Pecan Day is celebrated on March 25th of every year. In fact, the pecan is such a beloved nut that there’s National Pecan Day also celebrated on April 14th. We figure that it’s some kind of bureaucratic mix-up. The important thing is that the pecan tree is the only nut tree native to North America, and it produces a buttery nut with a soft crunch. If you’re a pecan lover, you can celebrate this special holiday by planting a tree of your own. However, be warned, this tree is not for small backyards. It grows to a hundred feet tall and more than fifty feet wide at maturity, and creates quite a sappy, nutty mess all around it. Be sure to choose a spot that leaves the pecan tree plenty of room to flourish. [photo via flickr]
Planting your Tree
- Aside from the space requirements for the pecan tree, it also likes well-draining soil. A tree that’s planted in a low-lying area where water collects will not do well and could possibly die.
- As with most nut trees, the pecan tree produces a toxin called juglone that can be harmful to other plants. Choose a spot for planting your tree away from vegetable gardens and flowerbeds, and don’t add its raked leaves to a compost pile.
- Pecan trees are not self-pollinating. This means you will need to plant at least two pecan trees at the same time. The trees need to be different types so that they produce the male and female flowers at different times for pollination. Be sure to ask an expert at the nursery where you purchase your trees to help you with deciding which trees to plant together.
- You can start your pecan tree from seed, but it’s a long, complicated process. Most people opt to purchase seedlings or grafted trees. The best time to plant pecan trees is in the late fall. Dig a hole big enough to accommodate the root ball or if the tree is of the grafted variety, make sure the place where the tree was grafted is about two inches above soil level.
- Once the tree is planted, water it generously. Prune about 1/3 of the branches back to minimize the demand on the newly planted roots. If you are unsure of the pruning process, ask at the nursery where you bought the seedling.
Harvesting the Pecans
If you planted a seedling, it can take as many as fifteen years to see your first light harvest. Grafted trees usually come from older pecan stock and will produce their first harvest within five years.
When you have your first harvest, be sure to try the recipe below–as adapted from a pecan pie recipe. These bars are a bit more fun, and they’re even dairy-free! [photo via thegirlwhoateeverything.com]
PECAN PIE BARS
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup Earth Balance natural buttery spread
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 11 X 7 baking pan with non-stick spray. Set this pan on top of a parchment-lined cookie sheet to minimize any mess in your oven. Sift the flour, salt, sugars, and baking powder together in a food processor or mixer. Add the Earth Balance and combine until the mixture is crumbly. Press this dough into the baking pan and up the sides a little. Bake for about 20 minutes, and then let it cool while you make the topping.
Pecan Pie Topping:
3 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water (any replacer equivalent of 2 eggs)
½ cup Earth Balance natural buttery spread, melted
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups chopped pecans
Mix sugar, corn syrup, and Earth Balance together until creamy. Then add all the other ingredients, finally folding in the pecans. Pour this onto your baked and cooled crust. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is set, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into snack sized squares.