Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pecans, Pecans, Pecans

My pecans trees had a heavy set this year, and our harvest reflects that. My experience with pecans is limited, but here are my observations.

The 2010 Spring was cold and wet, summer was late arriving; consequently, I believe the pecans were late maturing as well, at least that is my observation. In past years, the pecans filled out, began opening up, and falling to the ground 2-3 weeks earlier than they did in 2010. My first harvest was November 15th, 2-3 weeks later than previous years.

We also had an early, hard freeze in mid-October. Then in December we had days and days of rain, plus snow, followed by extremely cold weather. We had a few days when the daytime high did not get above freezing--while the pecans on the ground lay on wet ground and covered by snow. I'm sure this was not good for the pecans.

A large number of my pecans came down in a strong wind, following much rain, the night before it snowed. In mid-January, the tree shaker came and brought down the rest of them. Clearly, those that stayed on the trees and came down with the shaker, were of better quality.

As a result, many of my pecans did not fully open up, or did not open up at all. Still, I harvested 165 gallons of pecans in the shell, this is more than double my previous largest harvest. Even so, I'm certain there were at least twice that many pecans that I discarded, that were moldy, black, not opened, or with only partially opened husks. So I believe I could have easily had 300 to 350 gallons of pecans, had the weather been more favorable, and they all opened up properly.

I have already shelled 33 gallons (85 pounds) of pecans. I have given pecans away to our kids, neighbors and friends. Still, I have about 25 more gallons of pecans to shell.

In shelling the pecans this year, I make the following observations:

1. The shells are harder, thicker, and more difficult to break.
2. The shells did not break free of the meat, as in previous years, consequently, I have a lot more pieces and broken halves than in the past. These pecans are good, tasty and of good quality, just not nice full halves.
3. The pecans that remained wet, under the snow, etc; had thinner shells, black in color (mold?), and a smaller, poorer quality meat. I think shells that remain wet, become porous and the meat dries out and shrinks in size.
4. The pecans that remained on the trees were not affected by the rain and snow, those on the ground were. Because of the snow covering the pecans on the ground, I was not able to harvest them for nearly a week, once the pecans were on the ground.
5. Even with the significantly heavier set of pecans, I did not notice a reduction in the size of the pecans (as with other fruit), pecan size was excellent.

Still, it's kind of amazing how tough pecans are, even with all the adverse weather, rain and snow, and lying on the ground, the meat is pretty darn good.

I have read that pecans have an alternating pattern of heavy yield, then light, then heavy. Other gardeners in this area dispute that. My 2008 harvest was heavy, my 2009 harvest was very light, and my 2010 harvest was very heavy. I have Mahan soft shell pecans. Maybe the variety makes a difference, but so far my trees are on the alternating cycle.

No comments: