That's Nuts

A weekly dose of nutty history, pop culture, and recipes from Lee Zalben, aka The Peanut Butter Guy.

Pecans, the Other Georgia Nut

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©iStockphoto.com/mcfields

I spend a lot of time in Georgia. I have to, it's where the peanuts are! In fact, Georgia farmers grow almost 50% of all the peanuts in the United States. But Georgia farmers don't stop there. Anyone from Georgia will tell you about the Three P's: Peanuts, Peaches, and Pecans. Three delicious foods that are as synonymous with Georgia as well, just about anything.

Pecans are a source of pride for folks in Georgia but should be for all Americans. They are actually the only tree nut truly native to America. Today, over 80% of the world's pecans are grown here. And as is the case with peanuts, farmers in Georgia grow more pecans than any other state in the nation.

Thomas Jefferson loved everything about the pecan tree, from the great shade it provided to the buttery flavor and crunch of its nuts. He had pecan trees from Louisiana planted in the orchards of his Virginia estate, Monticello. Seeing how the trees were thriving, George Washington got inspired to plant some pecan trees of his own. Texas legislators named the pecan tree their state tree when, in 1906 governor James Hogg requested that a pecan tree be planted beside his grave in lieu of marking it with a headstone. Right after Georgia, Texas is the number two producer of American pecans, followed by New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Hawaii.

Pecan pie is a classic dessert for Thanksgiving tables and holiday parties, but you don't have to wait until winter to incorporate pecans into your cooking. Pecans make a flavorful and attractive addition to any summer salad (think Romaine lettuce, goat cheese, and sliced pear topped with roasted pecans and raspberry vinaigrette). And for the main course, they can complement chicken, rice, and grilled vegetable dishes, too.

So eaters, do you have any delicious (non-pie) pecan recipes that you enjoy? Got any new savory ways to enjoy pecans?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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