Monday, November 18, 2013

The problem with Witte

    The Witte pecan cultivar has been around for a long time (photo at right). It was discovered in the 1920's by J.H. Witte as a native pecan tree growing in the Mississippi River floodplain just outside of Burlington, Iowa.  This northern pecan cultivar ripens early, about 4 days before Colby. The tree produces a medium sized nut (6.6 g) with 51% kernel. Witte has a protandrous flowering habit and is moderately susceptible to pecan scab. From the outside, Witte looks like a fairly good choice for northern pecan growers. However, crack open the shell and you will discover Witte's fatal flaw--Dark ugly kernels.

     Witte kernels are dark even when harvested fresh off the tree (figure left). A few weeks after harvest the kernel color gets even darker. Witte kernels also have a wrinkled "old man" appearance that contributes to an illusion that the kernels poorly filled out.
    You can really see how dark the kernels of Witte are when you compared them to kernels of Oswego and Kanza (photo at right). When consumers are shopping for pecans they associate light kernel color with freshness. Dark kernels are avoided as being possibly rancid.
    Because Witte produces such unappealing kernels year in and year out, I wouldn't recommend this cultivar to any northern pecan grower.