Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pearson Farm: Georgia Pecans

The Pecan is the only tree nut that is native to the U.S., with Georgia leading the country in pecan production, and has for over one hundred years. The U.S. produces more than 80% of the world's pecans and 14 states grow pecans, though most are from Georgia, New Mexico and Texas. In 2012, the U.S. produced about 303 million pounds of pecans, with about 100 million from Georgia, 65 million from New Mexico and 55 million from Texas. There are over 500 varieties of pecan, many named for Native American peoples, though only 3 are actually commonly available.

Pecans are also nutritious, and "...are linked to lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, lowering cancer risk and managing weight. Pecans specifically contain 3 grams dietary fiber and over 19 vitamins and minerals including but not limited to vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and zinc. Pecans are also a good source of oleic acid, vitamin B1, thiamin, magnesium and protein, all this at only 196 calories per one once serving (about a handful)." You can find more specifics on the studies supporting these health benefits here.

One of my favorite pies is pecan pie, though I enjoy pecans in a number of other dishes as well, from pecan-crusted fish to bourbon bread pudding with pecans. I recently received a media sample of Elliot Halves Pecans from Pearson Farm, located in Fort Valley, Georgia, and knew that I needed to enjoy them, at the very least, in a pecan pie.

The Pearson Farm was established back in 1885, when Moses Winlock “Lockie” Pearson and his wife, Cornelia Emory “Emma” planted the first peach trees and soon after started growing pecans too. Today, the family continues growing peaches and pecans. Their pecans are generally harvested from October to December, though with proper storage you can keep your pecans year-round. You can refrigerate your pecans for 9-10 months, though if you freeze them, they can last up to two years.

Pearson Farm sells three varieties of pecans, both in-shell and shelled. Their varieties include Mammoth Halves, Schley (or Papershell Pecans), and Elliot Pecans. You can get shelled pecans as halves or chopped. I received one pound of Elliot Halves ($11), and this variety is small but plump, round and delicious. They can be used in cooking or snacking on their own. This variety was first discovered Florida in the 1920s, and they are more rare, especially as their harvests can be sporadic.

I enjoyed some of the pecans on their own, and they provided a fine, nutty taste with a firm texture. They seemed fresher than some of the pecans I've commonly bought at the local store, and their price is very reasonable considering the quality of the pecans. Marilyn, my sister-in-law, makes one of my favorite Pecan Pies, which she usually makes for either Thanksgiving or Christmas (or both holidays if I'm lucky). I persuaded her to make one for Easter, using the Elliot pecans and it came out excellent. The pecans had a prominent savory flavor, and seemed to enhance the pie even more than usual. During the week after Easter, I savored a few more pieces of the pecan pie, heating it up and adding a little vanilla ice cream.

You can buy the usual commercial pecans at your local supermarket, or you can order some higher quality pecans from Pearson Farm. I think you would enjoy the Pearson pecans much better.

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