A Pecan Expert Explains When (and How) to Shell a Pecan

published Nov 13, 2015
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(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

Who: Tucker Pecan Company
What: Southern Pecans
Where: Montgomery, Alabama

Got a pecan tree in your yard? Well, today you’re in luck: David Little, president of Tucker Pecan Company, is sharing a few gathering and shelling tips.

How to Get Pecans Down from Trees

In the fall, when the green outer hull enclosing each nut opens, the pecans are ready for harvest. At commercial pecan orchards, machines are used to shake them out of the trees.

For at-home operations, Little suggests this DIY method that’s been used for years: “Old-timers use cane fishing poles with a weight on the end of the line. They cast the line up and around a branch and then pull to shake it and make the pecans fall. It works.” Or you can wait for them to drop by themselves — just don’t leave them on the ground for too long.

Which Pecans to Pick Up

“If you see some on the ground that still have the green husk on them, they’re not ready. They didn’t fall off the tree because they were ripe; a strong wind probably knocked them off,” says Little. “Look for pecans free of the outer husk, but with unbroken shells.” You also want the pecans to feel heavy in your hands.

(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

How to Open a Pecan Shell

“The best way to open pecans is to use a hand cracker and do it one at a time,” says Little. “It’s a lot of work, though. You can also put two together in your hand and squeeze them together to crack them — but that can be tough, too.”

The easiest way? Bring them to Tucker Pecan, and let them shell the pecans for you. This route includes the bonus of getting them into a delicious pie even faster.