Saturday, November 7, 2009

Brazos Locavores - Visit to the TAMU Pecan Orchard

Since the moment I took over coordinating events for the Brazos Locavores last December, I've had my little heart set on visiting the Texas A&M University Pecan Orchard during harvest (Nov-Dec here in Central Texas).

Today, after 2 years of buying my local pecans through the Horticulture Department, my pecan dreams came true. The Locavores visited the orchard itself and it was an absolutely incredible trip. Leo Lombardini, Assistant Professor of Horticulture Sciences at TAMU, pecan physiologist, and overseer of the orchard gave us a 1-1/2 hour tour and presentation on the ins and out of pecans - from planting to harvest. And it couldn't have been more fascinating.

The amazing thing is that the orchard receives no monetary support from the University. All the work is done from money earned from sales of pecans, and most recently, from a generous Houstonian who has donated 50,000 a year for 3 years to help fund the expansion and research for the orchard. Funds that have helped them plant 400 new trees!

The orchard hosts more than 30 different varieties of pecans, but they harvest for sale mostly Pawnee, Desirables, and Stuarts. Research continues, however, into new varieties, searching for perfect nut size and disease resistance. Lombardini shared with us one of the orchard's ongoing research projects into root growth, as they take underground photos of root development to determine when roots become active and what is the best time to fertilize. Just across the street is the USDA hosting one of only two pecan breeding programs in the world and some of the varieties come from this very orchard!

Of course, at the end of the field trip, we had an opportunity to sample fresh pecans. In fact, they were some of the more than 5,000 pounds harvested just last week. Now THAT's fresh! Harvesting isn't over, however. The Pawnees and Desirables have been harvested, but the Stuarts will be ready in December.

I picked up 9 pounds all by myself (much to the amazement of pretty much everyone else), stocking up so that I'd have a great source of locally grown protein for months to come. But it's certainly not too late to get your share of the local pecans. The TAMU Horticulture club sells them in the Horticulture Building (west campus) every Friday afternoon until they run out (mid December?).

Thanks to everyone who came today and a special thanks to Claire, Britteny, Kelsey, Courtney, and Tyra (TAMU Commun-ications Students) who volunteered to coordinate the November event.

For more information on the Brazos Locavores, visit our website or for field trip announcement right in your inbox, subscribe to our Google Group.

Hope to see you at the next field trip!

4 comments:

Tammy said...

You missed quite a market. There were lots of veggies(squash, cucumbers, asian greens, potatoes,sprouts, herbs, green beans, pumpkins, pecans, peanuts, eggplant, peppers, greens), pears, baked goods, salsas, jellies, soaps, coffee, crafts, and plants. I may have missed something...
I bought coffee, salsa, strawberry rhubarb jelly, soap, banana nut bread, pecans, an apple pie, peanut brittle, squash, green beans, spinach, cucumbers, asian greens, turnip and radish sprouts, pears, and eggplant.
From the CSA this week, it was cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, roma and cherry tomatoes, lettuce, arugula, peppers, acorn squash, pak choi, eggplant and hot peppers.
I gave some stuff to my sis but my supply runneth over...
I'm going to have a very veggie week. The apples from Washington are coming in a few days and I picked up some mushrooms, grapefruit and oranges from the grocery that were all from Texas, so no one is going hungry anytime soon...
The Locavore trip sounded like a lot of fun...

Heather @ SGF said...

Tammy - Wow! Sounds great! It was the pears I missed most. I'll just have to stock up again next week. Hopefully Lois doesn't run out quite yet...

Waitress from Mensa said...

Great trip and comprensive synposis, Heather! Your enthusiam jumps off the screen!

Definitely going stock up on pecans at the Horticulture Building--thanks for this tip--for Christmas presents for my Arizona family. Already in the box are preserves from Mrs. Deckerd and James and Three-Acre Farm soaps.

Impressive greens at Saturday's market: kale and mustard greens. And lots of peppers of all types. Even broccoli! Yea for Vitamin A!

Heather @ SGF said...

Waitress from Mensa - Broccoli? How exciting! The winter veggies are here!

The nuts definitely make great gifts. My step-mom likes it when I make them into cinnamon pecans for her. Yum!