The same dance occurs about this time every year.
My hubby threatens to cut down our prized, paper-shell pecan trees.
These very same trees are the treasure trove of our most exemplary pecans--so sweet straight from the nut that they taste almost like candy--with shells so thin you can crack them using your thumb.
Our property contains nine pecan trees, but we usually make the pecan crop from the seven others available to friends, neighbors, and pecan-seekers from the general public who know our block is the source of free pecans and who annually line the curbside in the fall.
The annual yield of our two paper-shell pecans is ample for all our personal pecan needs for the year ahead.
My hubby loves the trees and what they produce, but he takes pity when he sees my eyes almost swollen shut from my late-in-life-onset pecan allergy when the trees shed their green, tassel-like "catkins", or pollen-producing flowers, in the late spring. I have to swear off my contact lenses for weeks on end while I wait for catkin-shedding period to pass.
"Let's just cut them down," he always threatens of our towering paper-shell producers, which happen to be the pecan trees nearest the driveway and house and therefore the ones with the greatest impact on my allergies.
If we ever seriously entertained such a thought, my parents likely would rise up from their burial spots in protest and haunt us forever. My daddy's pecan trees on his lot around my growing-up home (just down from us on Garland's 11th Street) were like children to him. He took such pride in their fertility. (Only when my hubby and I lived on the East Coast during our past pilgrimage was I fully aware that not every state possessed such a prize native treasure as the stately pecan.)
Even when she was on hospice, my mother one fall was fretting over who would pick the pecans that layered her yard unpicked. She ultimately called a friend who was a local baker to help herself to the nuts that would go into some of that friend's bakery specialties.
My Nanny's Pecan Pie recipe is one of the first dishes we annually make in the fall when the first new pecans are brought in. I usually follow that by stirring up Pecan Pie Muffins (both of these two recipes are in my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country.) Some other favorites are Sour Cream Apple Cake and Caramel Apple Coffee Cake (the last one appears in my new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden.)
What would I do if my hubby carried out on his annual comment and we had to look elsewhere for our marvelous paper-shells?
In the end I didn't have to worry. We decide to put off for at least another year any decision about tree-removal. I slogged through another spring and the pecan-tree discharge. My daughter's optometrist friend suggested to her that I store my allergy drops for my eyes in the refrigerator to make them more soothing when applied. I ordered a new lens (gas-permeable) for my left eye, which seems to be the one most sensitive to the shedding. I built my wearing time back up. I persevered. All for those buttery, paper-shell pecans, which, incidentally, are rich in omega-6 fatty acids and therefore help people maintain good health.
After all, they're what make my new recipe for Citrus Pecan Spinach Salad, which we enjoyed this weekend and my hubby pronounced "the very best salad ever", sizzle!
Citrus Pecan Spinach Salad
1 (9-ounce) bag ready to eat spinach
1 green apple, cut in very thin slices
1 (15.25-ounce) can tropical fruit mix, drained
1/3 cup feta cheese
1 handful pecans, broken in pieces (not chopped)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons raspberry preserves (we use sugar-free)
On a pie plate place pecans in a layer. In a 350-degree oven toast pecans until they are brown (about 8 minutes). Set aside to cool. For dressing, mix olive oil, raspberry vinegar, and raspberry preserves. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. In salad bowl toss spinach, thinly sliced apple, drained fruit, and feta cheese. Toss together with refrigerated dressing. Add toasted pecans and toss again slightly to coat nuts. Serves 4.