STRANGE PECAN QUESTIONS,
PLUS RECIPES AND STORAGE
There is only thing more Texan than Longhorn
cattle and that is the Pecan, Carya illinoemsis. Even though
its scientific name refers to the state of Illinois, Texas
has the highest population of native pecan trees in the United
States. Texas ranks #2 in the production of both native and
the improved pecan varieties.
Consumers should purchase pecans as soon as
they are available. When buying pecans be sure you are buying
quality nuts. Make sure the nuts are free of stink bug spots
(black spots on the kernels), embryo rot (black line in the
middle underside of the kernel) and other problems. Also,
make sure the kernels are dried down to only 4 or 5% moisture.
A well-dried kernel half should "snap" when broken
into 2 pieces. Once shelled, the kernels should go directly
to the deep freeze to maintain maximum kernel quality. Pecan
oil is 75% mono-unsaturated hydrocarbons, which will oxidize
and break down very fast, so immediate freezing is essential.
Pecan oil is the very finest oil available. However, freezing
is essential in maintaining kernel quality.
Here are a few of the area's larger pecan sources,
aside from the normal supermarket. In general, these companies
buy direct from local pecan growers and sell to the consumer:
Bragg Pecan Farms
229 Hwy. 90 East (just past the Wal-Mart)
PO Box 291
Hondo, Texas 78861
Pape Pecan House
101 South Street (at 123 Bypass)
Most sources will ship packages of pecans to
any destination for you. I would recommend that for shipping,
you purchase a quality pecan variety such as Cheyenne or Desirable.
Having bought and eaten pecans, you might ask
yourself, "Who was the first to eat a pecan?" Being
native to much of the southern United States, the pecan was
first used as a food source by North American Indians. For
countless thousands of years before the discovery of America,
certain tribes of North American Indians were the only people
who know about pecan trees. No person from any other part
of the world had ever seen this nut, later to be called pecan.
The Indian tribes used the kernels to make powcohicoria.
This was done by pounding kernels with stones, and by adding
them to boiling water to make seasoning for foods. This mixture
was used to thicken venison broth, to season hominy, corn
cakes and, in some cases, to ferment an intoxicating drink,
popular in tribal festivities.
Since the pecan was so important as a staple
food item for the Indians, it is fitting that all of the new
US Department of Agriculture pecan varieties are named for
Indian tribes. When you plant Hopi, Sioux or Choctaw pecan
trees, you are planting a newly developed variety and in a
sense, paying homage to the fact that Indians loved pecans
and depended on them to sustain life.
Some of the first detailed literature about
the pecan was done in the 1530's by the Spanish explorer Cabeza
de Vaca. In his reports tot the Queen of Spain, he mentioned
the abundance of this "wonder walnut". The name
pecan was not given to the nut until the 1700's.
Cabeza de Vaca's expedition met terrible misfortune
and he was captured by Indians near Galveston. In the 6 years
he spent as a captive, de Vaca traveled with this captors
through the Gulf Coast area and ultimately to the "river
of nuts", which was the Guadalupe. There he was tied
to a huge pecan tree and ate untold pounds of the small nuts
which he called "nueces".
Even in the face of adversity, de Vaca wrote
extensively about the pecan. He recorded that the Indians
came to the river every second year (a reference to alternate-year
bearing habit of pecan trees) and that pecan nuts were all
that they had to eat for 2 months.
He eventually escaped his captors in 1535 and
returned to Spain with his writings. He had every excuse for
dwelling on misfortunes when he wrote his diary. IT is to
his everlasting credit that these were mentioned passively
and that instead he chose to dwell upon constructive things.
In doing so, he was the first explorer to contribute measurably
to the literature of the Pecan.
Pecans are among the most delicious foods available
on today's produce market. It would be hard to convince squirrels,
deer, wild turkey, raccoons, crows and most other wildlife
that the pecan is not absolutely number one on the food list.
This delectable nut desired by both man and
beast is native to Northern Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana,
Arkansas and parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Kansas,
Missouri, Tennessee and Illinois. But, Texas has more native
pecan trees than any other state or area-there are some 152
counties in the state where the pecan is found growing along
the rich alluvial food plants of major rivers and tributaries.
The pecan is the State Tree of Texas, so declared
by the State Legislature as a result of attention focused
on this important native tree by the popular governor, James
Hogg. It was Gov. Hogg's death bed wish in 1906 that a pecan
tree be planted at the head of his grave; and that the pecan
nuts be distributed to the people of Texas for them to plant
so that Texas might truly become a land of trees.
Gov. Hogg would be pleased to know that his
beloved pecan tree was by resolution declared the State Tree
of Texas and t hat it has, over the years, become the most
widely planted yard tree in this state. Everyone in Texas-homeowners,
farmers and school children have a close and special feeling
for the pecan tree and look forward to fall when the harvest
season arrives and this golden nut is available to enhance
our snacks, our meals and our desserts.
The pecan tree contributes heavily to Texas
economy and culture. However, I do get strange questions on
pecans. I have to cautiously evaluate each question before
answering to avoid confusion with categorization. For instance,
a distraught homeowner recently wrote, "Help! I've got
the largest limbs and the smallest nuts in the neighborhood.
I hate to go out in the backyard-all the neighbors ridicule
me. Even the ones I have are fuzzy with shriveled meat. What
can I do to make my pecan tree produce larger, quality nuts?"
Whew! Until that last sentence I thought I had
received a letter intended for a health spa or anatomical
engineer. Mental and physical therapy may be necessary ingredients
for successful pecan production. It isn't easy!
Each year many homeowners are perplexed to discover
that once again their pecan trees have failed to produce.
In many cases, the tree once produced, but now, year after
year, few if any pecans are produced. Often the pecan tree
will produce a crop that outwardly looks acceptable, but upon
examination, the interiors of the nuts are only a hollow cavity
or even worse, fuzz and shriveled.
Why are your nuts fuzzy and meat shriveled?
Improper leaf management may be the main problem. Think of
a pecan tree as a very complex factory where leaves are responsible
for food production ultimately used in the production of nuts.
It takes about 40 pecan leaflets to set and fill out a single
pecan nut. During the growing season, foliage assimilates
food materials that are translocated and stored in the root
system for use the next spring for nut production. Therefore,
a shortage of healthy leaves means limited or reduced nut
Try to recall at what time of the year your
pecan tree usually loses its foliage. So often, in this area
of Texas this takes place in late September or fall defoliation.
Early defoliation can be the result of a combination
of problems, including scab, downy sot, fungal leaf scorch
and/or tree stress. Scab is a fungal disease which appears
early on the leaves and nuts as small, black lesions which
later enlarge and completely blacken the pecan leaf, eventually
killing it and causing defoliation. Scab will also attack
and kill the shuck or outer covering of the pecan, and result
in a poorly filled or hollow pecan. Although scab is not a
problem in dryer, other problems can take its place.
Downy spot is a fungus that infects the leaves
at bud-break, but does not affect the trees until late summer
when the leaves fall, resulting in poorly filled pecans. Fungal
leaf scorch and/or tree stress can also take their toll on
Associated with scab and these other problems
can also be various foliar feeding insects that compound leaf
drop problems. Such insects as aphids and mites attack pecan
leaves, contributing to early defoliation.
The pecan variety dictates the severity of the
pecan scab problem. Many of the older varieties such as Burkett,
Delmas, Success and Mahan are very susceptible to scab disease.
On the other hand, varieties such as Desirable, Choctaw, Cheyenne
and Shawnee are quite resistant to the scab organism.
Pecan varieties not considered scab resistant
can only be kept in production through the application of
pesticides throughout the growing season. This spray includes
the application of an expensive fungicide. Pecan trees are
too large to be sprayed with conventional garden equipment.
Most homeowners do not have spray equipment that will reach
the top of a 30-foot tree.
Therefore, the most logical solution for homeowners
wishing to produce pecans in the backyard is to plant the
resistant varieties listed above that have sufficient inherent
disease resistance to make spraying less essential. These
varieties may, however, require some insect control throughout
Remember the pecan when you purchase gifts
for the holiday season.
When buying shelled pecans, look for kernels
with a bright, golden color. Most packages will have a "best
if used by" date on them. Be sure to follow the date
codes for maximum freshness. You can extend the recommended
dates by storing the pecans in your freezer. The following
chart gives the relative storage life of pecans at various
Temperature In-Shell Shelled
70 degrees (pantry) 4 months 3 months
40 degrees (refrigerator) 9-18 months 6months
0 degrees (freezer) 2 + years 2 years
Pecans in the shell retain their high quality longer than
shelled. Whole halves will keep longer than pieces.
Pecans will absorb odors from other commodities.
They should not be stored near onions, oranges, apples and
other odiferous products. Kernels will absorb strong odors
of wood, ammonia, paint and petroleum products. Pecans should
be packaged in sealable cellophane/polyethylene type bags
or glass jars with tight-fitting lids.
If you buy in-shell pecans, then a nutcracker
for shelling is a must. The inertia-type cracker works quite
well and is available in manual or electric models.
Remember, pecans are good sources of protein,
phosphorus, thiamine and energy. They also provide some iron,
vitamin A, potassium and niacin.
Here are some of my favorites, included in the above websites:
Devine Pecan Pie
One stick oleo margarine, melted
1 ¾ c. sugar
¼ c. flour
3 eggs, beaten well
½ c. buttermilk
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 c. pecans
Add sugar and flower to melted oleo. Fold in
eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and pecans. Bake 20 minutes at 375
degrees. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking for
40minutes. For novice cooks, be sure to check the pie as it
is baking and remove the pie before the pecans on the top
have blackened or burst into flames! Also, this recipe fills
a large pie shell. If a smaller pie shell is used, the extra
ingredients can be put in a drinking glass and drank for dessert!!
Mommy Lois' Pecan Pie
1 unbaked pie shell
3 eggs, beaten
½ c. sugar
¾ c. white corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. melted margarine or butter
Dash of salt
1 c. chopped pecans
Hand beat eggs. Mix all other ingredients. Pour
in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour or until
brown and the center does not shake.
Natalia Dream Bars
½ c. butter or margarine
½ c. sugar
½ c. packed brown sugar
1 c. flour
1 ½ c. coconut
1 ½ c. chopped pecans
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbs. melted margarine
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Confection sugar (to sprinkle on top)
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium
bowl use finger tips to mix ½ c. brown sugar, ½
c. margarine and 1 c. flour until crumbly. Pat into an
8x12 baking pan, covering the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes.
Cool. Meanwhile, mix 1 c. brown sugar, eggs, 2 tbs. flour,
baking powder and vanilla. Beat well. Add coconut and pecans.
Pour evenly over crust. Bake 20 minutes.
FOURTH WEEK OF NOVEMBER 2002
QUESTION: Through the Aggie Horticulture web site, I have
learned that late February and early March is the best time
to prune/trim live oak trees. When I cut off branches, do
I need to apply something to the cut area? Also, we have a
relatively young live oak tree, about 5 to 7 inches in diameter.
This tree needs to be moved because our new road will pass
where it presently is growing. Can we successfully transplant
it, how should it be done, can we expect it to survive, etc.?
ANSWER: Because of the prevalence of the oak
wilt fungal disease in our area, it is recommended that all
fresh wounds to a live oak tree be painted with tree wound
dressing or a spray paint as soon as possible after the cut
is made. This seals in the flow of sap which is the attractant
for the sap beetle that can carry the fungus to the tree.
The size of the root-ball that would be required
to successfully transplant the tree that you wish to move
would make it very difficult to do manually. There are machines
that would be able to do it and I'm sure that there are people
who do this in the San Antonio area. If you will look in the
yellow pages of your phone book under "Trees" you
will find a couple of companies who advertise moving large
QUESTION: I have discovered twig girdlers in my pecan trees.
Could you please tell me when and what I can use to spray
for them. I found a chart and it gave information about spraying
each month, but it did not include October, November or December.
What can I do now? Is it too late to spray or will they die
off on their own?
ANSWER: See the University of Missouri at Columbia
article on twig girdlers that can be found at this website:
This is what it says about control of the twig
"Control: Homeowners should collect and
destroy infested twigs and branches they find on the ground,
beginning in September or no later than May. If practical,
prune infested twigs still in the tree. Owners of commercial
pecan orchards should look for severed twigs, beginning in
August. Apply insecticide (azinphosmethyl or carbaryl) to
trees only if you see damage. In severe cases, you may need
to apply insecticide 2 to 3 times at 2-week intervals. Be
sure to follow label rates and directions."
QUESTION: I have a mature crape myrtle that has flower buds
that never did open this past season. Should they be snipped
off or just leave them alone?
ANSWER: I don't know that it makes any difference
other than aesthetics. Sometime between now and when they
start new growth next spring you will probably want to clip
off any of the old seed pods and dead, unopened flower buds
(which they will be after the first freeze). When you do this
procedure is up to you.
QUESTION: If beans are legumes, potatoes are tubers and cucumbers
are gourds, what are vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage,
celery, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.?
ANSWER: Beans are a legume, which is the fruit
or pod of the botanical family Leguminosae. The potato tuber
is actually the greatly enlarged tip of the underground stem
of the potato. Cucumbers are a member of the Cucurbitaceae
family which includes most melons and gourds. Lettuce is a
salad vegetable normally grown for its leaves. Cabbage, broccoli
and cauliflower are all members of the Cruciferae family,
also known as Cole crops. Cabbage is grown for its leaves
and broccoli and cauliflower are grown for their flower heads,
which we eat before the flower buds bloom. Celery is the in
the Umbelliferae family and the one you are familiar with
is a herb grown for its edible leaf stalks.
QUESTION: I planted mustard greens from transplants about
1 month ago and they are thriving. When do you harvest the
leaves to cook? Can you pick just some of the leaves and allow
the plant to produce more? Also, I want to plant collard greens
from transplants. Is it too late in the season to do this?
And why are my broccoli plants not doing anything? Will all
these need protection with a light frost?
ANSWER: Dr. Sam Cotner, in his book The Vegetable
Book, has this to say about harvesting mustard greens: "You
can harvest b removing the entire plant or by the cut-and-come-again
technique of removing the older, outer leaves as they're needed.
Either system works well, but I prefer harvesting the entire
plant and utilizing the vacated space for another planting."
They should be ready for harvesting the entire plant and utilizing
the vacated space for another planting." They should
be ready for harvesting within 35 to 50 days of seeding.
Collards, while normally planted 6 to 8 weeks
before the first anticipated frost, should do okay planted
now from transplants. If a hard freeze is predicted, cover
them with an old sheet, Grow-Web or something similar for
protection. It may be that your broccoli has just been waiting
for the cool weather that has now arrived. Or, they may need
some additional high nitrogen fertilizer. If you haven't been
fertilizing them, side-dress them with 1 cup of ammonium sulfate
(21-0-0) per 35 feet of row.