WEST POINT, Miss. (WCBI) – Candied, roasted or raw, they are almost as much a Southern holiday tradition as Rudolph, Frosty and Santa himself. This holiday nut is featured in so many Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes that it’s hard to count, and most of us will eat at least a handful or two of the Southern delight over the winter months. Pecans.
It’s a busy time of year at Duke Pecan Company. The machines are running long hours at the West Point Company, preparing hundreds of thousands of pecans for sale during the peak holiday season.
“We have several machines in the back. It starts with a cracking machine, that’s our main machine line. The nuts go in one end and come out cracked in a hopper. We have blowing machines that take the nuts that have been cracked, and blow loose shells out. Then we have a shelled machine that separates the halves from more shell and gives you a real clean product. In Mississippi we have several varieties of pecans that are grown. The main improved variety is Stuart. It makes a real nice sized half; a real tasty nut,” said Duke Pecan Co. manager, Bill Duke.
The Duke family business has been in operation since 1938. Candied Stuart Pecans fill holiday variety packs, pecan logs make tasty treats, and there’s always the regular cracked or shelled.
“My grandparents started the business in a real small way, just buying and selling pecans that they bought from local people. It’s grown. We buy and sell pecans all over the country now,” Duke said.
The holiday favorites make their way from Clay County around the nation. And many locals depend on Duke’s pecans every year. It’s no Thanksgiving or Christmas without them.
“They have the best pecans around. I make pecan pies from them and a lot of my family also makes other stuff with the pecans like sweet potato casserole,” said Dakota Summerford, a regular customer.
“We see regional taste. A lot of the people that used to live here prefer a real fresh nut that they can’t get where they are. If they moved to Chicago maybe, they can’t get a fresh nut, so they like to buy a nut that’s just off the tree that they can crack in their hands and get that fresh taste they miss,” Duke said.
Duke Pecan Co. is located at 508 East Brame Avenue in West Point. Call (662) 494-6767 for more information.