“Pecans are the pride of the South. They grow on huge trees throughout the Mississippi River Valley, especially in Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas. Pecan trees grow to 150 feet with trunks of 7 feet in diameter. Mature trees can produce up to 200 pounds of nuts.” ~ Sally Fallon in her amazing book, Nourishing Traditions (top 10 on Lindsay’s ultimate book list)
And, may I add, pecans are also the pride of permaculture (well, nut trees, actually). Nut trees are perennial, so for a gardener or a farmer, that means you don’t have to plant every year to reap a harvest. Perennials season over time, offering up bounty with little human input (if the plantings are done right). This is ideal — no-till farming and a plant that keeps on giving.
Last week, my friend’s son knelt down and picked up a pecan and brought it over to me. Then, because I saw it was good, clean fun, I encouraged him by bringing over a basket to collect nuts in. This turned into about a 15 minute pecan picking spree that eventually the entire family of four got involved in + Lindsay = five.
They insisted that I take the nuts with me. I scratched my head thinking what the hell am I going to do with all these nuts (later on I found out it was 18 pounds of nuts). Again, they encouraged me to take the nuts. My friend said that the co-op down the street had a machine that cracked pecans for a nominal fee. So, listening to my inner foodie, I took the nuts.
A few days later I stopped by my mom’s shop and asked her if she knew exactly where the co-op was located. And, after giving me easy directions (such as, drive down the street 2 blocks and it’s on your right), we proceeded to joke about how I was going to enter the shop:
“Y’all crack nuts around here?”
“I need my nuts cracked, please.”
I decided to go with the first one, as prefacing with “excuse me” is always a good way to start. Turns out they have a special pecan nut cracking machine. I went back to look at it myself. It picks up each nut in a water wheel type way and waks it on the end to crack it open. Then, they empty into a barrel. They take this barrel and put it in the pecan nut blowing machine. This blowing machine blows off as much stuff as it can, leaving you with as much nut as possible. What remains looks like this:
Since this nut cracking experience, I have religiously been chipping away at the 18 pounds. I have come up with three recipes so far. But, first some words about nut preparation and the lovely pecan.
Nuts contain sprout inhibitors (or enzyme inhibitors). This is a natural mechanism that protects the seed until it is ready to germinate. So, with all nuts (and legumes, grains) it is best to soak them in water with salt, lemon juice, or whey to get rid of the enzyme inhibitor. These enzyme inhibitors block we humans from getting all the nutrients from the nuts (as they are locked up) and can irritate some people’s mouths and digestive systems. Fallon says, “Native Americans understood instinctively that pecans had to be treated in some way before being consumed. They ground the nuts and soaked them in water, to make a nutritious milky drink, much as European farmers made a kind of milk with walnuts.” However, you can soak the whole nut.
Pecans in particular are higher in fat than other nuts, allowing them to store better than most other nuts (as the fats protect them from going rancid). They contain calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and contain a very high amount of manganese (one of our richest sources in plant life). Manganese builds the nervous system, boosts the immune system, regulates blood sugar, and builds healthy bones. And, because their roots go so far down into the soil, pecans provide a good supply of trace minerals.
Ok, now for the recipes…
Crunchy, Roasted Pecans
Soak pecans overnight in water with salt ( 2 cups pecans to water + 1 teas. salt)
Drain and rinse pecans
Spread on a pan
Pop in the oven at 150 degrees, and let sit until roasted
(this normally takes at least 8 hours)
Crust (adapted from internet sources)
1 1/2 cup soaked (don’t need to roast) pecans
1/2 cup organic whole wheat flour (pastry flour if you want, or spelt)
4 T ghee
1 T molasses
1/4 t cinnamon
1 t sea salt
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and zap it until well mixed. Roll all of this into a ball and place in the fridge for 20 min’s or so. Place cooled ball between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll ball into a round, flat shape — about 1/8 inch thick (or until the shape is wide enough for your pie pan). Flip it into your pie pan and shape it into pan. Keep the edges rough ’cause you’ll shape it later when you put the filling in.
Filling (from Fallon’s book, Nourising Traditions)
1 can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup sucanat
1 T freshly grated ginger
1 t cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 t powdered cloves
1/4 t powdered nutmeg
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup creme fraiche (I used whole, organic yoghurt, totally fine!)
2 T brandy (optional)
Line a 9-inch pan with pie crust. Cream eggs with sucanat. Gradually blend in the other ingredients. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
I served my pumpkin pie with organic whole whipped cream (I blended in cocoa — oh, no you didn’t!?)… Try it — it’s yummy…
Butternut Squash Soup with Pecan-Blueberry Sauce
1 butternut squash
1 large onion
5-6 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup whole yoghurt or heavy cream
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
2 t sea salt
2 cups chicken broth
2-3 T whole butter
1 cup blueberries
1 cup pecans
Handful of fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds (length-wise). Take the skin off the garlic cloves, and place in the bellies of the butternut squash. Place the butternut squash face down in a thin layer of olive oil. Place in oven for about an hour. While squash is cooking, carmelize the onion in butter. Turn off oven and let squash cool. Scoop meat of the squash into a blender or food processor, add garlic, onions, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. On the stove, warm up the broth, and add the ingredients from the food processor — stir in the yoghurt.
In the blender, pour in blueberries and pecans. Mix until coursely chopped.
Chop up some parsley… Then — pour soup into a bowl…add a grande spoonful of blueberry/pecan and sprinkle on some parsley — enjoy!