Harvesting Pecans: From the Soil to your Door
Pecan Harvest Time Gathering & Care
The pecan tree/nut is a very important and delicious food crop in the United States, and the world. These beautiful trees can grow in range from 100 to 150 feet tall. So, when landscaping your farm or small home are, remember a few things; first you should plant at least two trees to get nuts, and they make for great shade area but always remember the spread of the shade which we recommend that you do your own research. Look around at the trees in your neighborhood, and plan accordingly for the full growth of the tree. Pecan trees seem to thrive in various soils, and as with all plantings you must provide plentiful water and nutrition.
Are My Pecans Ready?
Pecan nuts are enclosed inside thick, green shucks that split open to reveal the brown nuts when they are harvest ready. Actually, the shucks will start to pop open before the brown nut shell is ready, but traditionally you will notice the process will speed up as soon as the fall temperatures begin to cool.
It is Pecan Harvest Season when you begin to feel the chill in the air. Let mother nature do her job, and wait until the nuts are brown and dry off the shuck before harvesting them. Normally, the pecan harvest begins in mid to late September, and continues through the first of the new year.
There are usually three stages to the harvest, the first fall, the ones that are stuck to the shuck and require a little more time, and the third being those left on the tree for the final stages of harvest. These late stage nuts that are included in the final gather of winter are good to eat, but often the quality may be slightly different as they are sometimes not as meaty. Due to the grade of quality they are priced accordingly.
And when counting your productions take into consideration that you will lose some of the nuts to small and swift wildlife.
It’s Raining Pecans – Where the Nuts Fall!!
There is no specific or scientific method to force the maturity of a nut. In other words the pecans will not fall easily from the tree – especially not all at once. But it is a staged fall where you will notice a few on the ground, and that is like the announcement of more good nuts to fall.
As they reach the maturity – then you will observe a more rapid release of the nuts. You can establish a pattern as you watch the development and harvesting of your trees. The Nuts need prompt care when they are released from the tree. We have found that there is a threat of insect damage, moisture issues, and loss of nuts due to foot traffic by man or animal, on those pecans left lying on the ground which will cause a decline in quality.
Early to Fall – fast rush to gather!
If in doubt regarding ripeness of the nut, crack a few and that hands-on process is the best way to determine maturity. Once you gather the nuts remember to store them in a cool dry place. The cool air will certainly complete the maturity process.
Are We There Yet – Let the Harvest Begin...
Stareing up the branches at the incredible height of the pecan tree make you realize that the harvesting of the nuts from the farthest branches might not be possible for home gardeners. The higher far off and even the lower branches will droop with fruit as the harvest nears.
I will refer to it as “Daddy’s Test” – as I remember fondly that he would throw up a stick and see how many nuts fell. If they released several that was the signal. As a home grower/orchard manager, he had such an art at determining the harvest.
I learned right away that where one tree might be ready the one beside might not! It was a treat to watch him go to the barn after his thrashing pole. My brothers and sisters would stand under the trees for a little while, but then as he shook the pole vigorously we would run for cover! As pecan torpedoes would start to fall from every direction, the first nuts that fall will be by far the meatier and healthier of your harvest.
The pole method is the one I refer today, but technology has certainly revolutionized the gather of the pecans. However, the use of the long pole allows you to reach the higher limbs, and also is a process that you assume to be a good time for your gathering. In other words – get the pole, get the buckets, we are thrashing and gathering today.
And you may do a partial tree or tress, and then gather those nuts, and then just keep moving until you have thrashed the entire tree or take it in stages as time permits. As you will notice knocking off the nuts is an art, and will require a little practice I remember my daddy steadying the pole and swishing it in a hard back and forth motion vigorously, and gently knocking some of the nuts from the branches with a long pole.
Some poles are equipped with a hook on the end to easily grab the branches and shake them. As with all family traditions and fruit gathering processes, please be wise with your harvest by wearing protective gear, keeping an eye out for traffic if gathering in town, and always wearing protection on eyes, arms and feet Use every precaution to identify your power lines as well.
Again, it is very important to do the test, and be patient and wait until the nuts start dropping on their own before knocking them from the tree to ensure they are mature. There is one thing for sure – once you have experienced a harvest, you will gain respect for the large orchards and the incredible number of pecans required to fulfill the world’s population demand God Bless the harvest and those that are gathering the fruit.
How do I store... In-the-shell or Shelled?
Once you have gathered and have completed the gathering, then what? Depending on the yield of your crop, you may choose to shell and store what you need for immediate baking and eating; and then store the rest. If you plan to store the nuts remember to check and ensure that they are dry and clean.
If in doubt of over excessive moisture in your pecans, just spread them out evenly in a shady and cool area. Allow the cool free air to circulate and properly dry out the nuts. This process may take up to 10 days. When trying to determine freezing in the shell our out, remember that pecans are freezer friendly for up to a year.
After that time, they will lose some of the rich flavor. Storing in airtight containers is the best way in small quantities that will be easily and readily available. If you choose large containers they may be bulkier and harder to take in and out of the freezer. No need to thaw our pecans either as they are recipe ready at all times.
Only thing left to do is grab a handful and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and enjoy the bounty and beauty of your harvest. Remember “Eat More Pecans”!!
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