velera Allen
April 17, 2023
Very interesting and informative
Velera Allen
April 17, 2023
Love your cakes and pie
Mrs. Sheila LEE
April 17, 2023
Great desserts!
Brenda Peterson
April 17, 2023
Going to try the recipe. Lot of interesting and great information.
April 17, 2023
I'v been buying fruitcakes for 40 yrs. They are delicious
April 19, 2023
Test. Test
April 19, 2023
Rene Poe
April 19, 2023
Great information….I love your fruitcakes.
April 19, 2023
Good information.
April 19, 2023
Excellent pecan history, including some info that's new to this elderly (?!!) 5th generation Texan!
Lori Rail
April 19, 2023
I loved your salted caramel pecan cake!! Could eat it all by myself! Haha!
April 19, 2023
Found this very informative.
April 19, 2023
Wonderful article! I had no idea how many uses pecans have besides being incredible in baked goods and snacking! Added bonus, they are a SUPERFOOD!
April 19, 2023
Great info thank u!
April 19, 2023
Very interesting blog . Thank You !
April 19, 2023
I love to snack on pecans. Much healthier than candy.
Edwin Manry
April 19, 2023
Interesting blog.
April 19, 2023
Thank you for all the great information! I appreciate the nutritional information and recipe!
April 19, 2023
Thank you for all the information on different ways to use pecans!
Sharon W Fair
April 19, 2023
I love pecans and definitely love your fruit cakes!
Denise Sullivan Thompson
April 19, 2023
Best Fruitcake in the World!!
William Farinholt
April 20, 2023
Georgia has the most pecan production!
William Farinholt
April 20, 2023
April 20, 2023
Gretchen Stringer-Robinson
April 20, 2023
Love pecans! Roasted or in brittle, or plain.
Margaret Burns
April 20, 2023
love pecan pie
Michael Murray
April 21, 2023
love the blog and pecans
Melody Wesson
April 21, 2023
I never knew all of this. I loved reading your blog. So much valuable information. I love pecans so I will be making the recipe. Thank you so much.
April 21, 2023
the best cakes and brittle around
Shirley Hubbard
April 21, 2023
Great info.
Shirley Flaherty
April 21, 2023
I need to find a "secret santa" to send some pecans to me!
Dartha Faniel
April 21, 2023
I definitely will try this recipe. All the information was great! I think the fruit cake is my favorite, if I have to pick, but trust me, it all is delicious!
Sandra Whitaker
April 22, 2023
Very interesting & informative.
William Farinholt
April 22, 2023
Your prices are ridiculous
Julie Wilson
April 22, 2023
Their food is delicious.
Glenda Hutchison
April 23, 2023
Very interesting blog. Looking at pecans in a whole new way. Thanks!
Margaret StAmour
April 24, 2023
As a novice botanist, I loved the article.
Kathleen Wilson
April 24, 2023
Interesting blog
April 24, 2023
Love that native Americans are given credit for discovering pecans. Sure glad they did.
Beverly A Arnette
April 24, 2023
Interesting. Much new information on pecans.
Renelle Pratt
April 24, 2023
This is very interesting.
April 24, 2023
Very informative!
Brenda Austin
April 24, 2023
Love eating Pecans by the handful
April 24, 2023
Love pecans
Ed Brown
April 24, 2023
I am now a Pecan expert!
April 24, 2023
Interesting history!
April 24, 2023
Great recipes to try!
Paula Levi
April 24, 2023
Every Christmas I purchase the fruitcakes as gifts
Dale LaFountain
April 26, 2023
World's best products
Dyana Hulgan
April 26, 2023
Enjoyed reading!!
April 26, 2023
the best of everything ordered
Carolyn Rutledge
April 26, 2023
April 26, 2023
Love your products
April 26, 2023
Very good pecans and cakes
Anelia Rowe
April 26, 2023
Great Read!
Mike Drescher
April 28, 2023
Very interesting.
Search engine powered by ElasticSuite
© Collin Street Bakery Accepted Payment Methods
American Express
Diners Club