What are pecans?
They are the fruit of the deciduous pecan tree, which is a variety of hickory native to Mexico and the southern states of North America. The trees can live for up to 300 years! The pecan itself is surrounded by a husk, which is removed during the processing operation.
Pecans are related to walnuts, having a similar grooved appearance but being more oval in shape. They have a glossy red-brown shell with a light brown skin and creamy inner nut meat.
North America is the world’s major grower, producing around 200 thousand tonnes of the nut each year. Harvesting starts in mid-October and finishes in December.
They are harvested by shaking them from the tree before they are dried and the husk is removed.
Shelled pecans are generally available all year round, whilst pecans still in their shells are usually only available in the autumn. If you’re buying unshelled pecans, choose nuts with no cracks and avoid those that rattle when they’re shaken.
They are a rich source of healthy fats. Just a handful a day can help lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the incidence of heart disease. They can also help with weight loss and studies have shown that they contribute to an increase both in metabolic rate and satiety, making you feel fuller for longer.
Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, B and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Maybe it’s time to replace your daily vitamin and mineral supplement with a handful of these instead! They are also sodium free, so they are a great ingredient for people on low salt/ salt-free diet. And only 25g of these nuts can provide you with around 10% of your daily recommended fibre.
Pecans are also rich in age-defying antioxidants, being the most antioxidant-rich tree nut. Antioxidants also help protect the body from diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and heart disease and increase our resistance to infections.
But don’t forget that people with nut allergies may also react, so take care.
Pecans have a sweet, rich, buttery flavour and a distinctive texture due to their high oil content.
They can be eaten raw, toasted, salted or sweetened or used in either savoury or sweet dishes such as pecan pie, a popular American dessert, and they also make a tasty addition to salads, muesli or ice cream.
You can also use them to make pecan butter, which is delicious spread on toast.
It’s really easy to toast pecans. You can either bake the nuts in the oven on a medium heat for 10 minutes until they turn golden or dry fry them over a medium heat, keeping the pan moving so they colour evenly but don’t burn.
Energy ball recipes including pecans: