Pistachio processors meet growing demand

FRESNO, Calif.

The little green nuts have shaken up the snack food industry. Once pistachios are harvested and hulled they are sorted and sized at plants like the Horizon Nut Company in Tulare.

Senior vice president JD Franklin said demand for pistachios is rapidly growing in countries like China and India.

Franklin said, "A large portion of our business is for export. The palates overseas they like the pistachios."

Last year's record-breaking crop was worth over a billion dollars. The Valley has 150,000 acres of producing pistachio trees. 100,000 more acres are already in the ground so plants will continue to process nuts at a dizzying rate. But this season won't be as productive.

Richard Matoian, executive director of the American Pistachio Growers, explained, "The tree produces heavy one year and kind of uses up its energy and then produces light the next year, stores up its energy and then produces heavy again the next year."

In 2008 the US surpassed Iran as the world's top pistachio grower. You may recall pistachios used to be red. Those pistachios were from Iran.

Franklin said, "They would tint them red to try to cover up some of the impurities. Not so much as food safety risk but just to cover up any aesthetic flaw."

Valley-grown pistachios are naturally colored. Franklin added, "Our goal is actually is for an in-shell pistachio to have as white as possible shell and a nice green kernel inside."

The shelled kernels will go into trail mixes.

98-percent of the country's pistachio growers are located in California. They all tout pistachios as a heart-healthy snack food.

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