One popular snack that people like to consume is pistachios. According to American Pistachio Growers, the consumption of pistachios grown in the United States has gone up globally.
The popularity of this bright green seed (or nut if you look at pistachios from a culinary point of view) isn’t completely surprising. The nuts produced by a pistachio plant have a delicious nutty flavor and works well in both savory and sweet dishes.
What’s more, this nut comes with good health benefits. One pistachio nutrition fact to remember is that this food is rich in a lot of nutrients, such as fiber, antioxidants, carotenoids and unsaturated fat (the good kind of fat).
If you’re looking to plant a tree in your home garden, consider growing a pistachio tree.
Tips When Growing a Pistachio Tree
How do pistachios grow anyway?
This tree thrives in hot and arid climates that receive plenty of sunlight. Pistachio trees love desert heat. If you live in Southern California, West Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, you’re in luck because this plant has the potential to grow and thrive in those areas.
Just like a black walnut tree, a pistachio tree takes years to produce a substantial harvest. The rewards of growing your food, however, far outweigh the patience and effort required.
When growing a pistachio tree, make sure that you consider the soil. A pistachio plant does fine in all types of soil, but flourish in relatively deep, sandy loam, dry and light soils with high calcium carbonate concentration. Take note that you will need well-draining soil, as this plant does not tolerate heavy and wet soils.
When spacing your pistachio trees, make sure to plant them approximately 20 feet apart. If you plant them in less than 20 feet distances, the mutual shadowing and overcrowding of the trees will reduce the quality and quantity of production. This will also make pruning and harvesting more difficult on your end.
Given that the wind carries the pollen from the male pistachio tree to the blossom on the bearing female tree, make sure to plant the male ones in the prevailing direction of the winds. By doing so, the winds will blow the pollen across the female trees.
If you intend to grow a pistachio tree, you could grow the seedlings in containers for the first three to five years. Then, plant them in your garden to give them enough time to mature. This is important especially if you’re planting long taproot species, which may be stunted with long-term container growth.
How to Take Care of a Pistachio Tree
Let’s first talk about pruning a pistachio tree. Just like other nut-bearing trees, experts classify the pistachio plant as a fruit tree. This makes pruning essential to obtaining the best nut harvest.
While the tree is young, determine the branches that will serve as the primary branches for the growing pistachio tree. Pick ones that are evenly spaced around the trunk. Refrain from going with branches that are directly across each other.
Once you’ve selected your main branches, trim away the branches below the lowest primary branch. Take note that this should be 24 to 32 inches above the soil. Then, prune all other branches to approximately four to six inches in length.
Pro-tip: prune your pistachio tree during summer. This will encourage the plant to branch and grow thicker. You may want to prune your tree two to three times per year to stimulate ongoing growth.
Besides pruning, you need to take care of a pistachio plant by keeping an eye out for common diseases. Don’t grow your pistachio tree in overly moist conditions (whether through climate, spacing or irrigation), as this can result in a disease called Alternaria Late Blight, a disease wherein black spores can develop on foliage lesions.
Botrytis, a necrotrophic fungus, can also become an issue in wet springs, particularly for male pistachio trees. Avoiding overhead watering and spacing your plants properly can help prevent this damaging fungus.
Harvesting Pistachios from the Tree
You’ll know that harvest season is getting closer when the color of the pistachio hull takes on a pinkish-yellow tint. Once the nuts are fully ripe, the elastic and thin hull known as epicarp starts to separate from the inner shell.
When harvesting the nuts from a pistachio tree, you can use a mechanical shaker to drop the nuts. Alternatively, you could dislodge nuts the old-fashioned way by rapping the branches with a rubber mallet or sturdy pole.
What Can You Cook with Pistachios?
You can whip up so many dishes with this nut. You could make a simple pistachio dessert or an elegant main course with pistachio as the hero of the dish.
Here are a few examples that you can make using the harvest from your pistachio tree:
Persimmon Pistachio Cookies
Persimmon goes well with pistachio. They’re the perfect combination of sweet and salty — and a great alternative to the usual chocolate chip cookies that people serve to kids.
Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb
Slather a rack of lamb with Dijon mustard and herbs de Provence. Then, add a crisp coating of pistachios and breadcrumbs. This dish is great for special occasions thanks to its beautiful presentation and unique combination of flavors and textures.
Gunpowder Gimlet Cocktail
This cocktail recipe takes some prep, but you’ll get a rewarding and memorable drink at the end. Start by making pistachio honey syrup by letting salted pistachios steep in water and honey. Then, combine the syrup with lemon and green tea gin to make a gunpowder gimlet.
Growing a pistachio tree takes time. The nuts this plant produces, however, are great for light snacking and other recipes. So grow this tree in your garden today.