Pecans are grown commercially in 15 states in the southern U.S. including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
All varieties are derived from the native U.S. pecan, which grew wild in North America for millions of years. U.S. pecan growers have developed new cultivars with natural non-GMO methods to ensure consistent superior quality.
Pecans are grown in groves or orchards of trees. Groves are groupings of trees that are grown naturally, while orchards are defined as groups of trees planted by humans. Trees in both settings are cared for by dedicated, experienced growers, and can live for many years.
It takes between 7 to 10 years before a pecan tree begins to produce a full supply of nuts. But once the process starts, the tree can produce for a very long time, sometimes more than 100 years.
When are pecans harvested?
Pecans are typically harvested between October and December, depending upon the region and the variety of pecan. American pecans are available year-round.
How did the pecan get its name?
Tracing its origin to the 16th century, the name “pecan” is derived from the word Algonquin (a Native American language and tribe) origin pacan that described “nuts requiring a stone to crack”.
What are the different types of pecans?
There are more than 1,000 different types of pecans. The majority of pecans grown in the United States are focused on a few dozen popular varieties. You won’t usually see the variety indicated on a package of pecans, but you will notice different sizes and colors, which are the main differences among shelled pecan varieties.
What is the best way to store pecans?
For best flavor, quality, and to ensure optimal storage life, pecans should be refrigerated or frozen in sealed containers, not stored at room temperature.
How do pecans fit into dietary guidelines?
A healthy eating pattern for a 2,000-calorie diet should include 4 ounces of nuts and seeds per week, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Pecans and other nuts are part of the Protein Foods Group. A 1-ounce serving of pecans is the equivalent to 2 ounces in the Protein Group. Because pecans offer protein, along with heart-healthy unsaturated fats, dietary guidelines recommend using nuts and other plant proteins instead of meat or poultry at least a couple times per week. To meet sodium recommendations, the guidelines recommend unsalted nuts.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pecans, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” One serving of pecans (1 ounce or about 19 halves) contains 18 grams of unsaturated fat and only 2 grams of saturated fat.
What are the various forms of pecans available?
Pecans are available shelled and unshelled. Shelled pecans are sold as halves or pieces, raw or roasted (oil and dry roasted), and salted or unsalted. Glazed and flavored varieties of pecans are available in bags, single-serve pouches and resealable canisters. Also, many pecan-based products are available, including:
Pecan butter: A nut butter, like peanut butter or almond butter.
Pecan meal: Ground pecans with the consistency of corn meal for breading, baking and topping other foods.
Pecan flour: Ground finer than meal, pecan flour can be used in baking as a gluten-free and grain-free option.
Pecan oil: An oil with the essence of pecan flavor and aroma that can be used in baking, cooking, and in sauces/dressings.
Pecan milk: A nut milk, like almond or cashew milk.
How do pecans compare to other nuts?
Pecans are the only tree nut native to the United States. Other tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios, were brought to America from the Middle East or Europe. Pecans are just as heart-healthy as other tree nuts and have similar scientific research documenting their heart-health benefits. But what makes pecans unique is that they contain phytonutrients, specifically flavonoids (10 mg per ounce), at levels comparable to some super fruits. Pecans also contain gamma-tocopherols, a form of vitamin E (7 mg per ounce). All of these benefits are made delicious by the pecans’ delectably rich, buttery taste.
Can people with dietary restrictions eat pecans?
Pecans are sodium-free, cholesterol-free and gluten-free. If you need to avoid gluten, be sure to check package labels of flavored pecans or products made with pecans to ensure not gluten-containing ingredients were added.
What can you do with pecans?
Pecans are a delicious, healthy and convenient whole food snack. They are delicious alone or mixed with dried fruits and spices. Pecans can be used as a topping, added to yogurt, hot or cold cereals, smoothies, baked goods, and salads. Pecan meal and flour can be used to flavorfully coat proteins or add texture and flavor as a grain-free, gluten-free baking ingredient. The smooth, buttery flavor of pecans can play a stellar supporting role or take center stage in a variety of dishes.