On March 25, Americans celebrated pecan day. Pecans are those sweet and tender nuts greatly loved by Southerners from Georgia to Arizona. In fact, when asked to think of how pecans might be used in a food, 80 percent of respondents will say “pecan pie”.
Southern Living, a publication of Time Inc., recently offered a spread of pecan recipes ranging from skillet pecan pie to pecan pesto. Closer to home, Fill Your Plate offers Arizona consumers several pecan recipes like sour cream banana cake, seven layer bars, or apricot appetizers – all easy to make with three ingredients or less. The site also provides shoppers with opportunities to find and patronize local growers, like Cochise Groves or Shalako Pecan Farm. Buying local helps the state’s economy and delivers the freshest and most wholesome food available.
Pecans store quite well. In-the-shell pecans will keep for four months at room temperature, or three months if they are shelled. Refrigerated, shelled nuts remain tasty and hang onto their nutrients for up to a year and a half! Without the shell, this best-by date is six months. But the best storage location is the freezer. Set to 0 degrees Fahrenheit (0 °F), your freezer will help shelled or unshelled pecans retain that just-picked sweetness and tenderness for up to two years.
Pecans are excellent nutrition. They are loaded with unsaturated fat, which helps lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Their protein count, ounce for ounce, is four times greater than meat or beans. Besides being sodium-free and having the highest antioxidant rating of any other nut, pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals – including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins, and zinc.
Here are some other fun and interesting facts about pecans:
- The United States produces 80 percent of the world’s pecans
- Georgia is the leading pecan-producing state, followed by Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona
- Pecan trees take 10 years to reach maturity and produce nuts, but can live for more than 300 years
- Pecans were a staple food of Native American tribes living in the southern tier of states and Mexico before America became a nation. They were introduced to Spanish explorers crossing Mexico, Texas and Louisiana, and sent back to Europe in the 16th century
- The Spanish sometimes called pecans “tuerca de la arruga”, or “wrinkle nut”, though they were commonly known as “nueces” (walnuts), since that is what they most look like
- Like Arugula, that crinkly crisp little lettuce variety, pecans are rumored to improve your love life, via zinc (which spurs the production of testosterone)
- Pecans can grow as tall as oaks; that is, 150 feet or more, and the really old ones sport trunks greater than three feet in diameter, or 10 feet around
- The more than 1,000 varieties of pecan tree are often named for Native American groups like the Cheyenne, Sioux, Mohawk (Six Nations Iroquois) and Shawnee
If you are looking for a truly impressive way to use your locally-purchase pecans, try one of Fill Your Plate’s featured recipes, Tessa Sweet Potatoes. Sweet, crunchy, exotic, and satisfying, this “comfort food” will bring your family back to the dinner table again and again!