Pecans packed with good fats, essential nutrients
Pecans not only taste good but are also packed with good fats and essential elements, said Carla Haley, Miller County Extension agent for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
"Buttery, crunchy, plus full of flavor and healthy fats, there are so many reasons to go nuts over pecans," Haley said. "Wide scale propagation of this nut began in the late 1880s and today, 80 percent of the world's crop is grown in southern states like Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia."
Pecans meet the American Heart Association's nutritional guidelines for a heart-healthy diet. A 1-ounce serving--that's 15 to 20 pecan halves--has 195 calories, 3 grams of fiber and both heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Pecans also contain minerals like magnesium, copper, iron and selenium. That 1-ounce serving also provides nearly 10 percent of the daily recommended intake of zinc.
When buying pecans, Haley suggests:
--Ask the seller if the pecans are this year's crop.
--When purchasing pecans sold in the shell, choose those that are clean and free of splits, cracks, stains, or holes.
--Pecans with shells should feel heavy for their size.
--When buying pecans without the shell, look for plump nutmeats that are fairly uniform in color and size. The best ones have a golden brown color.
"Pecans are long lasting, and when stored properly, they will hold their freshness for up to two years," Haley said. "This means pecans may be purchased in quantity when prices are low."
The secret of storing pecan meat at home is to pack them dry, protect them from insects, guard and keep them cool. Some acceptable containers include: glass jars and lids with plastic gaskets; zipper-type freezer bags with air removed; or plastic containers with tight fitting lids.
Because of their fats, it's important to "avoid storing pecans near foods that emit strong odors, such as onions, apples, or oranges" which can spoil the nuts' flavor," she said.
Shelled nuts will keep fresh in a cool, dry place for about six months. They will keep even longer in the freezer. Freeze in tightly closed freezer containers and store at zero degrees or colder.
Unshelled pecans resist insects and aging much longer than shelled nuts; however, shelling before storage reduces their bulk by approximately one-half. Shelled or unshelled pecans may be kept refrigerated in airtight containers for about nine months.
For more information, contact your county Extension office, or see the Plant of the Week column about pecans by retired Extension Horticulturist Gerald Klingaman at www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/pecan_12-7-07.htm.