A Word About Pecans

The pecan is undoubtedly the most important nut tree native to North America. For North American Indian tribes in the South-Central region of the United States, especially in the Mississippi Valley, the seedling pecan served as a dietary staple long before the arrival of Europeans. Later the Indians traded pecans to the settlers for furs, trinkets and tobacco. Before the early sixteenth century, no European had ever seen a pecan.

The native trees produced a seedling pecan which was small and had a very hard shell. There are now more that 500 improved varieties which were developed by advanced growing techniques. This was to improve the nut meat of pecans produced as well as increase the production of the trees. The improved varieties are thinner shelled making them easier to crack.

Georgia now produces 45% of the Nation's pecans. Georgia's production averages 110 million pounds per year. This production is influenced by factors such as weather, insects and disease which cause fluctuations from as low as 50 million pounds to as high as 150 million pounds per year.

Not only are pecans delicious, they are heart healthy! Research has revealed that eating a handful of pecans a day may help keep the heart doctor away! Pecan nuts can lower bad cholesterol and can be beneficial to heart health in the long run.

Researchers have found that eating one third cup of pecans a day lowered the "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, by 10% after four weeks. "Pecan nuts can be part of a healthy diet", says Wanda Morgan, lead author of the study and a nutritional scientist with the Agricultural Experiment Station at New Mexico State University. In addition to lowering the LDL cholesterol, pecans are a good source of oleic acid, thiamin, magnesium, protein and fiber.

The flavor and texture of pecans make them compatible with a wide variety of foods. It is estimated that there are more than 1200 uses for pecans in prepared dishes. Pecans may be used in baked goods, dairy products and sweets as well as salads, meats, cereals and vegetables. Naturally though, our first thought is of pecan pralines and pecan pie, which originated in the South!

No matter how you choose to eat your pecans, you can be assured you are getting a healthy and delicious product!

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