Pecans are, to my mind, the most Southern of nuts. One authority I know states that they were grown in Virginia long before George Washington was born and that the name derives from the American Indian word pakan. The earliest colonists in Virginia and North Carolina transliterated the word as “pagan” and as a result, the Pagan River, which flows through Smithfield, Virginia, was named for the abundance of pecan trees that grew along its shores and not for any pagans who lived nearby.
© 1987 Craig Claiborne estate. All rights reserved.