My little bungalow sits right smack dab in the middle of very tall, very productive pecan trees. These 20-foot trees belong to my landlords; others to the woman who owns the house next door. This luxury has resulted in some education on my part, letting me know that the Algonquin meaning for “pecan” is “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.” True. It’s also led to hands-on info about pecan production tendencies.
When I first moved in, I was more concerned about finding the right arrangement for my furniture and seeking the best bedspread for my small bedroom. Harvesting pecans was not on my radar – until I began finding them along the path I took from my car to my Bonnie-sized building. When pecans are sitting in the path right in front of you as you walk to your home, you simply cannot resist picking them up; trust me, I’ve tried. What began as grabbing the few right at my feet slowly grew into a rather full purse chock full of pecans. Later, I moved out to the areas where more trees were and ended up with – literally – bags full of pecans.
That led to a bit of a quandary. Those bags full of pecans meant that someone had to crack and harvest the meats within. I armed myself with an appropriate nutcracker and pick, and while watching stupid TV, would begin to fill storage containers with nutmeats. Lots of nutmeats.
Let me also add that cracking pecans is a rather messy endeavor. As I sat in my chair, which sits on a shaggy rug, I would find that I then needed to vacuum after each production effort; you’d be surprised how many errant nutshells find their way around you. In addition, my fingers began to get worn spots as I worked to find every single morsel I could find.
My landlady loaned me what was supposed to be a super-duper nutcracker, a rather formidable mechanism that was reported to result in more nut halves rather than lots of nut pieces. The challenge with this device is that it had to be used outside. It was simply too messy to use as I went through my hoard watching whatever was on TV; I prefer entertainment as I conduct mindless tasks.
I began to notice differences in the pecans I gathered. The ones I found in the backyard had harder, sturdier shells, which resulted in aero-dynamic pieces that flew across the room as I cracked them. The pecans varied greatly in sizes; some were teeny tiny and resulted in teeny tiny halves. Others were more round, still others more oblong. My favorites came from the side tree, which produces pecans with easily cracked shells and gave me predominately more whole half pecans than any other trees.
Toward the end of the pecan season, I began to find more and more pecans that had been – literally – daintily nibbled on by the abundant squirrel population around us. I was amazed to discover that these little critters were not as conservative and tidy as I’d thought when it came to their consumption. As the season progressed, I found more and more pecans with nibbles on only one side and with a great deal of pecan meat left inside. Squirrels appear to be really picky and wasteful eaters.
Stored in my refrigerator are several plastic containers housing pecan pieces and whole pecan halves, waiting for the next recipe or nibble-moment. I sigh happily every time I see them. The calluses on my fingers caused by intent and extensive harvesting continue to heal.
Until next season.