Native to the USA and parts of Mexico, pecans come from the hickory tree and rank as America's second favourite nut (after the peanut). They look similar to walnuts, for which they can often be substituted, but pecans taste sweeter and have a longer, smoother kernel.
Their shells contain a high proportion of meat compared to other nuts but the pecans' exceptionally high oil content means they tend to stale quickly.
Pecan pie is more American than apple pie. These nuts make great additions to crumble mixtures, ice cream and anything with caramel.
Mix with chopped apple and hot thickened maple syrup for a delicious dessert sauce.
They can also be added to savoury salads and stuffings, and work especially well with dried fruit and regular or wild rice.