Tuesday, June 30, 2009
There are quite a few pistachio groves in the area here. The largest is Eagle Ranch/Heart of the Desert. They have over 80 acres and are the only groves that process their own in the entire state. They also harvest for the smaller groves around. The female trees are the only ones that put on the nuts. They are completely wind polinated which happens in April. The female will put on the shells and outer epi-carp regardless and only at harvest do you know if the nuts are there! Our climate and altitude are almost the same as in the Middle East where the pistachios originated. They are a perfect desert crop as they require only a fraction of the water of pecan trees.
This is what pistachios look like on the trees. They are not ready to harvest until Labor Day. They will turn more pinkish in color by then. What you see is a soft outer skin called the epi-carp that covers the hard shell of the pistachio. The shells split open naturally while on the tree as the nut out grows it. When they are ready, the epi-carp starts separating and is easy to take off. It has a slight citrus smell and in the Middle East they make marmalades out of it. The nuts are quite good just off of the tree, very moist and a slight hazelnut flavor. They are harvested by shakers that shake trees for a few seconds only. They are then dried, flavored, roasted, sorted etc.