Pecans have become synonymous with Southern New Mexico and have proven to be an incredible staple for the United States. This is largely due to the fact that pecan trees thrive in full sun, of which the Land of Enchantment has plenty to offer. The demand for pecans has also grown considerably due to the increased awareness of their health benefits. Pecans are particularly rich in antioxidants, specifically flavonoids, which have been tied to heart health. They are also an excellent source of thiamin and zinc, as well as manganese and copper. Pecans possess a naturally sweet flavor that is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth, while only having one gram of sugar per ounce.
Where to Buy
Southern New Mexico is home to over 51,000 acres of farmland dedicated to pecans, which span across family-owned operations such as the Salopek Orchards, which created New Mexico Pecan Company, to Del Valle Organic Pecans. In 2017, Heather Salopek branched out to create a charming farm store suitably named Legacy Pecans, where you can find an assortment of traditional and unique pecan products including jalapeño pecan brittle, pecan peach sauce, and pecan coffee. In addition, Legacy Pecans has 11 unique gift boxes available for purchase in-store and online. Prices range from $12 – $85, and each box features local New Mexico-grown pecans from the Salopek family farm. Custom box orders are also available by request, as are corporate gifts.
This area is also home to one of the largest pecan growers in the world. Stahmann Farms is situated in the Mesilla Valley on the outskirts of Las Cruces, and began its quest in 1932 to harvest golden greatness year after year. The father-son team of W.J. and Deane F. Stahmann achieved great success, and they were the first to operate an irrigation system on their pecan farm. The business has carried on with strong family values as a key part of their culture. “We have a third-generation owner and she cares about everyone personally, not just about getting the job done. We have a family-type environment,” says Stahmann Farms Director of Sales Victor Sloan. Stahmann Farms currently specializes in selling pecans in bulk to clients all over the world while ensuring each package is handled with care by employees from the local community. Looking toward the future of Stahmann Farms, Victor says they will strive to “continue to sustainably produce the best quality pecans on the market by always improving our farming and shelling methods as well as a work environment where people care about the company and love coming to work.”
When to Buy/How to Store
Once the outer husks of the pecan shells begin to split open, preparation for harvest soon begins. This typically occurs from mid-October through early December. If they do not fall off the tree naturally, pecans may require some additional encouragement by shaking the branches. This can be done the old-fashioned way by just reaching up and shaking the limbs with your hands, or if there is a considerable amount of work to be done, a pecan tree shaker machine is often used to expedite the process. Pecans are then dried slowly over the course of about a week in order for them to properly cure and lock in the flavor, texture, and aroma. If desired, you can extend their shelf life by either refrigerating or freezing them. Be sure to use an airtight container, as pecans are known to absorb flavors and scents that surround them. If convenience is not an issue, pecans still housed in their shells will hold their flavor notes longer than shelled. However, if you share my sentiment, you may want to be able to quickly pop them in your mouth for a great anytime snack. Shelled pecans can be stored in the refrigerator for approximately nine months, and up to two years in the freezer.
Simple Pecan Pie Recipe
If you are looking to delve beyond plain pecans, many recipes are drifting around our desert landscape from generations past. You can set your sights on timeless recipes, such as pecan pie, to more contemporary uses within salads, entrées, side dishes, and even desserts. One classic fifth-generation pecan pie recipe was shared with me by Mary Frances Whitlock of Hatch, New Mexico. More fondly known as “Mema,” she has used the same easy-to-replicate recipe for over 75 years and says, “Since I have used it so many times, it is really just in my mind.”
Although I wouldn’t consider myself an outstanding baker, I attempted to reproduce her method, and welcomed the ease of her directions. After the ingredients were thoroughly integrated, due to my average baking ability, I poured the mixture into a pre-made pie crust, although certainly you can be bolder and make your own from scratch. I then sprinkled a few more pecans on top before baking. I pulled my masterpiece out of the oven and realized I had successfully followed Mema’s recipe, which proved to be simple and required minimal ingredients. I highly encourage bakers of all talent levels to try this recipe at home!
With pecans abundant in our area, coupled with their nutritious benefits and delectable flavor, they are certainly worth every penny. Bottom line is: if you are nutty about nuts, you can never go wrong with local pecans!
Mema’s Pecan Pie
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated or brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pie crust
Beat eggs and sugar until thick. Add corn syrup, nuts, and vanilla. Pour into pie crust and if desired, top with additional pecans. Bake in the oven at 300 F for one hour.
WHERE TO BUY PECANS
Del Valle Organic Pecans
New Mexico Pecan Company
Written and photography by Desiree Bustamantes • Additional photography courtesy
Originally published in Neighbors magazine | 2020
Posted by LasCruces.com