Tuesday, February 28, 2023

History of pecans

The word pecan is derived from the Algonquin tribe’s word “pacane” which translates to “nuts requiring a stone to crack”. The Algonquins were a North American tribe located on the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers where pecans were a food staple during the winter months.

French traders recorded the word as pacanes or pecanes, which later evolved into its current common name.

Native Americans were the first to cultivate and utilize wild pecans and their trees. They consumed and stored pecans, but also traded them for furs and other goods. Fur traders brought the pecan to the Atlantic coast from Illinois, calling them "Illinois nuts", hence the latin classification of illinoinensis.

They highly valued pecans for their delicious taste, nutritional content, and because they were easier to shell than other North American nut species. A historical record from the mid-1500s by the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca revealed that Native Americans in south Texas would gather pecans in autumn and then grind them and soak them in water to make a milky beverage to sustain them throughout the winter. This liquid also formed the base of a fermented beverage called powcohicora.

Early uses of the pecan saw it pounded into a paste with a mortar. This could be dried and used as a flour or more often was added to soups and stews. Native Americans also roasted the pecans for sustenance on long journeys.

In addition to using the pecan nuts as a food source, the Kiowa tribe of the Great Plains area of the United States used decoctions of the tree bark to treat tuberculosis. The Comanche Nation used a poultice of pulverized pecan tree leaves as a topical treatment for ringworm-infected skin.

After the 17th century, both native Americans and settlers began seeing pecan trees as a potential source of income. Pecans could be traded and were integral dietary components, especially during times of difficult harvests.

Between the late 1600’s and the early 1700s, Spanish colonists cultivated pecan orchards. In 1772, Long Island, New York, became the location where the first pecan trees were planted in the United States.

In 1775, George Washington planted pecan trees and so did Thomas Jefferson in 1779. Both men planted and grew the resulting trees on their properties. Right after the Civil War, Union soldiers helped increase the pecan's popularity by bringing pecans home when they returned north from the war. By the end of the 1700s, pecans became increasingly popular, and therefore their economic potential was realized.
History of pecans