Plant-based "milks" are rooting themselves into American kitchens. Chances are, you’ve noticed that non-dairy milks are taking up nearly as much shelf space as traditional dairy milk, much to the chagrin of the dairy industry . (And if you're reading this blog, you're probably drinking some of it yourself.) It’s staggering; almond milk grew in popularity by 250 percent between 2012-2015, according to Nielsen data.
I’m not one to make bold claims about diet and how we shouldn’t be consuming dairy. The path that brought me here was a moment a few years ago in which drinking cow’s milk started to seem odd to me. (Though, I confess: I still like a little half & half in my coffee.) Like most things in life, it’s about moderation.
But I do want to make a case for a very special type of nut milk: Georgia pecan milk.
Starting with the basics: not all nut milks are created equal. Big brands are watered down and contain very few actual nuts. Here at Treehouse, Kate and I work with several types of nuts. In fact, we started this business because of a hole that we thought needed to be filled – getting fresh, real almond milk in Atlanta. Not the “this tastes like thickener soup; this is not what I thought almonds tasted like” kind. The raw, simple-ingredient milk that we make is real food, and a clear alternative to the carrageenan and lecithin and gellan gum and filled-with-lord-knows-what-else kind that’s at the grocery store.
We started by making almond milk and cashew milk, but it wasn’t long before we said, “we sure do have a lot of pecans around us, why not those?” And so Sweet Georgia Pecan Milk was born. ‘Pecan milk’ is not in most folks’ parlance, even in the South, so here’s a little more about why pecan milk has grown to occupy a very dear place in our hearts.
Pecans are local.
Pecans have long been a staple of Southern cuisine and culture. Pecan pie has got to be the most emblematic of that tie–you’d be hard-pressed to find a Thanksgiving table in the South without that gooey-sweet deliciousness on it. Just don’t ask us to agree on a pronunciation.
Pecans are a staple because they’re abundant in this region, especially in Georgia, where they were introduced in the late 1800s. Georgia is historically the top pecan-producing state. Even within urban Atlanta, with its lush tree canopy, pecan trees are virtually everywhere. During the fall, when I mention to someone that I make pecan milk, oftentimes the first words out of their mouth are “Great! Can you come get all the pecans out of my yard?”
We source our pecans directly from local farms like Pearson Farms in Ft. Valley, GA, which has been family-operated since 1832. We know the trees that our pecans come from and we know that our ingredients haven’t changed a half-dozen hands before reaching us. Nor have they been subject to unfair labor practices. Eating the freshest food and supporting the local economy gives us a deeper connection to our community and to that which we consume.
Pecans are more sustainable.
The impact of growing almonds on California’s environment is real. Sure, almonds don’t require as much water as some other crops, and arguably not as much water as dairy milk production, but drought conditions are still worse in California than they are in the rest of the country. It takes 23 gallons of water to produce a single gallon of almond milk. The supply of organic almonds in California is hit-or-miss as a result, requiring us to source from Spain. This creates a whole new set of environmental liabilities associated with international transport.
Pecans, on the other hand, are generally environmentally sustainable. Pecans don’t put the same level of stress on natural resources as almonds do. If anything, Georgia gets too much water to grow pecans. As opposed to almonds from Spain, cashews from Thailand, or macadamias from Hawaii, our pecans—from just down the road—have a minimal carbon footprint. And we try to incorporate sustainable practices throughout our products' cycle by re-using bottles and composting waste.
Pecans are really, really good for you.
Pecans are indeed a “superfood,” containing more antioxidants – like ellagic acid, vitamin A and vitamin E – than any other nut. They are high in fiber and magnesium, and rich in anti-cancer properties. Studies have also shown that eating about a handful of pecans each day may play a role in protecting the nervous system. This list goes on. With roughly 50 pecans in a single serving, Treehouse’s Sweet Georgia Pecan Milk is chock-full of nutrition.
Kate and I developed our pecan milk recipe with simplicity at its core. We wanted to be able to count the ingredients with five fingers or less, and we wanted to use the best ingredients that we could get our hands on. Sweet Georgia Pecan Milk is gently sweetened with honey and vanilla. Nothing else. No other artificial sweeteners or thickeners.
I could sit here and expound upon the many ways pecan milk can be enjoyed (with coffee, oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, bourbon), though I prefer mine by itself, in a glass. It just feels good. But that’s a blog – or perhaps a cookbook – for another day.
Taste it yourself and let us know what you think. Come and see us at a farmers market for a free sample. And if you agree, show your love by using #YESPECANMILK on Instagram.
(Also: because you made it to the end... The coupon code YESPECAN will get you 15% off any pecan milk order through June 30, 2017. Cheers!)