Parking was hard to come by as the first New Mexico Pecan Festival got under way Saturday in Mesilla. Fortunately for all in attendance, the forecast rain was a no-show, and the large crowd took advantage of tasty and informative exhibits featuring the popular nut.
“I like it because these are small family farms… these kinds of festivals allow us to showcase our best pecan pies, showcase the best of what the local farmers can provide,” said Stephanie Bustamantes, owner of Galaxia Café, to the Albuquerque Journal.
Fresh Pecans in Season
You can find pecans on grocery store shelves year round, but truly fresh pecans, harvested between October and January, are much sweeter.
Pecans grow in two phases. From about May 1 to August 15, the pollination, enlargement, and water stages occur. Trees usually have an August Drop, when 8 to 10 percent of the nuts are shed unripened.
The second phase, kernel filling and shell hardening, takes place from around August 15 to November 1. Growers find mature nuts for harvesting as early as October 1.
A Bumper Crop This Year?
In recent years, thousands of acres of pecan trees have been planted in advance of a new marketing campaign. While some of these trees have been planted as replacements, many new trees have gone in, and are now bearing nuts. So we may have an abundance of fresh, sweet pecans just in time for the holiday season. Kosher pecan nuts are widely available, by the way.
Prolonging Pecan Pleasure
You don’t have to gobble all these delicious nuts at once. Bulk pecans can be frozen so you can enjoy them later. Simply shell them, put them into airtight freezer bags, and they’ll last up to two years in the freezer.