In preparation for writing today’s column, I enjoyed sharing a slice of Julia Belle’s delicious pecan pie with a friend at the Pee Dee State Farmers Market. This motivated me to share with you some tips on growing and enjoying pecans, probably my favorite tree nut in the whole world. Whether you say “pee-can” or “peh-cahn,” they are one of the most nutritious nuts you can buy. Or grow for yourself.
The pecan tree (Carya illinoensis) is native to North America and belongs to the same family as walnuts and hickories. I have seen some beautiful, healthy pecan trees produce a bountiful harvest of the tasty nuts. Also, I have seen some downright neglected trees with few to no nuts on the ground and folks wonder why. Pecans do have a lot of insect and disease problems, but with proper management, the extra work will be well worth it.
Here are a few pointers on home pecan production:
» If planting new trees, select a variety (listed in our HGIC fact sheet) that is suitable for the home landscape and has good kernel quality, scab resistance, and productivity (yield).
» Always plant trees at the correct depth, place mulch around the young tree, and water regularly during establishment.
» Soil test and follow recommendations for lime and fertilizer, including the extra zinc that pecans need to produce well.
» The best defense against insects and diseases (such as pecan scab) is selection of a resistant variety and good sanitation. Keep fallen leaves, shucks and old nuts cleaned up, and then burn, bury or get them OFF your property to prevent spread of fungal spores and insect eggs.
» To save your back, get a good tool for collecting pecans, such as Quick Collector, Garden Weasel, or Nut Wizard (available at most garden-related retail stores and online).
The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service’s Home & Garden Information Center (HGIC) has several excellent fact sheets with more details and information on Pecan Planting & Fertilization (including variety selection), Reasons for Poor-Quality Pecans, FAQs About Pecan Production in the Home Garden, Pecan Diseases, Fall Webworm Management and Harvesting Pecans.
These fact sheets can be found at https://hgic.clemson.edu/?s=pecan.
As soon as the new crop is available, I like to make roasted pecans in the microwave. If the pecans are bitter, you can soak them in warm water and drain off the discolored liquid. Do this a couple times for the sweetest pecans ever! If you would like to try your hand at making the absolutely luscious Julia Belle’s White Russian Pecan Pie, here is the recipe https://visitflo.com/julia-belles-white-russian-pecan-pie. Lots of other pecan recipes, including roasting in the oven or microwave, are available from Texas A&M University at https://tinyurl.com/y3qs69zr.