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Pistachios

Ever wonder why pistachios already have a split in the hull when you buy them at the store?  This is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the growing season.  It takes 7-10 years for Pistachio orchards to have a full harvest and the nut clusters are grown on smaller trees to make it easier to harvest.  The trees bloom in April and soon after a green fleshy shell starts to form around the nut shell which will harden by early July. Only then will the nutmeat start to grow until it cracks the shell open.  No human hands touch the pistachios during harvest which begins in early September and can go through late October.  The tree is shaken and the falling nuts are collected on canvas covered catch frames or tarps to be dried and de-hulled.  The husks are really wet when they come off the tree and it takes less than 24 hours to dry out most of the moisture.  The husks will now come off very easy and need to be taken off within 48 hours of picking so the shells don’t stain or mold.  Pistachios were once dyed red to hide stains and to make them stand out in vending machines.

Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering fruits, at least 9000 years, and traveled from the Middle East through the Mediterranean to the US in 1854 although they were not commercially grown until 1976.  Pistachios are primarily grown in California, New Mexico and Arizona where the growing season is hot and dry with daytime temperatures of 100 degrees or higher, there are cooler nights in the winter with at least 800 chill hours of below 45 F, and rainfall is almost non-existent between May and October.  Almost all California pistachios are grown in the southern San Joaquin Valley in Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern counties with a small amount being grown in Paso Robles and the Sacramento Valley.  California produces over 300 million pounds of pistachios each year, almost 98% of all domestically grown Pistachio’s.

Pistachios are naturally trans-fat free and cholesterol free, full of fiber and antioxidants and an excellent source of vitamin B6, copper and manganese.  They don’t do well if you leave them out in a dish because they absorb moisture easily.  It is best to keep them in a sealed container or they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year.   Pistachios make a great snack for that holiday get together!

Pistachios are also good in both savory and sweet recipes such as Chicken Biryiani, Almond Pistachio Saffron Curry to put over grilled meat or try in a Pistachio and Almond Cake with Orange Salad. 

 

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