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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Pecan Nomenclature
Larry Stein

This time of year, when growers are contemplating how and when to sell their native crop, it is interesting to note how the "travel" for pecans has changed in the short 124-history of commercial pecan growing. Of course, "native growing" has been around a lot longer than that. We guess the former Indian tribes who frequented the river bottoms would be our best judges of that fact.

Pecans were first moved to markets maybe 75 miles from their point of origin, in an ox-drawn wagons at a mere two-to three- miles per hour. San Antonio was the destination of many such pecans as it was a prime shelling center. Within a century, pecans went to the moon, a trip of some 240,000 miles on Apollo 13 at speeds of close to 25,00 mph. Today, pecans are bought and sold instantly on the internet and exported to many parts of the world. Years ago, only natives were shelled and standard varieties were sold as in-shell pecans. Today, over 90% of the pecans are sold to the consumer as some sort of shelled pecans-halves, pieces or meal. Only time will; tell where the next 50 years as in-shell pecans. Today, I want to shed light on the question of just what constitutes a native, seedlind and improved pecan, as well as address the question of which pecan tastes the best.

A native pecan is defined as one hybridized under natural conditions. As far as can be ascertained from the history of the tree's origins and from the appearance of the nut, there was no named variety heat served as either parent. Realize that native pecans are for the most part average in size, but they can easily be as big. Just because the nut is large does not mean it is not a native. In fact, I can assure that you would be surprised at the size of some native pecans. For the most part, natives have a hard shell much like the Stuart variety, but many times even harder. On a 40,000-pound lot, typical shell-out is 41- to 42-percent kernel, but many natives are soft shelled and easily shell at 56- to 60-perent kernel. Kernel color is often golden which most associated with the high oil content., buy I have seen them as white as Cheyenne. The genetic diversity of the native pecan bottoms is simply incredible. Today, if a survey were to be given to pecan consumers, I would venture to say that most would pick natives as having the best taste. However, in some taste tests, this has not always proven to be true. This is because all native trees are genetically different. No two are the same, so if you find a really good one, you would want to clonally propagate it is to increase this particular quality.

Seedling pecans are ones originating from nuts planted by man or beast where only one parent is known. Sometimes neither parent is known, and the nut could be from a native or improved cultivar. Usually when only one parent is known, it is the female or better said the parent that produced the nut. Typical, well-known seedling pecans include Mahan, Schley, Maramec and Podsednik. Maramec originated from a Mahan pecan planted in Oklahoma and Podesdnik from a Success type of pecan planted in Arlington, Texas. Realize there are thousands more and most fold want to know what they have. But, all one can say is that they had a "seedling Pecan". Their tree originated from a nut of Choctaw, Success, Western, etc. They range in size from "huge" to very small. Some shell well and others have so much fuzz it is hard to know if you have kernel or shell. Taste varies from good to okay.

Lastly we have pedigreed cultivars in which we are confident we know both parents. The USDA pecan breeding program had done a remarkable job of improving cultivars. Some of their greatest success stories include Wichita and Cheyenne. Very large pecans have been developed and others not so big. Size appeared to be critical early on in the breeding program as Choctaw, Mohawk, Kiowa were released, but today, size is not as critical. More emphasis has been placed on nut quality, disease and insect resistance, and continued yield ability. Two recently released cultivars that look extremely promising include Hopi and Nacono.

Of all the named cultivars to date, I think the one hat has the best eating quality is Sioux. Sioux is a Schley by a Carmichael cross. Of course, Schley is a very high quality seedling and it was crossed with a high quality native pecan-Carmichael. Hence, there is not real secret why it tastes so good. Still, realize taste is a very subjective thing-typically, 50 percent will think something is awesome and the other half would not put it in their mouths. Also realize that nut quality varies from year to year, based on grown conditions. Nuts on over-cropped trees are not nearly as good as nuts from trees with the proper load. Well-managed trees are not nearly as good as nuts from trees with the proper load. Well-managed trees often have better pecans than trees that receive little care. However, stress is the key. As long as the trees are not in severe stress, the nuts should be good. Many years, non-managed trees will have favorable growing conditions and the nut quality will be okay. Other years, we can do everything right and still end up with poor quality. So, in reality, taste is very subjective and depends a lot on the growing conditions that produced the crop.

Today, we are blessed with good cultivars for most situations, be the homeowner or large-scale commercial grower. True we don't have perfect varieties, but some are really close. But realize, too, that this was not always the case. Our early pecan enthusiast had to find their own "varieties" in their native pecan bottoms.

So the emphasis of our forefathers was to find native trees that consistently produced a good crop from year to year, had a nice size pecan because all were picked by hand, shelled well, and tasted good-not much different than our breeding program today. Make no mistakes about it as well. Many such native pecans were found and propagated by the family, landowner, or the one who discovered the nut. One such pecan is the Prilop that comes out of Lavaca County and is currently being propagated in Texas.

My grandfather had about 50 acres of native pecans to work. Of course, trees arranged in size from very large to seedlings. The drought of the 1950's took its toll on the large trees, but this is a normal weather calamity in the grand scheme of things and even though it is hard to lose big trees, this makes room for different genetic material to make their impact known. Over the years my family identified trees that they would harvest for their own use because of the outstanding qualities of the tree and nut. Today, we propagate one which they considered to be their very best-i.e. Das ist die Guet!, meaning this is the "good!" in the Alsatian language. Three such Guets were identified, but only this one was propagated and today it is simply known as the "Guet". This pecan shells in perfect halves at 53 to 56 percent kernel; has very wide dorsal (upper) grooves and little if any ventral grooves; ranges in size from 65 to 70 nuts per pound and has an awesome flavor. One drawback to the nut is that it turns dark fairly quickly, presumably from the high oil content! However, other trees were named based on the family who purchased the pecans, because they like that particular nut. In our pecan bottom, there were several such trees including the die Stolte Bauem (the Stolte tree), die Brymer bauem (the Brymer tree), and die Briet (the wide). Every year, these trees were harvested and kept separate for these individual families or special friends. A few other well known trees on the "other" side of the river (which happens to be the side of the river my mom is from), were die Saloon (wirtzhus) bauem. Yes, you guessed it. That is where the beer keg sat when there was cause for celebration and die renne bauem-where the wagering for the weekend horse race often took place.

Pecans and pecan history are unique to all of their native sites. I am sure there are countless stories that could be told. Here is hoping their value and stories will be long remembered in future years.