Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pecan oddities from the cleaning table

   This week we've been looking at thousands upon thousands of pecans streaming across the inspection table as we clean the 2013 pecan crop. As we look to remove  rocks, stick-tights and damaged nuts, we will come across a few genetic mishaps.
   What might look like one big pecan split in two is actually two fully formed nuts joined at the base (photo above). These twin pecans had their genesis all the way back during pistillate flower formation when a genetic miscue led to the creation of a double flower. A double flower has two stigmas, two ovaries but a fused shuck. At harvest, a twin nut falls free from its shared husk revealing  a pair of nuts with shells fused only at the very base. Crack open the nuts in the twin and you will find two kernel halves in each pecan just like a normal pecan.

   Harder to spot on the cleaning table are nuts that don't have the normal two kernel halves inside. The other day we spotted a nut with three cotyledons inside (photo at left). Viewed on its side the nut looks quite normal. However, look at the nut's apex and you can see that the shell has three distinct faces signalling the fact the kernel inside is divided into 3 pieces instead of the normal two. Over the years, we have also come across pecans with a single cotyledon and even nuts with four kernel pieces. 

Misshaped pecans
     This year, we also found a couple examples of pecans that look like their growth was simply pinched off. We found a nut with an extremely narrow, pointed apex as well as a nut with a pinched of base (photo at right). Obviously something went wrong with these nuts during nut expansion but what that something was I haven't got a clue. Its just a good thing that we found only these two deformed nuts in the tens of thousands pounds of pecans we have cleaned.