Linda Benedict, Pyzner, John R. | 10/7/2005 2:59:26 AM
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. John Pyzner says some of the state's pecan orchards suffered damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but harvesting still is expected to move forward.
To make the most of this year's crop, Pyzner advises proper harvesting and storage are critical.
Original estimates projected an 8- to 10-million pound pecan crop this year. As harvesting progresses into October, Pyzner notes that the pecan crop is mixed in Louisiana. Northern orchards generally have a large crop, and southern yields appear to be very light, he said.
The expert says, however, that pecans should be harvested as soon as they fall from the tree.
"Quality deteriorates rapidly if the nuts remain on the ground for extended periods," Pyzner said. "An additional, practical reason for quick retrieval is to retrieve the nuts before squirrels and other critters do. "
Once harvested, pecans should be dried to remove excess moisture. Drying usually can be accomplished by storing the pecans in a shallow layer in a warm, dry area for approximately two weeks. Adding fans and heat can speed drying. Pecans with high moisture content (higher than 6 percent) do not store well.
An easy method to determine if pecans are dry enough for storage is to shell a representative sample and check the kernels. Bend the kernels until they break. If you hear a sharp snap, the kernels are usually dry enough for storage. Additional drying is needed if kernels do not break with a sharp snap.
Pecans often produce large crops of nuts and then may skip a year or more before producing another good crop. Proper storage can enable individuals to enjoy their pecans until they have another good crop.
Proper storage techniques must be used to maintain good nut quality. Poor storage conditions often leads to darkening of kernels and rancidity of the oils, thus destroying the natural flavor and aroma of the nuts.
Pecans should be refrigerated when stored. Lowering storage temperatures can extend storage life of pecans. (See the shelf life chart.)
Unshelled pecans can be stored for a longer period than shelled nuts. The unbroken shell protects the kernel from bruising and offers some protection against oxidation and rancidity of the kernel.
If pecans are refrigerated or frozen, they should be placed in airtight containers. Pecan meats readily absorb odors from other foods, resulting in off flavors. If pecans are to be stored at room temperature for an extended period, they should be held in containers that are adequately ventilated. Avoid storing pecans that have not been dried properly in plastic bags.
Proper storage makes it possible to enjoy good tasting and healthy pecans through out the year. Pecan research has shown that pecans are good for you. Nearly 90 percent of the fats (oils) in pecans are of the heart-healthy, unsaturated type. Recent studies have shown that when the traditional low-fat American Heart Association step 1 diet was compared with a similar diet enriched with pecans, the pecan-enriched diet lowered the total cholesterol and the LDL (bad) cholesterol more than the traditional low-fat diet.
"Now pecans can be enjoyed without guilt," Pyzner says.
For related horticulture topics, click on the Lawn and Garden link at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com.