Pecan 101

December 17, 2012

It’s holiday season and pecans can be found on just about everything! Find out the basics here

What are Pecans?
Pecans are the only major tree nut that grow naturally in North America, and is thus considered one of the most valuable North American nut species. The name "pecan" is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe "all nuts requiring a stone to crack”. 
How to Buy:
Look for plump pecans with unblemished bright brown shells uniform in color and size. Shells are thin yet require a nutcracker to open. Each nut contains two semi-attached kernels. Eighty percent of pecans are sold shelled in halves or broken nuts and they should look a clear, clean light brown without shriveling or staining. U.S. is the world’s largest pecan producer (grown in 15 states). Pecans are also imported from South Africa, Israel, Australia, Peru, and Mexico.
How to Use:
Eat alone as a high-protein satisfying snack, or in baking, add to savory pilafs, salads, puddings, or any recipe that calls for a sweet-tasting nut.
How to Store:
Store shelled nuts in airtight container in refrigerator up to 9 months; in sealed plastic bags in the freezer up to 2 years, and about 2 months out of cold storage. In-shell pecans can be stored in a cool dry place for 6-9 months.
Health Benefits:
Pecans rank highest among all nuts and in top category of foods with the highest antioxidant capacity (protects against cancer, heart, and neurological diseases). Pecans contain plant sterols to lower cholesterol. Nearly 60 percent of fats are monounsaturated, and 30 percent polyunsaturated. A 1 oz. serving  (about 20 halves) contains 196 calories, 20.4 grams total fat (1.8 saturated fat), no cholesterol, no sodium, 2.7 grams fiber, more than 19 vitamins and minerals - including high amounts of vitamins A, E, calcium, potassium, zinc, vitamin B1, thiamin, magnesium, and protein.
Smarter Shopping: Buy in bulk to save money. Pecans freeze well.
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