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It’s Harvest Time for Pecans

30 November 2010

food1_dec10Recent research suggests pecans, applicable in recipes for every season, are packed with nutrition.

It’s harvest time for the North American pecan industry. Loved throughout the world for their full flavor, crunchy texture and rich aroma, pecans are also recognized by health authorities and consumers for their nutritional value.

A study recently published in the journal Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research suggests pecans—in part because of their high level of vitamin E—might play a role in protecting the nervous system by keeping nerve cells functioning well as we age.

Commercial buyers utilize the following pecan products, according to the National Pecan Shellers Association.

  • Pecan halves: Perfect for decorating cookies, cakes, candies and pies. An appetizing addition to snack mixes and gift packs. Use salted, roasted, sugared or spiced.
  • Pecan pieces: Easily mixed into batters, dough, soufflés, dairy products, cereals, snack foods, salads, vegetables and main-dish recipes. Contributes to appearance, adds crunch and enhances product aroma and taste.
  • Pecan granules: Provides a tasty coating to confectionery and bakery products. Used as an ingredient, will add flavor, consistency and color. Can be used as a partial replacement for other fats in the formula.
  • Pecan meal: Successfully used as a partial substitute for wheat flour. Excellent humectant properties to enhance finished product.

Shelled pecans can be purchased in halves or pieces. Halves and pieces are shipped in 30-pound corrugated boxes with or without polyvinyl liners. Shelling will reduce weight and bulk of inshell product by about half. Pecans should be protected from moisture, light, heat and oxygen to preserve freshness. Pecans can be stored under refrigeration for about nine months and frozen for up to two years. They can be thawed and refrozen repeatedly without loss of flavor or texture. After removal from cold storage, the quality remains good for about two months.

“Too often, pecans are only associated with holiday time or special occasions,” says Beth Hubrich, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian with the National Pecan Shellers Association. “But they should be enjoyed year-round. Consumers love the unique flavor of pecans. Plus, they're healthy, so pecans as an ingredient can enhance the appeal of a number of product lines."

Eating a handful of pecans will also provide one with more than 19 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and several B vitamins, Hubrich says. Pecans are naturally cholesterol-free and sodium-free.

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