In Search Of a Nut: A Locavore Goes To Texas

Leaves had fallen and forecasters told ghastly stories of a fast-approaching cold front with resulting snow. While the neighbors switched out their wardrobes, strung their Christmas lights and tapped in their snow-markers, we were busy packing our bags full of t-shirts and summer pajamas. My family was heading out of town, we were going down south for two weeks. Houston, Texas was the get-away destination.


With the warm weather and vast agriculture presence, we were both intrigued and excited about our seasonal locavore prospects. Texas ranks number three in the nation for total agricultural exports and number two in pecan production. We were visiting as part of the the Thanksgiving holiday and November is peak growing season in Texas for oranges, pears, beets, cabbage, broccoli, nuts, and pecans. We were excited about the challenge of creating a 100% Texa-vore Thanksgiving meal.


And what a “challenge” it proved to be. We located one co-op which was really a drop off center open to members only. Determined, we tracked down a farmer’s market and planned a visit. Nearing the market, we spotted volunteers dressed in corn-on-the-cob and pea-pod costumes jumping up and down, advertising the market much like lady liberty selling the local tax preparation services. It was an exceptionally warm Houston November and I was sweating in a t-shirt. Despite prime weather conditions and over the top advertising efforts, attendance at the market was sparse and hardly any produce was to be seen. 


Sadly, the farmer’s market boasted only ten tables. Two of the tables were farmer/growers with a total of seven vegetable varieties to share. I spent some time with one farmer. He told me that this was his third year with the market and area interest in local produce was picking up ever so slightly. “People are used to their big-box store fruits and veggies, and are just not willing to try what we are growing”, said the farmer. 


Shocked, I told him stories of utopia-like locavore market in the Twin Cities. I told him how my family belongs to two grocery co-ops, two Community Supported Agriculture groups (CSAs), and buys produce from three farmer’s markets. I joked about our fun kitchen experiments with all the “new” variety of vegetables received in our bi-weekly CSA boxes. The nice farmer shook his head in dismay. He told me that he was only aware of three CSAs in the whole state of Texas. We thanked him and bought three sweet potatoes (all that was available, which is hardly Thanksgiving proportion), some herbs and baby lettuces. Where were the vegetables? Moreover, where were the famed Texas pecans we wondered out loud? 


My dear sister-in-law mentioned she saw a small back-alley facility with a sign reading, “We buy your pecans” near her house. We loaded up the kids and went on an adventure. What we found was a small family-owned facility which collected, sorted and sold area pecans. The locals showed up with old ice-cream buckets and wal-mart bags full of pecans. Pecan trees grow wild and can be found nearly anywhere in Texas.


We bought a few pounds of several different varieties. It was a family affair to crack the decadent nuts open. After much hard work, we were ready to bake. Thanksgiving was a success with pecan topped green beans, sweet potato casserole, pecan-infused bread pudding and of course, decadent pecan pies. 


Determined that the dinner would be a “pure” as possible, we decided to make the switch from a corn syrup to a honey base for the traditional pecan pie. The result was hands down delicious. The local honey and freshly toasted Texas pecans provided a crispy, lighter, but just-as-fun twist on the famous desert. 


The Thanksgiving trip was fantastic and the reminder about how great the Twin Cities’ sustainable food systems are, even greater.


Honey Pecan Pie (adapted from, but it’s all in choosing the right ingredients).

1  Cup honey (Wolf Honey Farm is one of my favorite to cook with)

3  Eggs, lightly beaten

3  Tablespoons butter

1  Teaspoon vanilla extract

1  Teaspoon bourbon

1  Cup toasted pecans, chopped

Dash of nutmeg


Preheat oven to 325 F.

-Meanwhile, bring honey to a boil in medium saucepan and then immediately remove from heat.

-A little at a time, stir the honey into the eggs. Go slow or the eggs could scramble. Stir constantly.

-Return honey egg mixture to the sauce pan, continuing to stir constantly. Gently bring to a boil.

-Fold in butter, vanilla, bourbon, and nutmeg.

-Add pecans and then pour pecan pie mixture into unbaked pie shell.

-Bake 30 minutes or until filling is set.


Pie Crust with Parmesan Cheese (Cheese gives a nice salty and savory lift to the sweet desert)

1 1/4  Cups all-purpose flour

1/4  Cup Parmesan cheese, dry, grated

1/4  Teaspoon salt

1/2  Cup butter, chilled and diced

1/4  Cup ice water


1.  In a food processor, combine flour, cheese, and salt. Cut in butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 

2.  Add in water, a tablespoon at a time, until mixture forms a ball. 

3.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

4.  Roll dough out to fit a 9 inch pie plate. Place crust in pie plate. Press the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of the pie plate.


Leigh Ann Ahmad was dragged kicking and screaming to the Cities by her husband; having been born and bred in Cleveland, Ohio, she just could not fathom how colder could be better. Now, five years and two kids later, she cannot imagine a better place to play and thrive. She’s a reformed carb-aholic, wannabe writer, social justice advocate, book- club geek, veggie grower and local foods connoisseur. Her last article for SGT was Let Food Be They Medicine.