A lot of people start their New Year by going nuts, and not always in a healthy way! This year, though, let’s go nuts in a good way — with the Missouri pecan, one of the best nuts around.
According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, pecans provide calcium, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, several vitamins and fiber and are also a rich source of antioxidants. All that in a very tasty package. Pecan trees grow naturally in moist, rich and bottomland soils principally in the bottomlands of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. According to the Forest Service, they occur naturally in 15 states and in Central Mexico and have been cultivated since the 1700’s, because they are easy to harvest and process. According to forest ecologist Paul Nelson, there are 500 or more selections. Trees are selected based on one or more Individual trees that display one or more desirable traits. In Missouri, the Northern Organic Pecan Association promotes and sells local pecans that are smaller in size than other varieties, but sweeter in taste.
If you are planning to establish pecans, it is best to establish local selections or nuts collected from trees growing in Missouri. Local sources of bare root seedlings include the Missouri Department of Conservation George White Nursery, and commercial growers like Forrest Keeling Nursery and Starks Bros also offer grafted trees. Pecan can be grown as a backyard tree for its beautiful shape and sweet edible nuts, as well as commercially in larger plots. They can be established in agroforestry systems in combination of several of the native edible perennials that have been discussed in this column such as goldenglow, wild leeks, cup plant and nettles. All these species would thrive under the shade of pecans. Other native nuts related to pecans are hickories and walnuts. Another native is the hazelnut and all grow in Missouri.
At the Lincoln University Farmers Market we have a vendor that specializes in Missouri pecans and sells them for $10 a pound. during the winter market and throughout the year. Other commercial venues for Missouri pecans include King Hill Farms in Brunswick and the Missouri Northern Pecan Growers, whose…