Pistachio Nut (Pistacia vera)
Pistachio Nuts Still On The Trees
Did You Ever Have Someone Make An Offhand Comment To You ~
Recently my husband had someone that he works with here in Nevada make an offhand comment to him. The comment made him think...hmmmm.. I wonder if that would be do-able? A guy he works with loves pistachio nuts. He was eating them one day at his desk, when he looked over at my husband and said "me and you should go and start a pistachio farm! I love pistachio's."
My husband and I both like pistachio's too, but a farm? It was one of those things that make you say hmmmm. First of all, I don't think I would look good in overalls, but that's another subject... and for me to be seen holding a pitchfork... well... I hear snickering... do you hear snickering? Who's snickering over there?
To get back to the topic, my husband looked on the Internet and found out that we actually live in the ideal climate here in Nevada for pistachio farming! Who would have ever thought it? As it turns out, pistachio trees thrive in a hot, arid climate with long, hot summers and dry winters. In fact, most pistachio's are grown in the hot, dry desert climates found in places like Asia minor and in Iran.
Only one slight problem... you plant the trees and it takes seven to ten YEARS to get a good crop of pistachio nuts. If we were to think of doing this as some kind of retirement project or hobby, we best be getting busy picking up a parcel of land and planting some pistachio trees. It's a long wait for these things. It's no wonder pistachio nuts are so expensive at times. What adds to the price is that they only produce a good crop every other year. They still produce in the off year, but it is not as good a crop as it is every two years.
Pistachio's were actually first brought to the United States in 1854. They didn't turn into an industry here in the United States until 1976. It turns out that the majority of the pistachio's grown here in the U.S. are grown in California because of its ideal pistachio growing climate. The rest of the U.S. pistachio crops are grown in Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas and west Utah.
When I was looking into information to write this, I found that there are two pistachio farms not too far from where we live, a bit south of us, here in southern Nevada. The United States, it turns out, produces about 24% of the world's pistachio's. That is second in production to Iran. From what I was reading, the crop harvested each year varies widely depending on such factors as the weather.
The variety of pistachio nuts (Pistacia Vera is the other name for them) grown most often in the United States is what's known as the Kerman variety. In a fascinating fact that I did not even know... pistachio trees come in male and female varieties, and both types must be planted in close proximity to one another for the female trees to be fertilized and for the female trees to produce pistachio nuts.
Who knew that plants were male and female? I might have heard that before at some other time in my life, but I don't remember ever hearing that fact before. The Kerman variety of trees are the female trees that produce Kerman pistachio's. This popular variety of pistachio's is also found in Iran. They are the most widely favored variety for pistachio growers because of their large size and because of the way the shells split widely.
That is one of the hallmarks of a successful pistachio crop, the shells must split widely for them to be most desirable in the marketplace. Most pistachio nuts are sold with the shells still on them and they must be split right to make them easy to eat. They are usually roasted and salted very soon after they are harvested for the best, freshest tasting pistachio nuts.
Some of the nuts that are shelled are taken out of the shells because the shells were stained in the harvesting process and the pistachio nuts are then used as an ingredient in many foods. You can find pistachio nuts as an ingredient in salads, ice cream, candies, baked goods and other confections. In fact, my sister in law has the BEST recipe using pistachio pudding I have ever tasted... it includes marshmallows, pineapple and whipped cream... yumm!! She used to make it every year as a bring along dish at holiday gatherings.
It takes several years for a pistachio nut tree to even begin producing nuts, but the ideal nut producing time happens at 7 to 10 years. In fact, the peak producing years of pistachio trees occur at 20 to 25 years. I think pistachio farming is best left to the youngsters. I don't think I want to wait another 25 years for the best crops if we were to start a pistachio farm. Pistachio trees are what is called alternate bearing, meaning that they bear the optimum amounts of nuts every two years. This is similar to other nut trees which do the same thing.
Pistachio nuts that are being exported to other countries from the United States have seen an increase over the years as people become more aware of the health benefits of eating nuts like pistachio nuts. Nut consumption all over the world has gone up due to information out about the great benefits of these little nuts.
Did you know that pistachio nuts are rich in vitamin B6, calcium and iron? They also contain good amounts of fiber, copper, iron and magnesium. As an extra nice benefit, they also contain a heart healthy type of fat that can help to lower bad cholesterol. They not only taste great, but they're good for you as well.
Many pistachio nuts are exported to China, the Netherlands and to Canada. By far, the leading destination for most exported pistachio nuts is Hong Kong, followed closely by Belgium. Prices tend to vary and depend on factors like demand and also weather factors. A rainy season during the growing period can be devastating to pistachio trees. They favor hot, dry weather and fare much better in the ideal dry, desert climate.
There is a problem that can affect pistachio nuts if the weather is too wet, and it is known as Aflatoxins.These Aflatoxin's are produced by a fungus and they are a compound that can affect pistachio nuts by making them dangerous to eat. They can cause the nuts to ultimately become toxic for consumption, which is why strict standards are in place to be sure that only healthy pistachio nuts are processed and then allowed to go to market.
Harvesting Pistachio Nuts
You know that the pistachio nuts are ready to be harvested when you notice that many of them are widely opened up. I've heard stories that when you are walking through an orchard of pistachio trees, many times you can hear audible popping sounds from when the nuts are popping open. I thought that was interesting!
The way pistachio nuts are harvested is interesting, too. They are harvested by laying a tarp on the ground surrounding the tree, and then by shaking the tree. The nuts that are ready to be harvested will fall right off of the tree as it is shaken. The nuts are collected from the tarp and dried to make them ready either for further processing or for shipping. They can be processed in a special dry roasting process and then salted, or they can simply be thoroughly dried and then packaged for shipping.
In a commercial pistachio nut growing operation, there are special machines that are usually used to shake the trees to get the nuts off of them, which is a much easier and more efficient way to harvest the pistachio nuts. If a farm is very small, though, sometimes the method of shaking trees by hand can still be used, or if you are a person simply growing pistachios in a large yard area the pistachio nuts can be harvested by shaking the trees.
How To Open A Difficult To Open Pistachio Nut
How Do You Open A Stubborn Pistachio Nut?
A question I had trouble finding an answer for is, what is the best way to open a pistachio nut that is only opened a tiny crack? Do you use your fingernails and risk breaking them? Do you try to use brute force? Or, do you find a method that seems to be so easy, the answer to the dilemma is probably staring you right in the face as you are busy eating pistachio nuts!
I found a fantastic way to open these bothersome nuts with the shells barely even cracked, and for a small fee....
OK, I'll share my secret for FREE!
When you come across a nut that is only partially opened and is difficult to open, look over at your pile of empty shells. Pick up one of the half-shells. Then insert the half shell into the tiny opening of the pistachio nutshell you are trying to open. Once it is partially inserted, TWIST it. Yes, twist it just like you would twist a screwdriver when you're putting a screw into something. Twist it and that difficult shell should pop right open, saving your fingernails, keeping your fingers from hurting and keeping you from having to use any brute force to open it.
Seems almost too easy, doesn't it? It really works! I did it here in these pictures. It was hard to take these pictures at a time when I didn't have anyone else to take the pictures for me, so they were taken looking as if I was opening the difficult pistachio one-handed. I really did use two hands to open it, though.
So, the next time you are enjoying a handful or two of pistachio nuts, remember that they really do come with some excellent heart and health benefits and that they are good for you. Sometimes things that are very good for you really DO taste good, and pistachio nuts are delicious!