Know Your Source
To be sure you’re buying the finest pistachios, ask your supplier about the source.
Several countries grow pistachios, and the quality differs in ways you should note.
America is now the world’s leading grower, an up-from-nothing success story. Rising steadily from the first commercial crop in 1976, the country’s harvest now surpasses Iran’s. And our quality has the Iranians beat, too.
California produces 99 percent of the nation’s crop, with small contributions from Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. All told, American farmers grow 42 percent of the world’s pistachios. Iran places second by volume, with Syria and Turkey far behind.
If you put American pistachios side by side with nuts from Iran and Turkey, here’s what you would see:
- American-grown pistachios are, on average, larger and plumper.
- American pistachio shells are naturally tan and never bleached. Iranian nuts are often bleached to mask discoloration.
- American pistachios are more uniform in size because of strict grading standards.
- Iranians have a higher percentage of non-split nuts due to long-term drought.
- American orchards are irrigated, yielding a high percentage of plump nuts with the desirable split shells.
And a few things you can't see:
- American pistachios are mechanically harvested and never touch the ground. They undergo an initial drying within 24 hours. In contrast, pistachios from Iran and other Mediterranean countries are typically hand-harvested and dried outdoors, increasing the likelihood of contamination.
- American pistachios contain less fat and fewer calories per ounce than Iranian or Turkish varieties but supply the same amount of fiber and protein.
- As for flavor, American pistachios have a buttery, sweet taste, with none of the acidic flavor that bleaching can impart. Recommended storage: Cold storage (32°F to 40°F) at 55% to 70% humidity is best for pistachios. Stack cases on pallets and keep sealed until ready to use. Keep nuts away from foods with strong odors. Maintain FIFO (first in, first out) procedures and your pistachios should remain in good condition for up to one year.