This native American tree nut is a member of the hickory family. Long before the arrival of the Europeans to the New World, pecans [pih-KAHNS; pih-KANS; PEE-kans] were an important food in the diet of the Indian tribes of the central and southern regions of the United States. Two famous people partial to pecans were George Washington, who frequently carried them in his pockets, and Thomas Jefferson, who dedicated part of his time to their cultivation.
Pecans have a smooth shell and the kernel makes up 40-60% of the in-shell. The principle producing countries are the U.S., Mexico, Australia and Israel. Pecans are marketed in in-shell or shelled form and can be eaten raw or roasted. They're used in the bakery, confectionery and dairy industry, in chocolate and ice creams. Pecans are also added to cereals, breads, pastries and cookies, and are great in salads, main dishes, as toppings on desserts and as a snack.
The wood of the pecan tree is highly appreciated for its timber and is often used as decorative paneling.