The weather has finally cooled off and the 2011 pecan crop is racing to maturity. Some of our earliest maturing cultivars have already split their shucks ('Henning' pictured at right), revealing this year's nut crop. At this point, Henning nuts are still full of moisture and need to dry before they gain full flavor.
If you are interested in checking the ripening progress of pecan cultivars that have not yet split their shucks, all you need is a pocket knife. Cut into the shuck about 1/4 the down from the tip of the pecan and try to peel off the a portion of the shuck. If the pecan you are checking has begun the final nut ripening process, the shuck should pop off the nut easily, revealing that the shell is starting to color. I cut a 'Kanza' nut (pictured above) this morning and found that the top half had separated from the shuck.
Take a closer look at the Kanza nut (above) and you can see that space has developed between the shuck and shell. The shuck splitting process starts at the end of the nut and work towards the base. Ultimately, shuck split is a two step process: 1st the shuck and nut separate, then 2nd, the sutures in the shuck separate and the shuck splits open. The entire nut ripening process usually takes 9 to 14 days.