Friday, 20 November 2020 10:51

COLUMN: A bumper crop of nuts

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J.A. Bolton gathers pecans. J.A. Bolton gathers pecans. J.A. Bolton

This year was probably a real bad year for most of the human race (with the pandemic), yet nut trees of all kinds produced bumper crops.

The pecan trees in my grandmother’s yard in Richmond County are at least 80 to100 years old. They have seen a lot of sunrises and, of course, a lot of storms. Humans, animals and birds alike have enjoyed their shade and the harvest of the many nuts the trees have produced.

Did you know that pecans are the only major nut tree that is grown only in North America? It has not been found growing naturally anywhere else in the world.

Wild pecans were a staple in the diets of Native Americans. Why, the natives even created what could be considered the original nut milk called powcohicora. It was made by fermenting pecan powder and water into a drink.

The meat of a lowly pecan can be eaten raw right after the thin shell has been cracked. It can also be used in many cooking operations such as pecan pie and my favorite, pecan ice cream. It can be chopped up and used on salads or in pancake or waffle batters.

Why, you shouldn’t even throw the shells themselves away. No sir, they can be turned into mulch for acid-loving plants like azaleas. They can also be used in your smoker or on your grill to smoke your favorite meat.

To produce, pecan trees should be fertilized around April every year. Larger trees should have a second application in 30 to 45 days. Fertilizer containing extra zinc should be spread beneath the outer branches of the pecan trees. Some folks just throw it out on the ground but with just a few trees I prefer to drive a metal pipe about a foot into the ground. I then remove the pipe and fill the hole with fertilizer. This gets it to the tree roots faster and it doesn’t wash off.

I remember when I was a lad, I would help my grandmother pick up her pecans in the fall. Sometimes my uncle would climb the trees and shake them. Other times we would hook a chain high up on the trunks and give them a gentle shake with our tractor or clamp a hook on the end of a long piece of plastic pipe. Why, them pecans would commence to falling like rain.

Ma would use all the pecans she could and sell the rest. She would get 50 to 75 cents a pound for her nuts. Some years, she would have large brown grocery bags full of pecans all over the house. She would use the extra money to buy Christmas presents every year.

It was my job to keep the crows, blue jays and squirrels from getting too many of the pecans. I didn’t have anything but a BB gun, so I just mostly scared the pecan robbers away.

Some years, pecans seem to bear better than others. Drought and other harsh weather can cause the nuts themselves not to mature. Lack of proper nutrients in the ground can be a determining factor if you get any pecans that year. September gales and wind storms can blow your pecans off before they mature properly.

This year, 2020, most pecan growers had a bumper crop of nuts. The nuts sell for $3 to $4 a pound unshelled. If you would like your nuts cracked, it’s a little more and shelled nuts sale for around $12 a pound. 

After harvest, the pecan needs to dry and then can be stored in a cool place or freezer for several months before using.

I find there ain’t no better way to enjoy eating a pecan than to fill your pockets full while you are hunting or just out for a walk.

So, don’t let this year’s harvest of pecans go by without enjoying one of America’s favorite nuts. 

J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released his new book, “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..