Tuesday, November 01, 2011


I know a secret. Pistachio trees not only survive but thrive here in Utah, and not just in Utah in general, but in Cache Valley specifically.

In the 1970s a group of USU students from Iran planted some pistachio trees all around the valley. These trees have flourished. I have walked past a few and never knew what they were...until now.

A couple weeks ago my brother in law Craig brought us to a stand of these trees that live on public property and are completely uncultivated. We picked some pistachios. That's my brother in law Brent in the photo above. We weren't sure when they were ripe, so google to the rescue! http://rpistachios.com/harvesting.php

These trees like long, hot, dry summers. They exude a sticky resin that strongly smells of turpentine. When the nuts are ripe they turn a yellow color and are easily shaken from the limbs. There is an outer husk and the hard inner shell. When eaten raw the pistachios taste a lot like pine nuts.

Unfortunately we probably picked the worst year in recent history to make this discover and try to harvest them. Because of our long, cold, and wet spring the nuts apparently are ripening far behind schedule. The ones above are dark red and not ready. The ones below are starting to turn yellow and ripen.

When fully ripe the outer husk should come off easily when pressure is applied. If they aren't quite to that stage you can microwave them for a few seconds at a time and then squeeze the nuts out of the husk. Allow the nuts to dry overnight. Then place the nuts in a pot of salted boiling water and stir until the water evaporates and leaves a salty residue on the nut shells. Spread nuts on a baking sheet and place in an oven preheated to 250F and roast for about 90 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before eating. Store in an airtight container.

The pistachios above were prepared by my husband and they turned out great!

The nuts that naturally split on the tree are ripe and the best to use, but even unsplit you can still get good results, you will just need a nut cracker or a hammer to get the nut meat out.

All that being said...it is quicker, cheaper, and a heck of a lot less frustrating to just shell out $6 for a bag at the grocery store...but then again you couldn't impress your friends and neighbors by saying you harvested and roasted them yourself. Tough call.


Chris said...

Great post! We've found several trees around the valley and harvested the pistachios as well. A somewhat shocking find in Cache Valley!

nachista said...

Apparently Utah is perfect for them, they like hot dry summers, cold winters, alkaline soil, and soil with good drainage. I love finding more about the edible plants around the valley, so this was a great find.

Chris said...

Has anyone put together a map of edible plants from around the valley? I'm sure some people would be hesitant to do so, but I think sharing the knowledge is a great thing.

nachista said...

Check with the Slow Foods Cache Valley group on Facebook.