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The Stuart Pecan

Posted Mar. 1, 1998

How can I miss you if you won't go away? is the title of a country and western love song. The mere thought of such a romantic expression may tear up an ole? country boy like a sow's nest. Those that have never observed a sow making a nest of sticks, straw, hay or corn shucks will likely miss the full impact of this tender thought.

The Stuart pecan was discovered in the 1880's near the same town in Mississippi that Ray Stevens sang about in his song 'The Mississippi Squirrel Revival'. The song you may remember was about a young boy that had a pet squirrel he kept in a shoe box. Unnoticed the boy took the squirrel to church and the squirrel escaped the shoe box. Continuing unidentified the squirrel moved freely up and down the occupied pews creating quiet a stir in the church. The congregation thought 'something else' was moving during the services.

Consequently, there were several high energy events that followed including an explosion of revealing testimonies, people volunteered for missions in the Congo, the offering plate overflowed and many were rebaptised whether they needed it or not. Stevens via his music claims that all this happened in Pascagoula, Mississippi also renown as the hometown of the Stuart pecan. Several other old standard pecan varieties such as the Success, Delmas and Eastern Schley were also discovered near Pascagoula.

For over a century now the pecan industry of the U.S. has enjoyed a romance with the Stuart. However, during recent decades many growers have jilted this variety by choosing instead newer, highly touted varieties with more attractive statistics.

The Stuart has been criticized for being only fair quality with a relatively thick shell, yielding only 45 to 48% kernel while many varieties yield 55 to 60% kernels. Perhaps it's most often cited shortcoming is the 10 to 12 (or more) years from planting of the tree until the beginning of significant nut production. Several of the more precocious varieties available today yield comparable amounts of nuts in only six or seven years after planting.

Yet for generations, while pecan growers were being attracted to other varieties, the Stuart did not go away! Over time a majority of the once highly touted varieties have proven by their performance that they are also less than perfect. This in turn has reenhanced the appeal of the somewhat 'homely' Stuart pecan.

Though the Stuart is not among the more popular varieties being planted or grafted in Oklahoma today, we continue to list it among the varieties suitable for our state. It continues to grow relatively disease free in our part of the pecan belt.

When crowded older orchards are thinned, the Stuart is usually preferred as a 'keeper' over other older varieties that may be present. The Stuart has name recognition similar to the Elberta of the peach world, consequently it continues to have rather strong demand as an inshell pecan. The Stuart has not gone away!

March is a good time to:

  • Finish pruning fruit trees.
  • Cut and store pecan graftwood.
  • Fertilize pecan and fruit trees.
  • Plant trees.
  • Plant pecan nuts.
  • Apply dormant sprays to fruit trees (if needed).
  • Do something nice everyday without getting caught!

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