I had no thought of being able to harvest a single thing this fall. I've only been living here in Texas since July, and I had no time to see to any kind of gardening when I got here. It was too hot, for one, and it was a very busy and sort of confusing, surreal time, having just relocated after many, many years in the same place. As a result, I had nothing planted anywhere, not a single potted tomato or pepper or even a squash vine. I was feeling a little sad about that.
Now it's fall. I love fall, and part of what I love is the way fall gardens feel. It's time to collect the last of fresh greens and the hustle and bustle of getting the last of the crops in before the first frost is a seasonal job that is rewarded with it's own sense of accomplishment, not to mention the bounty. Compost piles, stowing squash, drying, preserving as much as I can for the months where there are no fresh crops, all the hard work, but things I love doing! I knew I would have nothing this year. I was resigned to it and determined that I'd never be caught in harvest season with nothing to harvest again!
Well, surprise! I am harvesting after all -- nuts! I moved into a spot on a pecan grove and no one else who lives near here really cares anything about them, so I'm free to gather all I want. Believe me, I want a lot!
I love nuts, particularly pecans. I like to cook with them, but I also love to just sit and shell them and eat them. My whole family does. Every fall we'd buy mixed nuts and leave them sitting around the house in a big bowl. From September through Christmas and beyond if they make it that long, we eat nuts from the bowl and get shell shards everywhere. It's sort of a tradition in our house. Having them growing right here is a real treat!
I've never grown nuts before, so I wasn't sure how it's handled. I thought I should wait until they drop and then collect them. October is about the time they begin to ripen, so I got out and started picking them up from beneath the trees. Right away I discovered it's nearly impossible to tell which ones have been laying around since last year, and which ones are fresh. I collected quite a few, trying to tell by sight and feel which were which. I figured that if they were too light weight that they were probably old and had dried out. It turns out, that's a fairly accurate assessment, but not always the case. Second, I decided some "looked" old, dark as though they had weathered and were probably not good. It turns out that is not a very accurate indicator at all. So the only thing to do is shell them and find out.
I learned something else new about pecans today. I don't have to wait for them to drop. The manager of the property came to trim some branches this morning. She knew I was excited to have something to harvest, so she came and told me there were branches on the ground and that she wouldn't be collecting them until later in the day. If I wanted to, I could go out and gather all that were on them and keep them. This is when I learned that they do not have to drop off the tree to be ripe enough to harvest. Pecans have a thick outer shell around them. She said all I have to do is get the ones that are already starting to open and release the nut. If the outer shell is still zipped tight, leave 'em.
Needless to say, my day has been busy with nut harvesting. I'm plumb giddy about it! In just the very few branches cut from two trees I managed to score about two plastic grocery bags of fresh pecans! That's only a tiny fraction of the nuts on the trees, and only a tiny fraction of the trees in the orchard. I'm excited!! It's all very fallish and wonderful! We'll see if I'm still overjoyed after I sit and shell them by the hundreds.