The pecan is the only tree nut native to North America. Pecans grow in the Midwest and throughout the South and Southwest into Mexico—a region where they are commercially cultivated today. They are also grown in Israel, South Africa and Australia. The name pecan comes from the Algonquian Native American word paccan, which means "hard-shelled nut." Today, they are bred to produce thinner shells that are easier to crack.
The first written record of the nut talks about Thomas Jefferson carrying the trees from the Mississippi Valley back to Virginia to give them to George Washington. Before that, pecans were an important part of the diet of Native Americans living in the south-central region of North America.