Pecans are the fruit of the pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis), which is a species of hickory (carya) in the walnut family (Juglandaceae). The pecan tree is native to North America and originally originated in Texas. Pecans can be eaten raw and are a nice choice for a snack.
Pecans are used as both an ingredient and a garnish for a wide range of warm and cold dishes. For example, they are a common ingredient in granola, desserts, fillings, and salads. Pecans taste especially good in baked goods. A classic in American cuisine is Pecan Pie. In Central Europe, pecans are most often found in nut mixes. Since the fatty acids they contain are very sensitive to oxidation, pecans should be eaten fresh and not stored too long in the chopped or ground form.
Thanks to the high amounts of simple and polyunsaturated fatty acids, fiber, and carbohydrates they contain, pecans are very nutritious and are also amongst the nuts that contain the most calories. In addition, pecans contain a wide range of important vitamins and minerals such as the B vitamins and manganese, zinc, and magnesium. Since pecans have a relatively poor ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids at approx. 21:1, it is best to enjoy them in moderation.
From Wikipedia: In 100 g, pecans provide 691 Calories and over 100% of the Daily Value (DV) for total fat. Pecans are a rich source of dietary fiber (38% DV), manganese (214% DV), magnesium (34% DV), phosphorus (40% DV), zinc (48% DV) and thiamin (57% DV). Pecans are also a good source (10-19% DV) of protein, iron, and B vitamins. Their fat content consists principally of monounsaturated fatty acids, mainly oleic acid (57% of total fat), and the polyunsaturated fatty acid, linoleic acid (30% of total fat).1
Pecans are similar in appearance to walnuts, which are native to Europe, and they are also in the same family. It is only with the shell that this similarity is not immediately clear as pecans have a smooth and elongated shell whereas walnut shells are more round and rough. Pecans taste sweeter and more aromatic than their close relatives and thanks to their thin shell can be opened more easily.
Pecans were one of the most recently domesticated major crops. Although wild pecans were well known among native and colonial Americans as a delicacy, the commercial growing of pecans in the United States did not begin until the 1880s. As of 2014, the United States produced an annual crop of 264.2 million pounds or 132,075 tons, with 75% of the total crop produced in Georgia, New Mexico and Texas. They can be grown from USDA hardiness zones approximately 5 to 9, and grow best where summers are long, hot and humid. The nut harvest for growers is typically around mid-October. Outside the United States, Mexico produces nearly half of the world total, similar in volume to the United States, together accounting for 93% of global production.1
Native Americans have a long tradition of using pecans as a winter staple. Fresh pecans are sold at farmers markets in the autumn and winter.
Etymology and pronunciation:
"Pecan" is from an Algonquian word variously referring to pecans, walnuts and hickory nuts, or more broadly to any nut requiring a stone to crack. There are many variant pronunciations, some regional and others not. The most common American pronunciation is /piˈkɑːn/; the most common British one is /pɪˈkæn/. Unusually, there is little agreement in the United States, even regionally, as to the "correct" pronunciation.1
Literature / Sources:
- Wikipedia. Pecan [Internet]. Version dated April 22, 2018 [Cited May 15, 2018]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pecan