Pecans : a hard nut to crack
The word ‘pecan’ is used to denote a nut, basically a species of hickory which originated in America a long time ago. Physically, pecans resemble a traditional walnut having a brown-red oval shell and tastes different when compared to other nuts.
The pecan life cycle begins in October, when the trees start to flower, producing both male and female flowers for pollination.
Not all pecan trees can pollinate themselves because the male and female flowers are not ready at the same time.
So we plant various cultivars of pecan trees at strategic locations to cross pollinate and thus optimizing pollination.
After pollination the pecan nuts start developing in a protective shell called a shuck. The pecan nut inside has a shell of its own.
From March to April the Pecan nut’s shell starts to harden while it is still inside the protective outer shuck (the green outer layer that we can see).
From April the shuck hardens and dries out exposing the pecan nut inside.
We now start harvesting the pecans by shaking the trees with a mechanical shaker.
Generally four Grades of pecans are commercially available.
SPECIAL RESERVE HALVES:
These are completely unblemished pecans that epitomize the high standard of pecan that make them extremely popular with all clients from high street chocolatiers to the most discerning individual.
This selection has all kernels that are larger than 17mm but may have a small bit broken off. Some whole kernels are smaller than 17 mm and they are included in this selection.
EXTRA LARGE PIECES:
Ideal for a range of functions this selection has no intact whole kernels. 10 - 15 mm size specially selected for baking, muesli making and Granola mixes as well as for snack packs and trail mixes.
Ideal for baking and confectionery needs. Small Pieces are 5-10mm in size and are perfect for baking mixes and snack bars.
PECANS OR WALNUTS- NOT A HARD NUT TO CRACK
Amongst all the nuts from the tree nut family, the most commonly confused are pecans and walnuts because of their unique similarities in appearance, taste, as well as health benefits.
Though pecan literally means a nut that requires a stone to crack it or too hard to be cracked by hand, differentiating it from a walnut which is not that hard. Have a look at some of their distinguishing features:
Spot the difference
• Shells: The shell of a walnut is very light brown in color and round-shaped while that of a pecan is oval or oblong shaped and a darker brown colour.
• Shape: Walnuts resemble a human brain in shape and are larger and broader than the pecans whereas the latter are elliptical, with long, deep ridges travelling along the length of the nut.
• Taste: As pecans have low oil content, they taste sweeter and drier compared to walnuts which have a bold, slightly bitter flavor leaving an oily feel in the mouth. This is one of the reasons why walnuts are preferred roasted before using in certain recipes.
Descriptions of Cultivars:
A large number of pecan varieties have been developed through the selection of desirable seedling trees. Selection of disease resistant varieties is a major consideration in areas experiencing high humidity and poor air circulation. Description of some of the promising pecan cultivars is given below.
It is a popular old cultivar which has originated as seedling in Mississippi. Nuts are large, of high quality and with well defined markings and a fairly thick shell. The tree is a moderate bearer.
It is a hybrid between Success x Jewett or Russell. The nut is large with a semi thin shell which cracks easily. The tree comes to bearing early, very prolific and regular bearer and is also resistant to scab. The planting of this variety with other varieties facilitates pollination.
Nuts are long and shells are thin. Kernels are of good quality.
The tree is vigorous, precocious, prolific bearer with good foliage. The nuts are extra large shell, thin and tend to poor filling on older trees. It is a good variety for the areas which receive abnormal rainfall.
It is the most commonly planted cultivar in the U.S.A. and has originated from the cross between a seedling and the variety Texas. Nuts are medium sized, thin shelled and having good kernel quality. It is a prolific bearer and suitable for high density planting. It is susceptible to scab disease.
It is a hybrid between Halbert X Mohan. It is very popular cultivar being one of the most precocious and prolific of all cultivars. The nuts are of medium size, attractive appearance, high quality and have high kernel percentage. It is susceptible to scab disease. For effective pollination, the cultivar should be grown with Western or Cheyenne.
It is a cross between Clark and Adom. The tree is very precious, productive, scab resistant and recommended for high density planting. For effective pollination, it should be grown with Wichita.
It is a cross between Success X Mahan. The tree is precocious, prolific, vigorous and fairly resistant to disease. Nuts are elongated, thin shelled, very attractive and have kernel percentage of 55-60. The kernels are quite smooth, easily shelled and of high quality.
Nuts are large round with a semi thin shell. They are not easily separated from the kernel.
It is an early maturing with small round nut. The nuts have medium thick shell and good flavor. The trees are vigorous and regular bearer. It is resistant to scab disease.
The variety is suitable for lower elevations experiencing a long growing season. The nut is small thin shelled suitable for shelling. The kernel is of high quality. It is moderately resistant to scab disease.
This is a selection from Mohawk X Starking Hardy Giant crosses. It is an early, prolific and fast growing variety in young age. Nut quality is excellent with good size, appearance and kernel percentage. The plant is tolerant to scab disease.
It produces good crops of small nuts but it is susceptible to scab.
14. Cape Fear
The variety produces fairly large nuts. Shell cracks well and possesses high quality. Trees are highly productive and start bearing fruit after seven to eight years of age.
This variety has originated as a chance seedling in South Africa. It is suitable for humid tropical regions. The nuts are large, shell medium thick and kernel percentage is 52 -54. It is less prone to irregular bearing