Agriculture, Politics

Ga. Pecan Bill Prompts The Question: What Even Is A Nut?

The bill to designate pecans as Georgia's official nut has been popular in the state Capitol.
The bill to designate pecans as Georgia's official nut has been popular in the state Capitol.
Credit Pixabay

Georgia lawmakers are working on designating the pecan as the state’s official nut. Pecans are an important crop here, and Georgia has historically been the top pecan producing state in the country.

Hurricane Michael hit pecan growers hard, though. The industry is still recovering more than a year after the storm. New Mexico has – for now – taken the top spot.

So, between the importance of the crop, and the tough time the growers have been having, the bill to designate pecans as Georgia’s official nut has been popular in the Capitol. It passed the Senate nearly unanimously earlier this week, after a funny introduction from the bill’s sponsor.

“This is a bill about nuts,” state Sen. Larry Walker, a Republican from Perry, said to the Senate.

“We’ve got a number of nuts in this esteemed body,” he said to laughter, as he suggested a few other senators who might be good candidates to be the official state nut.

And he tackled tough issues, like whether it’s “pe-cahn” or “pee-can.”

“So right now, the average price of pee-cans is $1.70,” he said. “When they get up to $3, we call them pe-cahns.”

Walker also told the Senate that he had checked in with the Peanut Commission on this bill, to make sure there was no heartburn over the issue. He said there wasn’t.

Anyway, peanuts are already Georgia’s official state crop. And, as Walker mentioned, “a peanut is a legume, as you all know, not a nut.”

But here’s the thing: Pecans aren’t technically nuts either.

“That makes it a little tricky,” said Lenny Wells, a professor of horticulture and pecan specialist at the University of Georgia.

Pecans are drupes.

A drupe, Wells explained, is a fruit with flesh on the outside and a big seed in the middle, like peaches. With pecans, you don’t eat that outside flesh; you eat from the big seed in the middle. At any rate, whichever part you eat, they’re not, botanically-speaking, nuts.

“That’s news to me,” Walker said when WABE ran the drupe situation by him.

He said he’s not interested in introducing a bill for an official state drupe.

Wells, who likes the idea of the bill, said, really, the nut vs. drupe issue is just semantics.

“More scientific classification than anything,” he said. “So for the average person, they’re going to be considered nuts.”

Wells said making the pecan the state nut would be a great morale boost for an industry that’s had a rough couple years, not just because of Hurricane Michael, but also because of the trade war and low prices on Mexican pecans depressing prices here.

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