Pecans have long been a favourite nut in the USA. They are grown mainly in the Southern states of America including Georgia and Alabama and are such an emblematic food product they are state symbols of many states including Texas and Arkansas. The trees are part of the Hickory family and grow to vast heights and width – the wood of the hickory is often used in barbequing as it adds a smoky and delicious flavour to cooking.
The pecan is classified as a drupe nut. This is a fruit that has a hard covering protecting the inner seed ( the pecan nut). Many tree nuts are drupe nuts including almonds and cashews.
In the USA , pecans have been grown commercially since 1880 and are part of the traditional food on the USA. After all, nothing could be more American than Pecan Pie – a traditional Southern dish and in many cases pecans are used in the USA for sweet dishes rather than savoury.
Pecans are excellent for your health. They contain minerals including potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium which can help lower blood pressure. They are rich in Omega 3 oils too so can help reduce inflammation and pain in arthritis sufferers. And because pecans are crammed with antioxidants , they are fantastic as a support for general health.
For people suffering from diabetes, pecans with their low glycemic index , can help stabilise blood sugar levels. There is evidence that including pecans in a high glycemic meal can offset the sugar spikes caused by the other ingredients.
So what can you do with pecans?
You can do a lot with pecans. They are wonderful as a principle ingredient in sweet dishes and desserts. Pecan pie is the best known dish but chopped pecans can also be added to cookies, muffins and tarts , adding a healthy dimension to cakes and pastries.
Pecans also work well in savoury dishes such as savoury flans , salads and when cooked with meat such as chicken. You can also use them as a major ingredient for vegan food such as in a vegan wellington. This delicious roast meal baked in pasty and containing sweet potatoes, mushrooms and pecans delivers fresh twist on this classic haut cuisine recipe.
Snacking on pecans
Because pecans are naturally sweet , they make a great alternative to chocolate, sweets and candies. If you nave a naturally sweet tooth and struggle with resisting the sweet stuff, replacing your usual snacks with pecans will be great for your health and your waistline. And because pecans are so high in protein, they provide a far more satisfying snack than any type of chocolate bar or biscuit.
Making your own pecan treats is easy. This nut is wonderful in home made flapjacks but is equally delicious in natural form.
Pecans also work well as nibbles to accompany drinks. Yes, we all love peanuts but chilli pecans and smoked pecans will add a new dimension to your drinks and are ideal for serving at drinks parties or as aperitif snacks before dinner.
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