10 November 2010

Northern Girl Goes on Southern Adventure

At Christmas-time, Gram and Grandpa always provided a bowl full of various nuts to entertain the kids.  It sounds pretty corny now, but a bunch of us kids would sit in front of the fireplace and crack nuts of all kinds.  Brazil nuts, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds galore!  My favorite were always the hazelnuts.  We'd eat them until the bowl was empty, and then ask Gram to refill it.

Now that I'm in the South (ish), there is a whole new world of produce opening up to me.  And with PickYourOwn.org, fresh from the garden is just a drive away.  Back when I was in the market for blueberries and blackberries, I made a phone call to a pecan farm (knowing nothing about when pecans were in season).  I was advised to call back in November, sometime after the first frost.  On Tuesday, Kyle had to scrape his windows before going to work.  That's my cue!

I was the only one at the farm this morning, but the woman whose backyard I was in told me exactly what to do.  The nuts have just started falling off the tree.  She said if I were looking for 20 pounds of pecans I should come back after a big wind storm.  Who on earth gets 20 pounds of pecans?  Anyway, she also told me that the black ones had fallen off before they were ripe and I should avoid them.  Go for the lovely light brown ones!  Most of them were out of the husks, so the whole thing was like a giant Easter egg hunt.  Joyous.

At first I was going along a path like a little kid, grabbing every pecan I could find on my way to the Tree That Had Not Been Picked Yet.  And once I got to that tree...I'd say I resembled more of a squirrel.  There were pecans everywhere!  In no time at all I had much more than what I'd planned on picking.  I was gathering handfuls and bringing them back to my grocery bag.

For some reason, I'd expected the trees to look a lot like fruit trees - small and gathered in a grove.  But this really was just a backyard full of very large, normal looking trees.  I keep comparing them to the black walnuts we played with when we were little (they turned our hands black and made Mom mad :P ).  These were much nicer than that, although I did try to scrape the husk off a green one and now my thumb is a little black so it looks like they are pretty similar.

As you can see, this tree is still loaded with green pecans.  The proprietor did tell me that I could continue picking until Christmas, though, so they must have a pretty long season to ripen and fall off the tree.

Unlike blueberries and blackberries, you can't taste-test the pecans as you pick them, which was pretty disappointing.  When I got done picking, I made sure to ask to borrow a nutcracker so I could taste what I'd gathered.  I was surprised to see the nutmeat was a gorgeous golden color with pale insides.  They taste as good as they look - I've eaten a handful already.  Being labor intensive makes them the perfect snack because then it's hard to eat too many at once.

And there you have it!  Four pounds of pecans for $10 - what a steal.  I really want to see how much a pound of shelled pecans compares to the same de-shelled.  I don't think the bathroom scale can handle such subtleties of weight though.

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