Pecan refers broadly to any nut that requires a stone to crack. In our case, we are referring to a nut of the hickory species that is native to Mexico and the southern United States. It is closely related to the walnut. It is not a true nut but rather it is a drupe.
The pecan tree is a deciduous tree that grows to about 20 to 40 meters tall with a trunk that can reach two meters in diameter. This makes the pecan tree a very large one. The wood of these trees is also used to make furniture and in buildings.
The drupe contains a single seed or stone with a hard husk that reaches about one to two and a half inches long. It is usually oblong in shape. The fruit is usually harvested from October to December. The world’s biggest producers of the Pecan are the United States with about 90% of the world’s produce. Others are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, and China.
The pecan is available all year round in the marketplaces. They can be purchased shelled or unshelled. When shelled they can be bought sweetened or salted. The preference is to buy unshelled or unprocessed fruit.
The nuts should be free from bruises, cracks, or mold. The inside should be off-white and feel heavy in hand. They can be cracked open using hand pliers or nutcrackers or using commercial machines. The unshelled nuts can keep for several months in a cool dry and dark place.
The shelled nuts should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. This keeps them from becoming rancid.
Preparation of Pecan Nuts for Eating
Pecan nuts can be eaten raw or cooked as desired as a snack or in recipe preparations depending on instructions. They can either be salted or sweetened.
They are popular in dessert dishes such as the famous pecan pie. They are also ideal in pecan caramel pudding, fudge, sweets, baklava, muffin, cake, biscuit, cookies, and other baked goods.
They are also used in ice cream sundaes and bourbon ice creams. You will also find them used to make pecan nut butter used as a bread spread. They are also used as an ingredient in chocolate bars and energy bars.
The wood of the pecan tree is also used to smoke meat and seafood.
The Nutritional Benefits
Pecan nuts are a good source of all-around nutrition. They are particularly high in energy. They contain 691 calories per 100 grams. They are rich in protein, carbohydrates, monounsaturated fats, and oils and contain no cholesterol.
In addition to the above, they are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They contain good amounts of the B complex vitamins such as Folates and Niacin as well as Riboflavin. They are a rich source of others including Pantothenic acid, Pyridoxine, and Thiamin.
Pecans like almonds are a very rich source of vitamin E.
This fruit is rich in copper and manganese. It is also a great source of other minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. It is also a rich source of phosphorus and zinc.