Can I Harvest Green Pecans?

I have gotten this question several times since last week, ever since Hurricane Isaac rambled through Louisiana and Mississippi.  In the aftermath of wind and torrential rains, many immature pecans were knocked off the trees and now lay on the ground.  Of course this is disappointing as we were having a great year up until this point.  Callers want to know if they can pick them up, remove the shuck, and salvage the nut meat.  In most cases the answer is no.  If the shucks are dehisced or can easily be removed, that may indicate that the pecans were mature and could be harvested.  But, many of the pecans that were knocked off in the wind were immature, meaning that even if one removed the shuck by hand (a nasty, time-consuming job) and extracted the nut, it may not be fully formed.  It also would be very high in moisture content and therefore mold easily.  It would also taste bitter because of the high phenolic content.  In short, there is nothing to do about it, but look on the bright side — a reduced crop may help better ripen fruit that remained on the tree, it also reduces tree stress going into the winter, and all the rain will have helped unirrigated orchards with nut fill.

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