Heartland Nuts

Pecan Nuts

Pecan nuts grow on pecan trees, a deciduous tree native to North America. Perhaps this is how pecan pie became so famously associated with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe pecan nuts were gathered and roasted at early feasts or maybe the pie is simply a southern tradition from early on, but whether or not the Pilgrims and Indians gathered these nuts, or an early settler discovered the recipe years later, pecan nuts are a Thanksgiving staple in American households today.

Pecan nuts have numerous nutritional benefits including protein, fiber, and potassium. The traditionally prepared pecan pie contains about 400 calories per serving. Variations of the traditional pecan pie have surfaced over the years to include chocolate pecan pie, coconut pecan pie, apple pecan pie, and peanut butter pecan pie. While many people enjoy plain pecan nuts year round, more pecan nuts are sold the weeks just before Thanksgiving through Christmas each year than the rest of the year combined.

Pecan nuts have a rich, almost buttery taste, which is what makes them ideal for pie, but pecan nuts can be used in various other culinary delights as well. Sweet potato casseroles, ice cream sundaes, and cream pies are often topped with pecan nuts. The flavor of pecan nuts is a wonderful companion to sweet dishes, but they are used in many main dishes as well. Though not as popular as other nuts in store bought mixed nuts, pecan nuts are often included in gourmet mixed nut packages for gift giving.

Besides producing pecan nuts, the wood of the pecan tree is often used for making furniture, hardwood flooring, and the bark for flavorful meat smoking. Texas is the largest producer of pecan nuts in the United States, but the pecan tree grows as far north as southern Indiana, Iowa, and many southern states.

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