The Q&A Archives: Pistachio Nuts

Question: I have a pistachio tree that has set a good bunch of nuts for the first time. Have no idea when to expect them to be ready for harvest. They are about the size of peas, and are now getting pink cheeks on some. They have been maturing all summer, but once they reached this size, they seem to have stopped growing in size. They are still pliable and don't feel as though they have a shell yet. Would appreciate any help you can offer.

Answer: The pistachio is a drupe. It's botanically related to cashews, peaches and mangoes. Pistachio trees can reach 30 feet in height. It takes trees about 15 years to begin producing significant quantities of nuts; but they'll continue to grow pistachios for hundreds of years. The trees grow in parts of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Greece, Italy and in the Western U.S. -- areas that have long, hot summers and cool winters.

The edible kernel is surrounded by a hard shell that begins to open on the tree as the nut matures. When the shells don't split, they can be opened artificially, by hand or machine. The hard shell is covered by a soft, fruity husk which is removed during processing.

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