Dating back to the 16th century, pecans are the only tree nut native to North America. The name “pecan” comes from the Native American term used to explain “nuts requiring a stone to crack.”
Wide-scale propagation of this nut began in the late 1880s and today 80 percent of the world’s crop is grown in southern states like Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. The National Pecan Shellers Association list of fun facts includes that it would take 144 million pecans to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
One ounce of pecans (about 19 pieces) has 195 calories, 3 grams of fiber and both heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Pecans also contain minerals like zinc, magnesium, copper, iron and selenium.
How about a hefty dose of antioxidants? A 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition reported vitamin E and other compounds found in pecans may help prevent heart disease.
What to do with Pecans
Straight up snacking and trail mix are obvious choices for this munchable nut. Go the sweet route with flavors like cinnamon and ginger in cookies, cakes and pies or opt for more savory combinations for spiced nuts, cheese platters and coatings for poultry and fish.
When kept in their shell, pecans can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 12 months. Because the delicate oils found in pecans can turn rancid, shelled pecans are best kept in the refrigerator or freezer. The Texas Pecan Board recommends storing them in an airtight contains in the refrigerator or freezer for anywhere from 6 months to 2 years depending on whether the nuts are shelled or not.