The All-American Nut

Whether you say “PEE-can” or “pa-KAHN,” these nuts are a Southern stapleFirst Course Pecans: The All-American Nut

By Travis Timmons

Next time you’re defeated – or, as the Cajuns say, “gone pecan” – over the hot, humid weather, remember that pecans thrive on muggy heat. The nuts are a Southeastern native and staple, thanks to the South’s many groves and favorite desserts, such as pralines and pecan pie.

Pecans are the only nut trees native to the United States. The nut comes in more than 500 varieties – three of which are commercially produced – and October through December is the nuts’ harvesting season.

Georgia leads the nation in pecan production, with an average of 80 million pounds harvested annually. Albany, Ga., is “the pecan capital of the world,” boasting around 600,000 pecan trees and hosting the National Pecan Festival. In addition, November is Georgia Pecan month.

Besides being delicious, pecans are nutritious. The nuts are an excellent source of protein, antioxidants, unsaturated fat, LDL cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, and other vitamins and minerals.

Originally an Algonquin Indian word, pecan means “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.” And, in an attempt to put to rest the never-ending controversy, a 2003 national survey found that 50 percent of Americans prefer the pronunciation “PEE-can,” while the remaining 50 percent were split between “pa-KAHN” and “pee-KAHN.”

When shopping, look for plump nuts. They should be stored in an airtight bag or container. The nuts keep for about nine months in the fridge or up to two years in the freezer, and are re-freezable. 

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