Deep Roots: The story of Texas’ favorite nut, from planting to pie-making

13 Oct 2020

The metal arms of a hydraulic shaker clamp around the trunk of a mature pecan tree, performing a high-speed vibrato lasting nearly a minute. The ripe nuts hit the ground like shrapnel while the violent quivering of the leaves sounds like hail on aluminum shingles.

At Swift River Pecans in Fentress, just outside Lockhart, Troy Swift and his crew are putting in another long day harvesting pecans. Here in Central Texas, the state’s pecan epicenter, harvest starts in October and lasts through early January. Each tree is shaken once, and the pecans are collected from the ground by machine and taken to the company’s cleaning plant.

Swift River is just one of many pecan orchards keeping this integral nut on Texas tables. Pecans’ ubiquity in holiday dishes, barbecue pits, and backyards across the state makes it easy to take them for granted. But crack the shell, and you find a story of the state’s economy, anthropology, agriculture, and aesthetic writ large.

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