Pecans used to be synonymous with the South. However, they are popular all over the world these days. The U.S. produces about eighty percent of the world’s pecan crop, around two hundred million pounds a year. The history of the pecan, in this country, goes back over four hundred years. Native Americans used pecans as a major food source. In fact, the word pecan comes from the Algonquin word “pa cane, which means a nut that needs to be cracked with a stone.
Thomas Jefferson was an early advocate of pecans. He traveled to the Mississippi Valley in 1775 and brought seedlings and nuts back to Virginia. Jefferson shared his bounty with good friend George Washington. Both men planted and grew pecans on their Virginia estates. Modern pecan lovers should stop at Green Valley Pecan Company Store when they are Shopping in Tucson. The store sells many variety of pecans, gift baskets and pralines. Pralines are confections made from nuts and sugar. They originated in France and were made with almonds or hazelnuts. French settlers brought the treat with them to Louisiana, where there are lots of pecan trees. In the 19th century, the first pralines were made in New Orleans using a recipe featuring pecans, brown and white sugar, cream and butter. Soon, pralines were popular all over the country.
In addition, pecans have many health benefits. Several studies show that eating nuts, including pecans, lowers cholesterol. In addition, pecans are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Pecans are also sodium free which makes them a good choice for people on a sodium restricted diet. Furthermore, pecans contain over 19 vitamins and minerals including potassium, zinc, vitamin A & vitamin E. A recent study published in the medical journal Current Topics in Naturalistic Research shows eating just a few pecans a day provides some neurological benefit. Study data suggests that pecan’s antioxidants may slow the progression of motor-neuron degeneration. Finally, pecans contain more antioxidants than any other nut. Antioxidants help to prevent cell damage and fights diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. So, the next time you are Shopping in Tucson, stop and buy some good-for-you pecans.
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