10 November 2014

Across the U.S., Day 35 - Dallas (TX) to Snyder (TX)

After I learned yesterday that the Pecan tree (Carya illinoensis) is the Texas State Tree, designated in 1919, and the pecan became the state health nut in 2001, I went nuts today. Had to find out more about this plant and its healthy fruit.

I found the Sunnyvale Pecan Orchard on the internet, just 15 min east from Dallas downtown. Yeah, this way I could also get an impression of the other Sunnyvale!

Mike Sage and his wife Dianna own the orchard since 1995; it also goes by the name Sage Pecan Farm. They were really kind to let me come by although Monday is usually their day off!

Orchard of the Sage Pecan Farm in Sunnyvale, TX

The orchard comprises of 8 acres (~ 0.32 km2) and has 150 paper shell pecan trees of different varieties such as Pawnee and Cheyenne, planted in the early 1970s. Pecan varieties differ in fruit size, taste and harvest season and are mostly named after Native American tribes, the discoverer or the person who grafted it. They are a member of the walnut family (Juglandaceae, genus: Hickory). Harvesting season is usually Oct - Dec, so I just came at about the right time.

Pecan on right still surrounded by green outer-husk,
which turns brown and opens when mature (on the left)

Mike gave me a demonstration of how he uses the tractor to shake a tree in order for the ripe pecans to come down. I also videotaped it, still need to figure out how to upload the file. Each tree gets shaken about 3x during harvest season, also depending on the weather.

Tractor for maintenance of the orchard

The Sage Pecan Farm offers "Pick-Your-Own". Families from surrounding areas and even from neighbor states like Louisiana come by and pick the pecans off the ground, which are sold by the lb. For those who want their pecans shelled, a cracking service can also be provided.

Shelled pecans, partially and fully shelled ones.

Pecan nuts, which were also chosen by Alabama as their State Nut, have a long history as food staple for native Americans. They are a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic acid), antioxidants, B-vitamins, vitamin E and minerals (e.g., manganese, zinc, iron, calcium, phosphorus). A study published in 2000 found that pecan nuts also provide cholesterol lowering potential. How much potential there is with the right food choices!

Before getting on the road to Snyder, I needed a restroom break and was looking for a solution. And here it was: the Sunnyvale Highschool. I presented myself to the front desk as a visitor from Sunnyvale, California, and whether I could kindly use their restroom. From their look I could tell that this was probably the weirdest thing that had occurred to them recently. But most important: they helped me out, much appreciated!

BTW, the Texan Sunnyvale is much different to my California home town. In terms of census just as one example: In 2010, it had a population of 5,130, compared to 140,095 people living in its Californian sister.

I traveled west along US-180, which runs parallel to I-20. The scenery turned into dry prairies with oil feed pumps and also wind parks along the way.

Texas State Plant: the Prickly Pear Cactus,
another important food source to native Americans

The last dozen of miles gave an idea why Texas is the #1 cotton producer in the U.S.

More to come.


  1. I would go nuts, too. I love pecans, and also appreciate their 'super food' attributes. Interesting that it is actually possible to live healthy in the US of A. With all the good stuff growing and all the farmer's markets I have a hard time understanding that obesity has become such an issue. But I guess it has all to do with education...

    1. It has probably a lot to do with convenience. Processed food is faster and easier to consume and the intense taste is desired by many. Also, tradition is another point.

  2. I think a lot of it has to do the higher cost of healthier foods. It's much cheaper to ship processed foods than fresh.

  3. If this were multiple choice, I would check "All of the above". Certainly, education and tradition (fried food in the Southeast, the very rich Mexican diet etc.) but also affordability and yes, convenience. How many people still cook their own food everyday? But Guido and I don't either and we are not overweight. Now, my question is, what to do about it and how to change behavior. That's the hardest of all!