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The hidden treasure of the ornamental pecan tree

Delicious pecan pie.
Delicious pecan pie. / SUR
  • The pecan was first grown in Malaga capital as a specimen tree by the Larios family

Most people have heard of the Jardín Botánico Histórico de La Concepción, once owned by the Larios family but few will know that it is that family that is believed to have brought the first pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) to Malaga from the US.

It was planted as a beautiful ornamental tree and was soon being planted in many residential gardens in Malaga city.

The value of the fruit was not recognised in Spain until about thirty years ago when the pecan was planted to replace the citrus trees that were no longer profitable.

The nut itself is similar to the walnut (Juglans regia) and both belong to the same family but while the walnut comes from China and was taken to Germany in Roman times, the pecan (or American walnut) is native to the southern US and northern Mexico. The only places in Europe where it has been grown successfully are the province of Malaga, the Ukraine and Malta.

Outside of Europe it is grown in many countries including China, South Africa, Argentina, Australia and Brazil. Nowadays over 300 hectares are cultivated to produce around 200 tonnes of pecans a year in Andalucía.

The nut is harvested at the end of November and the pecan is separated from the capsule that protects it and left to dry in the sun for 4-5 days before going on sale.

With a high energy value (around 700 kcal / 100 g), the pecan is highly prized from the nutritional point of view for its richness in proteins and fatty acids. It is also rich in vitamin A, folic acid, vitamins K and E and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium.