April is National Pecan month which is a great opportunity to celebrate this All-American nut. Pecan trees are the only major nut trees native to North America and this versatile nut offers many health benefits. This month, tempt your taste buds with a new recipe featuring these nutritious nuts.
And here in Arizona we grow some of the best pecans around! In 2010, the most recent year we have cash crop figures, Arizona produced $62 million worth of pecans. Additionally, the state is experiencing a renaissance in pecan production as more and more Arizona farmers plant pecan trees for production, especially in southern Arizona in Cochise County.
Pecans got their name from the Algonquin word used to describe nuts that needed to be cracked with a rock and appear in history beginning in the 1500’s. Pecan trees are a type of hickory tree and the versatile nut was a major part of the Native American diet prior to the arrival of the colonists. Two of our most famous Presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, were fans of pecans and are reported to have had pecan trees growing in their gardens.
The French settlers that lived along the gulf coast in what are now the southern states were the first to export pecans beginning in the early 1800’s. New Orleans became a hub for pecan production and by the end of the 19th century growers across the South had developed grafting and budding techniques that enabled pecans to become a commercialized crop.
- As a great source of zinc, pecans can boost testosterone levels and act as an aphrodisiac.
- The pecan tree is the official state tree of Texas although Albany, Georgia is the pecan capital of the U.S. because of its 600,000 pecan trees.
- If you stacked pecans end to end, it would take more than 11,600 to reach the top of the Empire State Building and over 10 billion to get to the moon.
- Pecan trees can produce nuts for more than 300 years and usually range from 70 to 100 feet in height.
- Pecans are not all created equal, they actually come in six different sizes ranging from mammoth to midget.
- Many of the 1,000+ varieties are named for Native American tribes like the Sioux and Cheyenne, which is fitting since it is the only major nut tree that is also native to North America.
- The U.S. is the primary producers of pecans and is responsible for 80% of all the pecans produced in the world.
Research has shown that pecans have a wide variety of health benefits that range from helping to protect against neurological degeneration to enhancing heart health. The following studies have shown the health benefits associated with including pecans in your diet.
- Pecans contain the highest antioxidant capacity of any nut – Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (June 2004)
- Pecans contain a specific type of Vitamin E that helps improve bad cholesterol – The Journal of Nutrition (January 2011)
- Pecans also help lower cholesterol – The Journal of Nutrition (September 2001)
- Pecans and other nuts can aid in weight loss and maintenance –American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (September 2003)
- Nuts Over Brownies (fillyourplate.org)
- A Picture of Arizona Agriculture (fillyourplate.org)
- Take the Cake! Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day! (fillyourplate.org)