Pecans with Larry Stein, Ph.D.

January Lunch and Learn 

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Horticulturist and Associate Head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences

Summary by Sherri McShane, Bexar County Master Gardener

February 2023

Pecans have healthy fat and are a source of protein, fiber and vitamins. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

The 2023 Lunch and Learn series was off to a spectacular start with Dr. Larry Stein and his presentation, Pecan–The State Tree of Texas

The attendees were treated to a thorough, interesting discussion on the pecan tree.  Dr. Stein first gave a brief insight into the history and development of the modern pecan tree.  Texas is the #1 U.S. producer of native pecans, and approximately 600,000 acres in the state are devoted to this crop. 

After sharing the facts about pecans, Dr. Stein then discussed the nutritional aspects of pecans. The pecan is 70% oleic acid and a good source of unsaturated fat.  Documented benefits of fresh pecans include reducing LDL, increasing HDL, and providing a preventative against heart disease. 

He also advised us about caring for pecans: they should be refrigerated to maintain freshness and, in the shell, they can be stored in Ziplock bags in the freezer indefinitely.  Once shelled, they will maintain their freshness for 2 to 3 years.

 Dr. Stein discussed how to grow pecans, as a farmer or a homeowner.  He stressed that well-drained, deep soil and weed control are key factors to successfully managing pecan trees.  Pecan trees also require a lot of water, typically 5-10 gallons per minute per acre for farmers and 1” weekly for homeowners. 

Finally, Dr. Stein showed slides of pecan tree varieties recommended for Texas:  Desirable and Sioux were his top picks, along with Pawnee and Caddo.  For the homeowner, he recommends seedling pecans, which are ungrafted and require less care.

Here is one of Dr. Stein’s favorite recipes:

 THE BEST Pecan Pie

1+ cup of chopped pecans (determined by size of pie shell)

3 eggs

½ cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

⅛ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup melted butter or margarine

Beat eggs, add sugar and syrup, then add the salt, vanilla, and melted butter or margarine.  Place the pecans in the bottom of an unbaked pie crust.  Add the filling and bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes.  The nuts form a crusted layer.

(Disclaimer by Dr. Stein:  Best recipe but not the healthiest way to eat pecans!)

If you are interested in learning more about pecans, you may want to read the following articles:

“The ‘nuts and bolts’ of pecans” at AgriLife Today

“Home Fruit Production” at Aggie Horticulture

FUN FACTS: The pecan tree (Carya illinoensis) was designated the official state tree of Texas in 1919 (the pecan was also adopted as the state health nut in 2001and pecan pie is the official state pie of Texas).