Pecan America

Exploring a Cultural Icon

John Gifford

Inspired by the mystique of a uniquely American tree, the pecan, Oklahoma writer John Gifford set out to explore the US pecan industry, which provides 80 percent of the worlds supply of this special tree nut. What he discovered during his two-year immersion was a nut—one that’s suprisingly symbolic of America itself—that’s poised to become the next superfood and an industry that today finds itself in the most important juncture in its history.

Though the US pecan belt extends from the Carolinas to California, the pecan tree, which was revered by some of our nation’s founders, has its origins in the South Central United States, where wild pecans still grow along the region’s rivers and streams, and in its floodplain forests. The pecan is the only native tree nut that has been developed into a significant agricultural crop. Though native pecans continue to figure into the 280-million-pound annual US crop, wild pecan trees face an uncertain future as worldwide demand centers on the larger and more lucrative “improved” varieties.

“In Pecan America, John Gifford takes an outwardly simple subject, the pecan, and reveals its historical richness, ecological significance, and cultural complexity. Pecan America is a delightful and informative journey into a beloved but at times misunderstood American food, and readers will be glad they accompanied Gifford on the adventure.”

—Stephanie Anderson, author of One Size Fits None: A Farm Girls Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture

“If the thought of ancient midland groves that cheat the reaper of modernity electrifies you, then youll appreciate Gifford’s road trip into the heart of pecan country.”

—George Frazier, author of The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Journeys into Hidden Landscapes

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Pecan America provides readers with a look at how the rising demand for pecans around the world is transforming the way this nut is grown, promoted, and consumed here in the United States. Along the way, Gifford explores its presence in American folk art and culture, documents the pecan industry’s quest for share of stomach in a market brimming with other tree nuts, examines the pecan’s surprising array of health benefits, and profiles some of the fascinating people who bring this food to our tables. In the end, Gifford reveals the pecan to be much more than a food, but also a cultural curiosity and even a metaphor for America itself, one whose diverse nature may be its greatest quality.

About the Author

John Gifford is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Edmond, Oklahoma.