Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nuts to us all

In our backyard there stands a tall gnarled pecan tree. While recent hurricanes have broken off some limbs, the old tree still serves as our main shade tree. And it keeps giving--this year's been a banner year for pecans. They started to fall the first week of November but since it was still quite warm, the tree kept its green leaves. We couldn't see if there were lots of nuts or only a few this year. Last spring we had fed the tree with sticks of fertilizer which we pounded into the ground all around the drip edge (the approximate diameter of its foliage) and hoped the tree benefited from the treatment. It has and we have bushels of nuts to prove it.

I wander around the yard with a plastic grocery bag most mornings and spot the dropped nuts. They seem to fall in bunches, three to six in one spot. It always makes me happy to haul yet another bag back to the table on the porch and spread the nuts out to dry. After a week or so, the nuts come inside to a large cardboard box and most nights, either Rod or I sit in the living room and crack nuts, alternately eating and saving some. I use a Frisbee as a plate and find that one Frisbee full of pecans yields about 3/4 cup of nutmeats.

The North Carolina Pecan Growers recommend that pecans can be stored up to nine months and refrigerated for even longer. There's great recipes on their site too. So whether you say pi-can, pee-kahn, or puh-khan (how we pronounce it around here in eastern North Carolina), these gifts from the trees are wonderful. Before I head back to the house after picking, I go up to the old pecan tree, place my hand on the trunk, look up, and say, "Thank you."

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