It may be the time of year when local farmers markets that sell local produce and crops slow down, but in Oklahoma, pecan season is in full swing.
Pecan trees are native to the United States and, while they grow best in the southeastern part of the country, the crop has become a multimillion-dollar industry across all regions. Who doesn’t love pecan pie, butter pecan ice cream, pecan pralines? Need I say more?
Thankfully, the pecan harvest in Oklahoma kicks in during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, undoubtedly one of the most popular pecan-cooking days of the year.
According to Bob Knight, owner of Knight Creek Farms and a former president of the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association, Oklahoma’s harvest averages 20 million pounds of pecans each year.
There are more than 500 varieties of pecans, but several that fare particularly well in our Oklahoma weather. All modern pecan cultivars are grown at a USDA research station in Sommerville, Texas, and many varieties are named after Indian tribes.
“Pawnee and Kanza are favorites and grow well here,” said Knight. “Our only limit here is the growing season. And the rain.”
The heavy rain tends to wash out the groves, a regular problem since many orchards, groves and patches are situated near rivers or creeks. In 1986, during one of the most significant floods to hit the state of Oklahoma, Knight was looking for farmland to grow pecan trees. He bought the only farm he looked at that wasn’t flooded. Knight Creek Farms now consists of 15 farms, groves and patches in Creek County.
“We harvest native pecans from up and down Polecat Creek,” Knight said. “We harvest more off the farm than on it.”
But the Pawnee and Kanza varieties that are grown on the farm are the award winners that customers covet.
“We are looking to harvest around 200,000 pounds of pecans this year,” Knight added. “The native trees are loaded so that number could go up.”
Native pecans grow wild in Oklahoma, and over 140,000 acres are harvested throughout the state.
“The pecans are smaller, but some of our customers think they are the greatest in the world,” said Knight.
In addition to growing and harvesting pecans, the Knight Creek Farms’ Pawnee pecans have won Best in Show at the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association State Pecan Show and Knight Creek Farms is working closely with researchers at Oklahoma State University to ensure the best practices are utilized in pecan horticulture and environmental management.
Pecan-growing runs in the Knight family. Bob Knight was twice the recipient of the Grower of the Year Award. His son, Daniel Knight, is the current 2019 Grower of the Year.
For more information on Knight Creek Farms pecans, visit knightcreekfarms.com
Bob Knight shared the family’s grand champion pie recipe, just in time for Thanksgiving. We’ve also included a holiday-worthy appetizer, some sweet, salty, and spicy nuts and a bar cookie with a shortbread crust and a gooey pecan filling. Grab some pecans and go nuts.