Who doesn’t love pecans? Pecans are famous not only because they have fantastic taste but plenty of health benefits as well. If you want to learn more about this plant and how to harvest pecans, keep reading and find out.
Pecans are a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which help lower blood pressure. Pecans are also favorites of bakers and confectioners, especially during autumn and the holiday season.
Harvesting pecans can sound like a tedious job, but with the proper knowledge and the right equipment, you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a pro at how to harvest pecans.
How to Harvest Pecans
Harvesting pecans is, of course, incredibly simple if they are allowed to drop from the tree naturally.
- Bend over and pick up individual pecans as you walk beneath the tree.
Have a container, such as an empty five-gallon plastic bucket, to keep your harvest. This is an efficient technique for harvesting pecans underneath one or two trees for the strong and energetic.
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- If bending over sounds like too much work, use a pecan picker. Several pickers are mounted on short handles, but most consist of a wire spring configuration with a small hopper to hold the nuts. The spring is pressed down on the nut, which spreads the wires allowing it to slip between them and be captured in the hopper. Empty the hopper often into a bucket or other container to avoid spilling the pecans.
- Alternatively, you could also employ a manually operated rolling picker. These machines work like a reel-type lawnmower, catching the nuts between flexible rollers or fingers and depositing them in a hopper. Most of these gadgets will pick up a considerable amount of debris, so keeping the ground clean underneath the tree is critical in reducing labor.
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To use, roll over any surface with back-and-force motion. Repeat until the wire basket is at total capacity or the area is cleared. To remove contents from the basket, spread wires apart manually over the bucket and shake them to dislodge them.
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How do you harvest fresh pecans?
Once ready, harvesting pecans is quite simple. Either collect them off the ground as they fall or shake the tree to dislodge them. Inspect the quality of the nuts. Look the pecans over and discard any with wormholes or other signs of damage. You can then proceed to dry the nuts.
What is the best time to pick pecans?
The pecan harvest season is between October and December. They grow between April and September. It takes anywhere from seven to ten years for a pecan tree to mature fully and bear fruit.
Can you eat pecans right off the tress?
Unfortunately, you cannot eat the green nuts that fall off prematurely from the trees as they’ve still not ripened. Only those nuts that ripen fully by Fall (and hence ready to harvest) are worth eating as they have the rich, refreshing flavor you usually associate with nuts.
How often do you harvest pecans?
Harvest pecans in early September through November when they have fallen from the trees. Start your harvest in 3-8 years, depending on the variety and growing conditions. Watch for a substantial portion of the husks to have split and opened and for the shell to turn brown before gathering.
How long does it take a pecan tree to bear fruit?
Pecan trees require a lot of time and effort to bear nut fruit. A pecan tree typically takes seven to ten years to bear fruit. But once the process begins, it can provide an entire supply of pecans for many years, even hundreds in some cases.
What do farmers do to get all the nuts to fall down?
Throughout the harvest season, nuts fall from the trees when they are fully mature. However, pecan growers cannot wait the entire season for nuts to fall. They use machines or mechanical shakers that gently shake the tree without weakening its roots, causing the nuts to fall.
How are pecans processed?
After pecans have been harvested from the trees and left on the ground, the nuts are collected by the harvesting machines, called “pickers.” The growers or workers then clean the pecans, removing all the dirt, debris, and leaves away from the nuts.
In-shell nuts go through packaging directly. The remaining undergo screening, shelling, final cleaning, and processing. The nuts are screened for any bad ones, which are then removed.
How to dry pecans?
Once the pecans have been harvested, they must be dried or cured before storing them. Dry them slowly
- Spread out in a thin layer on a plastic sheet in an area of low light and circulating air.
- Stir the nuts around often to hasten the drying process, and consider blowing a fan across the nuts. Depending upon conditions, drying will take between 2-10 days. An adequately dried pecan will have a brittle kernel and should separate easily from its exterior.
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How to store pecans?
- Once the pecans are dried, you can extend their shelf life by refrigerating or freezing them. Whole pecans will store much longer than shelled nuts.
- Whole kernels can be stored for a year at 32-45 degrees F. or two or more years at 0 degrees F. Shelled pecans can be stored at 32 degrees F. or two or more years at 0 degrees F.
- For maximum freshness, always store pecans in an air-tight container.
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What is the key to harvest pecans from the ground?
The key to harvesting pecans from the ground is to pick them up as soon as possible, or you are just asking for assault from ants, birds, and molds. Mostly, the hulls will drop from the pecans or remain in the tree. Some hulls may remain stuck to the nuts, in which case they will need to be hulled. If there are many nuts with tightly stuck hulls, chances are good the nuts are not fully ripe.
How to forage pecans?
- Check for ripeness. Pecans are ready for harvest when the green hulls split open on the tree, dropping the nuts in their shells to the ground. So when you find pecans on the ground, it’s time to gather them (or the squirrels will beat you to it).
- Gather the pecans. Once ready, you can harvest the pecans 1 or 2 ways: Either collect them off the ground as they fall or shake the tree to dislodge them.
- Inspect the quality of the nuts. Look the pecans over and discard any with wormholes or other signs of damage.
Dry the nuts. Allow the nuts to air dry for two weeks in their shells.
- Test for dryness. Remove several nuts from the shell and try to break them in half. If they break cleanly, the nuts are dry and ready for use.
Additional Tips on How to Harvest Pecans
- You can encourage the nuts to drop by knocking them from the tree with a long pole or shaking the branches.
- Pecan trees tend towards a biennial bearing cycle, with a heavy crop one year followed by a light crop the next.
- Depending on how you store them, unshelled or shelled, and at what temperatures, how long they will keep.
- Do not skip the curing step; pecans will not crack properly and are difficult to shell if not cured.
- Pecan harvesters use tractor-powered machines that sweep the orchard to harvest the nuts. When used with tree shakers, this is the least labor-intensive and most efficient way of harvesting pecans.