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When purchasing fresh pecans in the shell, choose those that feel heavy for their size, uncracked, and free of blemishes. If they rattle when shaken, avoid, as this is an indication of age.

Shelled pecans in sealed packages or tins with expiration dates are more reliable than those sold from bulk bins.

Pecans are harvested in the autumn months and are generally at their peak in flavor for a month or so after harvest.

Properly stored at room temperature, pecans will keep up to three months. Once shelled, they will keep up to six months if kept in a sealed container in a refrigerator or up to a year in a freezer. Pecans can be frozen shelled or unshelled.

Pecans have a high oil content. They are best purchased in the shell, as they can turn rancid more quickly than other nuts with lower oil content.

Pecans readily absorb odors and flavors from their surroundings. Shelled pecans should always be kept in a closed container.

Culinary Uses

Pecan nutmeats have a sweet, pulpy texture. They are great in fruit salads and, if roasted slightly, are a delicious topping for cooked grains or steamed green vegetables. The nuts are particularly enjoyed in the infamous pecan pie, butter pecan ice cream, and the praline -- a brown sugar candy of French origin. In most recipes pecans can be substituted directly for walnuts. Try mixing chopped pecans into your favorite nut loaf or bean burgers, or hide a few in sandwiches for a crunchy surprise. Pecans are best purchased in the shell, for their high oil content predisposes them to turn rancid quickly after shelling.
~ from Whole Foods Companion by Dianne Onstad   


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