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Definition: pecan from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Nut-producing hickory tree (C. illinoensis or C. pecan), native to the central USA and northern Mexico and now widely cultivated. The trees grow to over 45 m/150 ft, and the edible nuts are smooth-shelled, the kernel resembling a smooth, oval walnut. (Genus Carya, family Juglandaceae.)

Summary Article: Pecan
from The Encyclopedia of Seeds: Science, Technology and Uses

The most important native American nut tree (Carya pecan syn. C. illinoinensis, Juglandaceae), from Mexico and the southwest USA (Colour Plate 5B, C). The pecan tree can reach great heights and one is reported to be the largest tree in the state of Georgia, USA. The pecan is a true nut (see: Nut): like the walnut the nut itself is surrounded by green accessory tissues which at maturity split to reveal the nut. The nuts are 3-4 cm long and about 2.5 cm wide and the internal seed is slightly smaller. The cotyledons of the embryo are infolded though not as markedly as is the walnut.

The kernel can contain up to 17% fresh weight storage protein and almost 80% oil (triacylglycerol) which has a high proportion of oleic acid (see: Nut, Table N.2). The kernels have wide use in confectionery, bakery, as snack food and in ice cream.

Hickory nuts and butternut are closely related members of the same genus.

  • Vaughan, J.G. and Geissler, C.A. (1997) The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 32-33.
  • Black, Michael
    © CAB International 2006.

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