National Pecan Month
By Becky Eades
April is National Pecan Month and we think that this overlooked nut deserves a little more attention! Native to the southeast United States, the pecan is a healthy addition to any diet, although it’s primarily known for its use in a pie. But it’s time to think outside the box and truly see the pecan for the diet staple that it is. According to the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA), the pecan takes the prize for most antioxidants in a nut and contains 19 vitamins and minerals. Additionally, it’s been proven that adding pecans to your diet can help lower your cholesterol and lower your chances of developing heart disease.
So how do you get more pecans in your diet? One of the easiest ways to incorporate more of these nuts is to simply keep a bag in your pantry or work drawer. They’re tasty enough on their own to act as a stand-alone snack and since they contain a high amount of protein, you’ll find that you stay satisfied for much longer. If you want to get more creative, try adding crushed pecans to your cereal or adding them to breakfast muffins. To continue with the healthy angle, here’s a recipe developed by the Georgia Pecan Commission that will have you looking at the typical lunchtime salad in a whole new light.
Mediterranean Chicken-Pecan Salad
-5 medium sized tomatoes (cut into thin wedges)
-1/2 cup fresh basil (chopped)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
-1 large garlic clove (minced)
-3 cups saffron flavored rice (cooked)
-3 chicken breast halves (roasted or grilled, cut into strips)
-1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon pecan pieces (toasted)
-2 cups mixed salad greens
In a bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes. Add cooked rice and cooked chicken strips to bowl and stir. Fold in ½ cup of pecans. Spoon salad into center of serving plates and surround with greens. Scatter remaining tablespoon of pecans over top of each salad.
If you’re still craving dessert, here’s a five star pecan pie recipe to help round out your meal.
You can typically find pecans in your local grocery store, but harvest season is around mid-October if you want to find a fresh batch. The natural range of the pecan tree extends from Texas and Louisiana into Oklahoma and Arkansas, but growers have expanded farms farther east into states such as Georgia and South Carolina. This means that Ideal Living retirement communities like Sun City Peachtree in Griffin, Georgia, The Reserve at Lake Keowee in Sunset, South Carolina, and Water’s Edge Ranch in Athens, Texas, have access to fresh pecans.
If you can find an actual orchard around you, try visiting your local farmers’ market. Some gourmet grocery stores or even country markets might also be great resources for finding the beloved pecan. Stock up and you’ll be set for a season of healthy snacking and delicious meals.