Collecting and Shelling Pecans
The best time to collect pecans is after the first very cold night in October. That is when the pecan season begins here in East Texas. I do have some pecan trees of my own, but this year wasn’t too good for my pecans. I have squirrels who are robbing me blind and I think one of my pecan trees is a dud because I have yet to see it produce pecans.
So with all of these pecan production failures I had no choice but to go on a pecan hunt. A pecan hunt involves a scouting trip where you look for good pecan trees in vacant lots, abandoned homes, the local park, or where ever you happen to find a large pecan producing tree. To be a good community member it is always advisable to procure the permission of the pecan tree owner before picking pecans.
Harvesting pecans is a physical job. It involves a lot of bending over, but if you can recruit family or friends in the pecan picking it will go faster. Also it is sometimes difficult to see the fallen pecans in tall grass and fallen leaves, so you have to keep a keen eye out for the pecans. You will also need sturdy bags or buckets to hold your pecan bounty.
Pecans can be gathered as soon as they naturally fall from the tree or the tree limbs and branches can be shaken lightly as not to do damage to the tree to help get the pecans down.
After gathering your pecans you will need to sort out and discard damaged pecans. Pecans are covered with a hard shell, so that makes it difficult to tell if the pecan is good to eat or not. Here are some simple rules to let you know that a pecan is not good to eat even before you crack the shell open. If pecans have holes in them do not eat them. Holes, no matter how small, are a sign of insect damage. If the pecan feels very light weight it is an indication of a dried out pecan meaning the pecan meat has shriveled up and is no good to eat. Also if the husk is green and has not fallen off of the pecan this indicates that the pecan is not ripe. If the husk is brown and cannot be easily removed from the pecan shell this indicates that the pecan is not good to eat.
|Hand Held Nut Crackers|
|A Sharp Pointed Instrument to Help in Shelling Pecans|
Pecans can be stored loosely in a cloth sack for a few weeks until you have time to shell them. Make sure to store them in a cool dry place. Shell nuts using a nut cracker or a hammer. This is also tedious work. Try to keep the nut as whole as possible. To aid in the extraction of the pecan from its shell I use hand held nut crackers as well as a sturdy sharp pointed instrument. In using the nut cracker it is important to use force but not so much brute force that I completely pulverize the pecan. The goal is to remove as much of the pecan as possible while leaving it as whole as possible. I use the sharp pointed instrument to remove small bits of the pecan shell that might have gotten stuck in the natural curvatures and crevices of the pecan. After cracking the pecan and removing the shell I sort the pecan into two categories: whole and nearly whole pecans, and pecan pieces. Shelled pecans will last about 2 months stored in a pantry. Pecans will need to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for longer storage. Pecans will last up to 2 years in the freezer.
|There are many varieties of pecans.|
|Carefully apply force to crack open the pecan.|
|Use the sharp pointed instrument to remove small bits of the pecan shell.|
Shelling pecans is tedious so, get comfortable and put on a good movie and start working. It is often impossible to shell the pecans in one sitting. It is a good idea to recruit family members to help in the shelling process. Often this may be done in short spurts over a couple of weeks until all pecans are shelled.
|Pecans Ready to be Used in a Recipe|
Harvest your pecans early and often. Do not let them lie on wet ground. Foraging animals will beat you to the pecans if you are not careful and wet weather can be detrimental to pecans.
I find gathering up nature’s bounty a very rewarding experience. Enjoy the process of picking pecans by thinking of what goodies you will make out of your freshly gathered pecans, breathe the cool fresh fall air, and enjoy the conversation of your friends and family as well as with other pecan pickers as you gather the pecan harvest.