In Praise of the Pistachio

I spent most of yesterday in the garden, weeding the rose bed and planting pansies. While at the nursery buying the happy-faced flowers I also picked up a trio of pistachio trees.

One guy and two girls. (No, really…keep reading.)

I’ve loved pistachios for years but only recently discovered the trees grow well in Sacramento. (Recently, in this case, means “last winter when it was too late to plant new trees.”) In honor of my new baby orchard-in-training, let’s review a few facts about pistachios:

1. They do not come in red. The red-shelled versions popular during the 1960s and ’70s (which I hated because they stained my fingers, but I digress) were dyed to hide discolorations on the nut shells because pistachios stain easily when handled. As consumers became more tolerant of “imperfect” foods (and less crazy about Red Dye #5) the dyed nuts slowly gave way to the natural pistachios we see in the market today.

2. Pistachio trees are dioecious, which means each tree is either male or female, and if you don’t have both you get no nuts. One male tree can fertilize eight and twelve females (harem, anyone?) and only the female trees produce pistachio nuts. (We’re moving right along now, before I say something that makes you laugh but which I will regret.)

3. Pistachios open on their own when the nuts are ripe. The shell splits open with a popping sound that is audible some distance away.  (Haven’t mentioned this bit to the family. They might not have been as happy about my plans for the backyard…)

4. Although pistachio nuts are popular in the United States (as a nation we consume 45,000 pounds per year) the Chinese buy the most pistachios – 80,000 pounds a year are imported to or grown in the PRC.

5. The best commercial pistachios (in my opinion) are the salt-and-pepper variety from Everybody’s Nuts. We shall see if my home-grown ones are equally tasty (though admittedly less creative when it comes to puns).

What do you know about pistachios? Do you like them?  Hop into the comments and let me know.

3 thoughts on “In Praise of the Pistachio

  • February 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I love Pistachios, I go for the unsalted roasted ones, Very hard to find. But I doubt if I could grow them in Ohio – too cold! But great info. Its amazing how they work. Almost surprisingly like humans, and every one is a little nuts.

    • February 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      Great point about being a little nuts! One reason I’m growing my own is to get access to the roasted unsalted or roasted with hot pepper and light salt – things they don’t sell but that I think would be great. I dont know if they will grow in Ohio but you might want to look – they apparently make it to -14, so depending on your weather you might manage after all!

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