AUBURN, Ala.-Pecans are a staple in many recipes. To ensure you have the best quality nuts for your next dish, harvest pecans as they drop from the trees. Do not wait and try to harvest them all at one time at the end of the season.
“Harvest your pecans promptly for best quality. Don’t let them lie on wet ground for extended periods of time,” said Doug Chapman, a regional commercial horticulture agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
As soon as pecans fall from the tree they begin to dry and cure. This process improves the quality of the nuts until they reach their optimum appearance, aroma, flavor and texture. If the nuts get wet after initial drying the seed coat will darken and the oil in the kernel increases the fatty acid levels. This condition causes the nut to be stale and rancid. Take pecans to a dry location inside.
“Drying is one of the most important steps in assuring a high-quality appearance and flavor in pecans,” Chapman added. “If possible, spread pecans out in a dry, moderately warm place and dry several days before storing. Once dried to a crisp texture, pecans should be refrigerated or frozen.”
Crack and shell your pecans as soon as possible. Shelled pecans can also be frozen until you are ready to use them.
Pecans stored below freezing can keep for two years. Be sure kernels are dried properly before freezing. Lay the nuts out several days in a warm, dry place. Kernels should be crisp and break easily in half if dried properly.
“Don’t store pecans in packages with apples or other fruits,” he said. “Also, don’t store them in rubber-like packages or in rooms that may be musty.” Pecans absorb gases from the storage atmosphere, which can change the flavor and the pecan’s stability.
Caring for your pecan trees in the fall
If you need to apply lime or zinc to pecan trees, fall is a good time to do so. Soil testing will provide detailed instructions on fertilizing and liming. Clean up and destroy pops, shucks, leaves and limbs to reduce pest problems.
If trees have lost leaves by Nov. 1 because of aphids, downy spot, pecan scab or other damage, expect to see a reduced pecan crop next year.
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