Pecans are popular around the world. They’re the only tree nut native to the United States and, fortunately for Alabamians, Southern states have the perfect climate for growing them. That’s why pecans are included in so many Alabama landscapes, recipes and memories.
Many Alabama farmers grow pecans commercially, but even more residents remember growing up with just a few trees in their yard.
Barbara Peak and her husband Jerry, who is Geneva County Farmers Federation president, raised three daughters on their poultry and cattle farm. They also have a few pecan trees, planted on the family farm by Jerry’s grandparents in the 1940s. Jerry’s mother is 86 and still harvests pecans from the trees in her yard for her family.
“Our girls grew up with their Granny always having pecans ready for them to eat,” Barbara said. “When our middle daughter, Ashley, was in school at Auburn, we met her in Montgomery to buy groceries. There was a lady there looking for pecans, and Ashley looked at me and said, ‘I never thought about buying pecans at the store — we just always went to Granny’s.’”
Pecans are often thought of around holidays or as part of a favorite dessert, but the Peaks love cooking with pecans all year and in all kinds of dishes. Like many Southerners, they know pecans have a distinct flavor that performs well in savory or sweet recipes — everything from pralines and pie to chicken salad.
“They just taste better in recipes. They’re also very healthy,” Barbara said. “Anything that calls for walnuts I usually replace with pecans because they add a better flavor. Anything with pecans is bound to be delicious, in my opinion.”