If there’s one type of food I’m always game for, it’s nuts. I love the simplicity to then and the fact that so often, half of the fun is actually breaking through the shell to acquire the tasty morsel within. And wouldn’t you know it, pecans are simply delicious and fit right in with that I’m talking about! I love them, you love them, we all seem to love them, so let’s take a look and see if they any significant nutritional value. Today’s nutrition facts spotlight is the glorious pecan!
Pecan Culture and History
Let’s take a trip back to North America, which for some of us won’t be very far, but then let’s also zoom back to the pre-colonial times. Okay good, now we’re on the same page of history! Pecan trees were regular in those days and great freely, cultivated by Native Americans as they were very smart alternatives to wild game. In fact, pre-agricultural societies would find that pecans were vastly superior to most other foods as they provided two to five times the calories by weigh that the wild game but required no extra preparation or much work in harvesting. Plus, you can still eat pecans even after they’ve fallen from their trees since the shells protect them from getting dirty or infected. Perfect food!
The world at large wouldn’t get a look at pecans until the 16th century when Europeans first arrived and began mucking about in the wilderness, eventually stumbling upon the trees in what we now know as Texas, Mexico, and Louisiana. They took the nuts back to Europe to share and eventually this led to them spreading to Europe, Asia, and Africa.
What’s kind of interesting is how initially, the Spaniards who came over to North America and learned about the pecan trees decided to just call them walnuts, or more appropriately “nogales/nueces” since that was the Spanish term for walnut trees/fruit of walnut trees. I suppose that would be a pretty simple comparison, what with the two nuts looking like brains and all.
Seems that pecans had a pretty close connection with some people of the past, such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Supposedly, Jefferson sent Washington “Illinois nuts,” which Washington then planned at his Virginia home at Mount Vernon. Cooler still, Texas Governor James Stephen Hogg decided that rather than having a headstone when he died, he’d prefer a pecan tree be planted to mark his resting place. This was back in 1906 and gave pecans a nice boost in popularity, eventually becoming the state tree of Texas in 1919. I can fully get behind that decision!
Health Benefits of Pecans
Seems the resemblance to walnuts isn’t quite enough for pecans. Similarly, they are high in protein and unsaturated fats, plus have a nice helping of omega-6 fatty acids, though only at about half the rate of a walnut. But of course you’ll also find antioxidants because, hey, why not? Antioxidants are in everything else and supposedly reduce the risk of everything negative, so why not here, too?
Okay, there are some definite health benefits at work here, such as the ability of pecans to lower the risk of gallstones in women and the definite lowering of cholesterol thanks to those antioxidants and plant sterols, which are…things that pecans have, apparently. Pecans are so good at lowering cholesterol that in some cases, just a handful of them a day can act as a standard replacement for cholesterol medication, though of course this is something to talk to your doctor about first.
To cap it off, pecans have a high rating for vitamin E, as well as quite a few B vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and folates. Also, you’ve got magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, and selenium. Gang’s all here! Looks like the only one missing out is vitamin C, but to be honest, you’re probably not having a hard time finding that elsewhere, right?
Eating More Pecans
I’m a simple man who has simple tastes and finds simple pleasures in life, so I’m a big proponent of the “eat them raw and eat them often” way of doing business when it comes to nuts. I’m an even bigger proponent of the “eat them raw and shell them yourself” lifestyle since it will slow your eating down considerably and make it so you don’t overindulge without meaning to. Nuts in shells still make for some of the best TV and movie-watching snacks if you ask me, as long as anyone watching near you can handle the sounds of shells cracking of course.
If you’re looking for something a bit sweeter, candying pecans is incredibly simple. My wife regularly roasts some nuts, including pecans, with a bit of maple syrup and brown sugar to really make them the ultimate addicting snack. Perhaps that’s a bit more of a fall or Christmas treat, but I’d be perfectly fine with them any time of the year. Candied or not, pecans are great additions to salads, cereals, pastas, yogurt, ice cream, and anything else that can have nuts sprinkled on top.
But you’re not here to see me write about salads and cereals. You want to take pie. Specifically you want to talk pecan pie. Okay, let’s talk about how warm and comfortable the aroma can be, inviting you to sit down for a spell and soak it all in. How the texture is delectable as you crunch through the pecans but savor the creamy underside. How the taste is strong but not overpowering, joining your taste buds in a joyous union as your teeth chew and chew and chew. Okay, article adjourned; time for pie.
Dang, got to throw it out to you first! Who’s a fan of pecans? What’s your favorite recipe or way of eating them? Leave a comment and let us know! Okay, now for real, let’s go get some pie.