Pecan Groves in the Mississippi Delta
Well, pecan groves might not necessarily be a topic you were expecting me to write about. I understand. But have you ever had one of those days where you have good intentions and even a plan….and something distracts you and the first thing you know….you’re chasing rabbits!
Today I’m just going to take you down that rabbit hole with me!
A few months ago my oldest sister was terminally ill and I made several trips back and forth through the Delta to visit her in Arkansas before she passed away. Now I’ve made many trips through the Delta growing up and even later in life, and for the most part, the only thing I remember about it was that it was flat and pretty boring.
Why is it though when we reach a certain age, we notice things more? They were always there but just didn’t catch our eye.
Traffic was usually very light on my trips and I would find myself stopping right in the middle of the highway or pulling off the road to take pics. I have lots of them! Cotton fields, soybeans, rice, corn, old store buildings, cotton gins, silos, harvesters, and even a crop duster flying over! One time I was driving along the highway and a train was right beside me! But today, I’ll focus on the pecan groves.
Is it a Pecan Grove or a Pecan Orchard?
We always called them pecan groves. I do like to make my writing factual so I had to look this one up.
A grove is simply a collection of trees. An orchard is a collection of fruit or nut trees. For instance, the “Grove” at Ole Miss…is the tailgating area in the middle of the trees on campus. So a grove of pecan trees would be a pecan orchard. But for my purposes today, I’m sticking with pecan grove))
And then we get into the pronunciation of the pecan. It all depends on the area you’re from. Around here, we call them “puh-KAHN or pee-KAHN.” Others may call it “PEE-can or PEE-kahn.” They taste the same no matter what you call them))
Interesting Pecan Facts
Pecan trees can live 200-300 years.
Roasted pecan shells were often used for coffee during World War II rationing.
There are over 1,000 varieties of pecans.
Georgia is the pecan capital of the US with over 600,000 trees.
Pecan trees can produce for about 100 years or more.
It takes almost ten years for a tree to be a substantial producer.
Pecan trees alternate the years they produce fruit, one year the crop will be heavy and the following year it will be light and the third year might not produce at all.
Pecans have been to the moon! Packed for snacks on two missions.
Unusual recipe using pecans: Arkansas Possum Pie
Pecans are encased in a green outer shell and when they are ready for harvesting, the outer shell turns dark and it bursts open like a cotton boll. Then the pecans fall to the ground. Sometimes they don’t fall out and are helped along the way by big winds or equipment that shakes the trees.
I ran across the most interesting video on harvesting pecans. See what you think!
It’s been a while since I shelled any pecans because now I always purchase bags of chopped pecans or halves. But in my younger years when the only pecans we had were ones that we picked up from someone’s yard. Sometimes my parents would buy 5 or 10-pound bags of whole pecans and bring them home.
Occasionally if a farmer had a large pecan grove, you could buy pecans that were cracked and ready to pick out. I only remember two kinds of pecans. Those that were round and short and some that were longer and skinnier called paper thins or something like that.
How do you crack a pecan? Hold two nuts in your hand and squeeze. 😳
Well, looking back on that, let me rephrase ….I mean that’s really how we did it unless we had to shell enough for a pecan pie or something. In that case, you take a hammer, place the pecan on a brick and tap it. Sometimes one person would be in charge of cracking all the pecans while others started picking out the meat. Separate the halves and put them in a separate bowl…..they would be needed for the final decoration of a fruit cake.
I think probably every household had one of these nifty nutcrackers and a set of picks. The picks were downright dangerous! Once the pecan was cracked, you would dig out the meat with the pick being sure to discard that bitter fibrous membrane between the halves and in the crevices of the pecan.
It was impossible not to eat a few during the shelling process. Any extra pecans not used in baking pecan pies or a fruitcake were placed in the freezer for later use. Pecans were a premium to have around! And they always made great gifts. A big sack of unshelled pecans would bring a huge smile to my mother’s or grandmother’s face. If you brought in pecans….you were the prize pig)))
Well enough about pecans for today! Here are a couple of my favorite recipes using pecans.
my mother’s recipe
Frozen Caramel Pie
This is the best recipe for a frozen caramel pie with toasted coconut and pecans and a secret ingredient! It was my mother’s recipe from many years ago.
cook in a cast iron skillet
Caramel Pecan Cream Cheese Dip
Caramel Pecan Cream Cheese Dip makes a great snack for tailgating or just any time! Yummy with tart Granny Smith apple slices.
I love your blog. I enjoyed the story of pecans as it brought back memories of growing up in the south. Today my Mom still has the family ranch in Oklahoma with here ancient pecan tree grove.
Thank you for dropping in Judy, I appreciate it))) We were never so lucky as to have pecan trees on our land when I was growing up, but my grandmother did grow one from a pecan! It really never produced too much that I can remember, but I’ve wondered if it was still there on their old home place. If it lived it would be 60-70 years old now. Sounds like I need to take a road trip this fall)) The road to their old home place now is pretty much impassable, but it has my curiosity up….we could always walk that last mile and look for the tree))