The flagship pecan nut project in Matabeleland North province, is well on course with the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) targeting to have 20 000 pecan trees by June this year.
The pecan tree is cultivated for its nut seed, which is rich in vitamins and minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium and contains antioxidants that help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Arda is spearheading the growing of the pecan plantations together with other cash crops countrywide.
Arda board chair Basil Nyabadza told delegates during the recent Matabeleland North devolution conference in Lupane that 10 000 pecan nut trees had been planted at Arda Balu in Umguza District.
He said 10 000 more will have been planted by June this year.
“In this province, we are planting pecan nuts at Arda Balu in Umguza. We have planted 10 000 trees and we have now cleared more land to plant 10 000 more by June. This province will be the best producer of pecans in Africa. We did our research and there is value as the nuts cost $37 per kilogramme,” said Nyabadza.
He said the planted trees were doing well so far and challenged communities to do water harvesting in their areas.
Nyabadza said a full range of cropping can be done in any part of the country, the dry Matabeleland North province included, as long as people embrace water management methods.
“Education and technology teaches us that we can find value anywhere in the country as long as we use resources wisely,” he said.
Pecan nuts have a high export value. The tree is not really new to the country as it has been grown in some areas although a majority of ordinary citizens had no knowledge of it.
The tree can take five years to grow and start bearing fruits but when it does, it can take up to 100 years, according to Nyabadza.
Anybody with a piece of land and access to water can grow pecan trees, which are well adapted to subtropical regions and grow well in areas with short, cold winters and long, very hot summers. Experts say low temperatures and even frost during June to August are required for successful budding and flower formation.
During the summer months (October to April) the tree requires high temperatures for fruit growth.
Trees are successfully established in valleys and along rivers where the winter temperature is low and frost occurs. Jim Ross Goddard, a renowned businessman in Shangani area of Insiza North District in Matabeleland South, is one of the few farmers that have ventured into pecan nuts growing.
Health benefits of pecans
According to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, pecans (19 halves, 193 calories per serving) contain more antioxidants than any other tree nut. Pecan nuts in fact rank among the top 15 foods with the highest levels of antioxidants.
Pecan nuts contain mono-unsaturated fats such as oleic acid along with phenolic antioxidants which help reduce the risk of heart disease. According to the National Pecan Shellers Association, adding a handful of pecan nuts in your diet helps decrease LDL i.e. ‘‘bad cholesterol’’ and increase HDL i.e. ‘‘good cholesterol’’, which in turn prevent stroke and coronary artery disease.
Nutritionist Anshul Jaibharat says, “Since pecan nuts are fiber-packed, they promote colon health and facilitate regular bowel movements. Pecan nuts prevent constipation and reduce the risk of haemorrhoids and colitis by cleaning out the gastrointestinal system.”
Helps with weight loss
Consuming nuts enhances satiety and increases metabolism, research has indicated that a diet comprising pecan nuts helps in losing weight. The nuts are also very rich sources of several important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates which together help increase the rate of metabolism.
Reduces the risk of certain cancer
Pecan nuts protect the human body from cancer due to the anti-proliferative properties of ellagic acid which inhibit DNA binding of certain carcinogens such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. They contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Pecan nuts also reduce the risk of colon cancer since they help clean the gastrointestinal system.
Pecans are rich in magnesium which is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have proved that increased magnesium intake reduces inflammatory indicators in the body, and also reduces inflammation in the arterial walls, thus reducing the risk of arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and other inflammatory ailments.
Dr Manoj K Ahuja, Healing Touch Hospital, says ‘‘Adequate intake of manganese is vital for nerve conduction and brain function, and pecans are a rich source of manganese which is a powerful antioxidant. This trace mineral protects your nerve cells from free-radical damage, thus boosting immunity and protecting the body from diseases, infections, etc.”
Skin benefits and hair benefits of pecans
Pecan nuts are an excellent source of vitamin-E, vitamin-A, zinc, folate and phosphorous which play an important role in maintaining good skin. Here are the skin benefits pecan nuts have to offer.
Prevents skin problems
The toxins inside your body cause breakouts, dullness and excess oil. Pecans are packed with fibre and aid in eliminating these toxins and waste from the body, thereby improving the appearance of your skin. Pecan nuts also contain vitamin A and zinc which help achieve a clear complexion and protect against skin infections.
Pecan nuts contain numerous antioxidants including ellagic acid, vitamin A and vitamin E which fight and eliminate the free radicals responsible for causing premature skin aging. Thus, pecans can prevent the occurrence of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation.
Stimulates hair growth
Pecans are an excellent source of L-arginine, an amino acid which, when applied topically helps treat male pattern baldness as well as encourage the growth of healthy hair. L-arginine helps increase flexibility of the artery walls and makes them less prone to blood clots. This in turn increases the rate of blood flow throughout the body and to the hair roots which is vital for healthy hair growth and scalp.
Prevents hair loss
Lack of iron in the body leads to anaemia which is one of the common causes of hair loss. But pecans are a good source of iron and hence, combat hair loss.
Now if you’re as excited about the super-healthy nut as we are, you’re in luck! Here are decadent recipes we can’t do without, including pie, of course.