By Faye Gaston

Nutritious pecans, a major fruit, are found on towering shade trees commonly found in yards, orchards, and pastures throughout Bullock County. Harvesting pecans usually occurs from October to December as autumn settles in. Recently, pecans have been blown from trees in the high winds from the latest big storms in our area. Pecans are best known for pecan pies, a classic American dish baked during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Consuming a handful of pecans translates to ingesting different types of nutrients. Eating pecans can lower cholesterol levels and offers protection against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gallstone disease, and cancer. Pecans help in weight management and protect vital organs from the toxic effects of cyclophosphamide.

Pecans are a good source of healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, folate, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. They are rich in antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. Pecans are the best source of plant-based protein.

When pecan shucks are open, shaking the branches is an easy way to make the pecans fall to be picked up from the ground. Commercial growers use "tree shakers."

For the many folks in Bullock County who have enough pecans for home-use, the following is good advice.

If harvesting occurs early in the season, pecans will have a high moisture content and require drying before storage. Dry them in the shell in thin layers on elevated screens, or hang them in small mesh bags in a well-ventilated area at room temperature out of direct sunlight. After about two weeks, they should be dry enough to use immediately or for storage.

Unshelled pecans can be stored in a cool, dry place. Shelled pecans should be refrigerated or frozen.

Storing pecans away from air and light is crucial. Vacuum sealed bags or jars allow for the best storage.

After freezing pecans, thawing and re-freezing can repeatedly occur for two years without loss of texture or flavor.

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