Wild Food Profile: Pecan
Pecan is native to Mexico and also grows in the south-central and southeastern areas of the United States. Its name broadly refers to nuts that require a stone to crack. It is a large deciduous tree that can grow to a height of 40m.
The tree has a trunk with a diameter of 2m and equally features leaves that are alternate, long and pinnate with at least nine leaflets. The fruit is a single stone surrounded by a husk. The seeds of the pecan tree are edible. They have a rich buttery flavor. There are different ways to use these seeds.
For starters, you can eat them fresh or use them in cooking especially in desserts. The traditional Southern US dish, the pecan pie, is one of the most common desserts. Besides, the wood of the pecan tree can be used to make furniture, wood flooring and flavor smoked meat.
Georgia, Texas and New Mexico are the leading producers of this crop, accounting for nearly 75% of the total annual production. The Pecan tree can live and bear seeds for more than 300 years. Pecans have a rich history dating back to the 16th century. Native Americans used it as a source of food and also traded them for other goods.
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Where do Pecans thrive well?
The pecan tree can grow well in areas with mild climates. It needs regions with warm, lengthy growing seasons. The tree does well in subtropical areas that experience short cold winters and hot summers. It requires high humidity and rainfall and equally performs best in fertile, well-drained deep soil with loose texture.
10 Fascinating facts about pecans you probably didn’t know
- There are nearly a thousand varieties of pecans most of them named after Native American tribes.
- April 14th every year is National Pecan Day in the US.
- Albany hosts the annual National Pecan festival, which includes a pecan cooking contest, a parade, and crowning of the National Pecan Queen.
- Georgia remains the top leading producer of pecans since the late 1800s.
- You need about 78 pecans to prepare a delicious pecan pie.
- The US produces over 250 million pounds of pecans every year, making it the world’s leading producer of this crop.
- Pecans come in different sizes and forms.
- Pecans died out in Europe over two million years ago due to glaciers.
- The pecan tree is the only native tree nut from North America.
- The Webster dictionary offers three different pronunciations for the word Pecan
What do pecans do to the body?
Pecans have over 19 vitamins and minerals. They have more antioxidants and rank among the top foods with the highest levels of antioxidants. These nuts have numerous health benefits including:
Improve heart health
Pecan is an essential ingredient in a healthy diet to improve the heart health because it has monounsaturated fats like oleic acid that help reduce the risk of heart diseases.
The pecan nut is part of the high-fat Mediterranean diet that has been known to reduce blood pressure and the overall cardiac-related deaths. Regular consumption of pecans will reduce degenerative diseases while the thiamine present in the nut helps improve the heart function.
Pecans are rich in fiber which makes them improve colon health and facilitate bowel movement. They, therefore, prevent constipation and equally reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and colon cancer.
Helps in weight loss
According to research, pecan –rich diets play a major role in weight loss. These nuts are rich in important vitamins and nutrients like niacin, riboflavin and vitamin B-6 among others which help increase the metabolism rate.
Prevents oxidative stress
Pecans have a high antioxidant load which helps prevent oxidative stress. Consistent consumption of pecans increases antioxidants in the bloodstream and equally lowers the instances of common fatal diseases. They are rich in flavonoids, phenols and phenolic acids which play a major role in preventing oxidative stress.
Maintain brain function
There are many minerals in pecans that help in improving and maintaining proper brain function. Copper is a nutrient present in pecans that helps stop free radical damage while manganese is important for quick reactions and brain signaling. Another nutrient, thiamine, is also responsible for proper brain function. This is why pecans are considered brain foods.
While research in this area is minimal, some studies suggest diets rich in manganese foods can help manage diabetes symptoms. An increased level of manganese in the body is often associated with increased glucose tolerance and better insulin secretion. Manganese is a mineral present in pecans which means, regular consumption can help treat diabetes.
Reduce PMS symptoms
Manganese, present in pecans also helps reduce the symptoms of PMS like cramps and mood swings, especially when consumed with a calcium-rich diet.
Reduce breast cancer risk
Pecan nuts have anti-proliferative properties of ellagic acid that inhibit DNA binding of carcinogens. They equally have oleic acid which is a fatty acid that has been linked to breast cancer reduction. Aside from breast cancer, pecans can also help reduce the risk of colon cancer as explained above.
How to select the best pecan nuts
It is best to look for nuts that are uniform in size and equally have a heavyweight. While many people prefer deshelled pecans because of the amount of work involved, you can still consider shelled nuts especially if you are looking for fresh-tasting nuts.
9 Pecan recipes to try
Pecans are an excellent ingredient to add to your next meal. There are different recipes you can try where pecan is the main ingredient. These methods include:
- Pecan pie
- Pecan-cheese crisps
- Pecan quesadilla
- Pecan-crusted tilapia
- Pecan fennel soup
- Pecan protein smoothie
- Pecan pesto salmon
- Pecan coconut balls
- Honey-pecan butterscotch sauce
Other Uncommon uses for pecans
Most people only understand the benefits that pecans have to our bodies. We all know that pecans are healthy and nutritious especially when consumed on a daily basis. However, there are other uses for pecans that you may not have thought.
- Smoking Meat
- Used as cooking oil
- To make furniture and wood flooring
- Pecan shells can be used to make decorative centerpieces for your table
- To flavor beverages