Just in time for Thanksgiving, the South’s pecan crop is a plentiful one this year.
by Erin Z. Bass
November is National Pecan Month in Georgia, the leading pecan-producing state in the nation. Pecan season is also in full swing in other states across the South, just in time for those Thanksgiving pies, stuffings and more. In Georgia, pecan farms are passed down from generation to generation, and some offer farm tours and picking this time of year.
Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley has been in the pecan business since 1908. Now run by Duke Lane Jr. (pictured), whose great-grandfather had cows, corn, cotton and a dairy on the property, Lane Southern’s 5,000 acres focus mainly on peaches and pecans. “Fortunately for pecans, it’s been a heck of a past three years,” says Lane, who also serves as president of the Georgia Pecan Commission. “The season is upon us.”
Lane says that due to a mild winter last year, there was nothing to delay the harvest. While November is the official month, pecans in South Georgia have been dropping since October and are predicted to last through the first of the year. “It’s a 3-month process,” says Lane, “and it’s a real fast process. You shake ‘em, sweep and put them on the back of a wagon on a truck to go to the cleaning plant.” The orchard doesn’t shell the pecans itself, but they do roast and salt them and sell the pieces in their retail market.
Lane Southern does offer tours of its orchard, grove and packing house. There’s also a farm market, bakery and cafe, known for its butter pecan ice cream, on site. With the high price of pecans over the last few years, the orchard doesn’t allow picking for the public, but “When we get through harvesting, we won’t get all the nuts, so we’ll let people go through there and pick up nuts,” Lane says.
Their nuts can also be found in grocery stores and through their website. Having worked on the property for 43 years since he was 21 years old, Lane says he’s learned not to take pecans for granted. “Pecan pies, chocolate-covered, pecan praline ice cream, it doesn’t just happen by itself.”
Lane Southern’s Apple Pecan Dressing
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped onion
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups dry wheat bread cubes, about 8 slices
2 medium apples, peeled cored and finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp ground sage
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp pepper
In a small saucepan, combine chicken broth, celery, onion, butter and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5-7 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine bread cubes, chopped apples, chopped pecans, sage, cinnamon and pepper. Pour broth and vegetable mixture over the bread cubes. Gently stir to moisten. Spoon into a greased 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Can also be used as stuffing for an 8 to 10-lb. turkey.
Click here for more pecan recipes from Lane Southern Orchards.
Photos courtesy of Lane Southern Orchards.