Pecans are packed with health benefits and provide a quick boost in-between meals as a delicious snack. While the small nut that arrives in your pecan snack bag seems simple enough, pecan harvesting takes some effort. Pecans need picking at the right time, thorough drying and careful shelling to ensure the nut comes out perfect and golden brown.
Let’s dive into pecan harvesting and find out when pecans are in season, how to harvest them and more.
When Are Pecans Harvested in Georgia?
Georgia is a humid state with all the right conditions for growing delicious, healthy pecans. As the leading pecan producer in America, Georgia provides buyers everywhere with tasty pecans year-round. Pecans are harvested in Georgia from October through November. This is when Georgian pecan trees shed their nuts to prepare for fall’s leaf drop.
Once the pecan trees are ready to start turning for fall, the pecans will dry and fall from their husks, leaving harvestable nuts all over the ground. While the harvest takes place during these months, the long shelf-life of pecans means they’re in-season for eating throughout the year.
How Do You Know When Pecans Are Ready to Harvest?
The general pecan harvest season starts in September and continues through November. Still, just because it’s harvest season doesn’t mean the pecans are ready to drop. Nature will let you know when the pecans are ready for harvesting, and this can take time. Pecans will begin to show visible signs of readiness, indicating when it’s time to round them up.
First, know what pecan trees look like so you don’t try harvesting the wrong tree. Second, check the nuts on the tree for signs they’re ready to pick. Pecans that are harvest-ready will have brown, cracked husks. The husks dry out as they age and turn from green to brown. These cracked and brown pecans will fall out of their husks and onto the ground. The pecans will begin to dry and cure if the soil is dry.
Pecans will fall to the ground on their own when they’re ready so that the natural curing process can begin. Curing helps improve pecans’ aroma, texture and flavor, making them delicious, snackable nuts. Cleaning plant curing ensures the pecans remain free of rot, insects, animals and weather damage, so choose this option instead of just leaving them to cure on the ground.
How to Harvest Pecans
Pecan harvesting is relatively simple. While the nuts naturally fall to the ground when they’re ready to harvest, commercial harvesters use machines with mechanical arms to shake the nuts free from the tree. This makes it easier to harvest more nuts at once. Shaking the tree encourages nuts that are basically ready for harvesting to fall. Since not every nut is ready at the same time, each tree is shaken twice a season.
Once the nuts are on the ground, harvesters pick pecans using machines, rolling pickers or pecan pickers. These devices easily scoop up the nuts and leave everything else behind. Be sure to pick the pecans off the ground as soon as possible — birds will quickly swoop in to eat any ground nuts, and wet dirt can cause pecans to rot.
Most pecan husks will fall off during harvesting or remain on the tree. If any hulls are stuck to the nuts, you’ll need to hull them. You can’t eat pecan hulls, so make sure to remove them before drying, storing and eating them.
Pecan Drying Process
Once the pecans are harvested, it’s time to dry them. Drying or curing pecans helps preserve them and makes them into the delicious snacks and baking ingredients we love. The first step in the pecan drying process is screening. All of the pecans go through inspection to ensure they’re quality nuts. Any bad pecans or husks and debris are removed.
Because pecans often contain lots of moisture when they first fall, they’ll need to dry. Pecans are laid in a shallow sheet layer and dried in a warm space for around two weeks. You can use fans or heat to help speed the process up. At Pecan Nation, our pecans are dried to a precise 4% moisture to prevent any spoilage.
Once dried, the pecans are ready for one last quality check before it’s time to clean and bag them — you can choose to keep them shelled or shell them. After these steps are complete, you can enjoy your pecans plain, or go through an additional flavoring process, depending on your preferences.
After harvesting, drying and buying pecans, shelled pecans need proper storage to keep them fresh for snacking. Preserving their golden hue and mouthwatering flavor means keeping your pecans in a cool, dry area. Maximize your pecan’s shelf-life by deep freezing them in airtight bags. You can also keep them in the refrigerator.
While the freezer or fridge is your best option for long-term pecan storage, you can keep them in your pantry. Seal them in airtight containers and keep them away from moisture. Cool, dry environments work best if you aren’t refrigerating or freezing pecans. With correct storage, you can have pecans ready to go whenever you’re craving a tasty snack.
Enjoy the Georgia Pecan Harvest
Once you know the ins and outs of pecan harvesting, you might want to head out to the woods and start foraging for your own. However, pecan trees might not be native to where you live. Additionally, they need lots of room to reach full maturity — our pecan trees are cultivated once they hit 10 years old.
Instead of hunting for pecans or growing the trees yourself, enjoy delicious, convenient pecan snacks cultivated by the fifth-generation farmers at Pecan Nation. Pecan Nation delivers golden-brown, hearty pecans to your door, providing you with healthy, vibrant snacks whenever you need them. Whether you love sweet or savory, we’ve got a range of tasty pecan flavors for you to enjoy.
Check out our available pecans in our online shop and find your new favorite snack today!