This has been a good year for pecans on our farm. Pecan trees are infamous for alternate bearing, with a good crop year followed by a bad year.
Here’s the technical explanation of why this happens: Pecan trees are monoecious, which means they have male flowers and female flowers on the same tree. The blooms are wind-pollinated. Some trees are protogynous (female pistils open first) while others are protandrous (male catkins start shedding pollen before the pistils open). Pistils are borne on current season growth. Catkins are located on last season’s growth. (The catkins are those little twiggy things that make such a mess when they fall.) If there is heavy rainfall between the time the males release pollen and the females are ready to be pollinated, you can expect a poor crop of nuts. Some years the tree’s timing is off, with no good explanation. Since each tree has its own schedule, having trees of several different varieties provides a better opportunity for successful pollination. More than you wanted to know, right?
Here is something you DO want to know. It’s the secret for perfectly toasted pecans. 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 3) Spread two cups of nuts on the parchment. 4) Use a kitchen oil sprayer to spray all nuts with a fine mist of butter-flavored popcorn oil. Sprinkle with salt. 4) Bake 4 minutes. Remove from oven, stir and re-spread and lightly salt again. 5) Bake another 4 minutes. 6) Remove from oven and spread out on paper towels to cool. The nuts will continue to cook a bit after they are out of the oven, so wait until they’re completely cool to taste test. You can always add another minute if you like. Yum.