We Texans love to share our collective wealth of knowledge. But when it comes to fall baking, there are only two things we want to make sure you understand – why you should use Texas pecans in your holiday pies and where to buy them.
Texans Love Pecans
Until I started researching where to buy Texas pecans for this blog post, I was totally oblivious to most every pertinent agricultural fact about pecans.
Only one thing did I really know for sure.
Texans LOVE pecans.
They’re definitely our favorite nut.
And when the weather starts turning crisp and cool around here, the holiday recipes start flying.
Of course, everyone has a favorite holiday pecan pie recipe.
But most of us are willing to try a slice of someone else’s sweet concoction as well.
Especially if that someone else happened to make his or her pie with Texas pecans.
That’s what we’d call a ramped up pecan pie, my friend.
If I Were Guessing
If I were guessing, I’d say that you and I likely share about the same level of enlightenment about Texas pecans.
But, now that I know (and you are about to find out) how deliciously sweet they taste, how utterly distinctive they are to Texas agriculture, how gorgeous they are in a syrupy pie, and ultimately where to buy them, I will never again buy pecans for my holiday pies from anywhere but a Texas grower.
The First Pecan Pies
Have you ever stopped to wonder how pecan pie got to be the star of every holiday dessert table in the first place?
Well, here’s a bit of the backstory.
Edgar Rose, a retired Illinois engineer, has made a hobby out of all things pecan pie.
His research, performed largely from reading old cookbooks, confirms that pecan pies were actually made first with a few different ingredients than we typically use today.
Like, milk and raisins.
Yep, you read that right.
More Pecan Pie History
Later, around the early 19th century, raisins and milk were replaced by sorghum and molasses, which produced a bit of a stickier filling.
Then, when the wife of a syrup executive discovered the ease of using her husband’s product in pecan pie, most recipes began to be anchored around a cup or so of Karo.
Mr. Rose says that, in addition to the magic syrup, the key to the best pecan pie is chopping the pecans.
A pie using pecan halves is considered the prettiest, but according to Mr. Rose, it’s the chopping that creates the tastiest.
History of Texas Pecans
By virtue of our location and climate, a great portion of Texas has what it takes to grow pecan trees.
In fact, Texas is the largest producer of native pecans in the world.
So, back in 1919, by an act of the Texas Legislature, the pecan became our state tree.
And the rest is, as they say, history.
Acres and Acres of Pecans
Would you be surprised to learn that the highest percentage of native Texas pecans is grown in El Paso County?
Pecans also grow well in Central Texas, and they continue to flourish as far south as McAllen, in Hidalgo County.
All told, pecans are grown commercially on over 70,000 acres of Texas soil.
How ’bout that?
Over Three Million Trees
Pecans have grown over the years to be a symbol of Texas’ diverse agricultural economy, but records indicate that pecans were even being exported from Galveston as early as 1850.
By 1945, there were over three million pecan trees in Texas, providing about 30 percent of America’s total crop.
Although crop yields may be a little lower some years due to late summer drought, Texas pecan farmers still expect production to yield more than 36,000,000 pounds during years when conditions allow.
Why You Should Buy Texas Pecans
Mark Walls, whose family has been growing pecans for three generations, says that those of us who live in Texas should be pretty partial to buying our own pecans.
Not only are pecans high in cancer-fighting antioxidants, they’re also full of nutrient rich oils that benefit our bodies in many other ways.
Eating pecans is a good thing to do for our health.
And buying them from a Texas grower guarantees an abundance of flavor.
Fresh at Point of Purchase
Buying Texas pecans creates a boost to our agricultural economy, but it’s also a sure-fire way to make sure we’re getting them as fresh as possible at the point of purchase.
Texas growers say the pecans we typically pick up from store shelves have likely been in storage from some time, but the pecans we buy seasonally from Texas grocers, and directly from Texas farms, have been harvested, shelled and bagged within their optimal, most flavorful date range.
Variety and Vision
At 38 Pecans, Mark’s family has focused on extending their grandfather’s vision of providing 38 different varietals. And they’ve stayed on the cutting edge of whatever innovative technology has been necessary to meet that goal.
The company plans to showcase new products every year, like their Texas Pecan Coating Mix and Texas Pecan Baking blends, which are the first lines of pecan-based coating mixes and pecan meal blends to hit the market.
These new pecan products are crafted to taste great on any protein, whether fried, baked or barbecued. (Your local H-E-B may stock them.)
Mr. Walls says, “It feels really good to create a new product in this space that people can enjoy year ’round, not just during the holiday season.”
Where to Buy Texas Pecans
Check with your local grocery first.
They will know if fresh pecans from Texas orchards are on their shelves this season.
Then, for a special experience, head out to a Texas pecan festival.
Or make a day trip out of paying a visit to a Texas pecan orchard where you can actually pay for what you pick.
Visit a Farm Store
One weekend when our daughter and SIL came up to Dallas from Houston, I talked my sweet man into driving half-way home with them (2.5 hours!) on Sunday afternoon so we could all pay a visit to Rattlesnake Ranch Pecans, a beautiful pecan orchard near Crockett, Texas.
What a gorgeous drive!
And when we drove up in front of the super-cute store, I could hardly wait to see what was inside.
That’s where we met Clint Craycraft.
While the orchard at Rattlesnake Ranch does its thing, Clint and his wife run the family pecan store just across the road.
She does the decorating and manages social media content, while he crunches the numbers and talks all-things-pecans with the store’s customers.
Business owners like the Craycrafts have learned to share the many responsibilities that go with selling a farm crop, while they also capitalize on each family member’s unique strengths to get the job done.
Find Texas Pecans at Texas Markets
Other places to find Texas pecans include farmers markets, as well as holiday markets like ‘Neath the Wreath in Plano and Nutcracker Market in Houston.
Be sure to pick up several bags of Texas’ amazingly flavorful nuts when driving near San Saba, the pecan capital of the world.
Of course, ordering from Texas pecan growers’ websites is also easy as pie.
Check out links for many Texas pecan farms at this web page maintained by the Texas Pecan Growers Association.
How They Do It
Through the years, the process of growing Texas pecans, from planting to shelling, has become pretty streamlined and efficient.
But there’s no doubt that before you and I are mixing that first cup of pecans into our holiday pie, much work has been done behind the scenes by a Texas farmer.
Hungry for More?
If your family is like mine, pecan pie will probably always be the star of your holiday dessert menu.
But trying to wait all the way until dinner is over for the taste of Texas pecans is absolutely impossible for my bunch.
That’s why I always bake up a batch of my favorite fall cookie recipe!
These little bite-sized balls of pumpkin-pecan goodness keep my family happy at the holidays.
They can nibble on one here and there while working a puzzle or playing cards.
And waiting for pie.
Do You Have a Favorite?
Does your family have a favorite pecan pie recipe?
You know, the one passed down from Grandma?
Or do you get in the kitchen with your family and stir up new pie recipes together?
Leave a comment and share!
Encouraging everyday intentional adventure, and an extra-special part of Texas inside your holiday pies,
PS: This red pie plate is gorgeous, isn’t it? And wouldn’t it be fun to gift individual pies in these cute mini-plates?
A few other posts you might enjoy:
Things I’m Glad I Did During the Coronavirus Quarantine (Made creme brulee!)
What’s the Most Meaningful Thing Your Grandchildren Will Inherit From You?
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