As I drive around town I see many of my neighbors outside doing the same thing — walking slowly, staring at the ground, moving the leaves with their feet looking for that prize possession. You know what I am talking about — pecans. And with pecans costing somewhere around $7.50 for a 16 ounce bag of halves at the grocery store — you will find me out there with them.
This year we have had a great crop of pecans. They are everywhere and in abundance, too. And it is a good thing, because many of our favorite holiday recipes call for pecans.
According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, “Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals — including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc. One ounce of pecans provides 10 percent of the recommended daily value for fiber. Pecans are also a natural, high-quality source of protein that contain very few carbohydrates and no cholesterol. Pecans are also naturally sodium-free, making them an excellent choice for those on a salt- or sodium-restricted diet.”
To keep pecans fresh and flavorful, follow these buying and storage guidelines:
When buying pecans, look for plump pecans that are uniform in color and size.
Shelled pecans can be kept in the refrigerator for about nine months and for up to two years in the freezer.
Pecans can be thawed and refrozen repeatedly during the two-year freezing period without loss of flavor or texture.
Airtight containers, such as jars with lids, are best for storing pecans in the refrigerator.
Sealed plastic bags are best for storing pecans in the freezer.
In-shell pecans can be stored in a cool, dry place for six to 12 months.
After removal from cold storage, pecans will stay good for an additional two months.
Pecans are not just for the holidays they can be a great snack anytime. To work pecans into your diet year-round, try some of these suggestions as healthy snacks:
Instead of chips, which are loaded with sodium, bring about 20 pecan halves to work to snack on throughout the day. Pecans are naturally sodium-free,
Substitute pecans for a candy bar when you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up. Research has shown people who eat pecans feel fuller longer. Pecans provide that long-lasting energy because they contain heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats. Plus, a handful of pecan halves contain the same amount of fiber as a medium-sized apple.
Sprinkle pecans on top of your yogurt and you'll get more zinc and vitamin E - important nutrients for proper growth and strong immunity
Article source adapted from http://www.ilovepecans.org/pecan_faq.html 
Roasted Vegetable and Pecan Salad
u Serves 4
u 2 medium zucchini
u 2 medium summer squash
u 1 red onion
u 4 plum tomatoes
u 3/4 cup chopped pecans
u 4 teaspoons olive oil
u 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
u 2 to 3 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
u 4 cups mixed salad greens
u 24 pecan halves
u Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)
Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil two baking sheets. Cut zucchini and summer squash lengthwise in half, then cut each half crosswise into large chunks (about 1 1/2-inch thick). In medium bowl, toss zucchini and squash with chopped pecans, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread mixture in a single layer on one baking sheet. Set aside.
Cut red onion into 1-inch thick wedges and place in same bowl. Cut tomatoes lengthwise into quarters and add to onion. Toss onion and tomatoes with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread mixture in a single layer on second baking sheet.
Roast all vegetables 5 minutes. Turn vegetables and pecans and roast 4 to 5 minutes longer or until most of the vegetables are just tender and lightly browned-do not overcook. Combine all the vegetables and chopped pecans in a large bowl, sprinkle with vinegar and gently stir.
To serve, divide salad greens among plates. Top each with a mixture of vegetables and chopped pecans. Pour any liquid in bowl over vegetables. Garnish each serving with 3 pecan halves and, if desired, Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition information per serving (without Parmesan)-237 calories; 5g protein; 17g carbohydrates; 5g fiber; 17g fat; 1g saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 291mg sodium.
Recipe courtesy Georgia Pecan Commission
Pamela Redwine is a food and nutrition agent with the MSU Extension Service. Provided by the Oktibbeha County Extension Service. For more, call 662-323-5916.