Every Two Years

Every two years, usually in early October, our lives come screeching to a halt.  We cancel plans, change our routines, and spend hours and hours around the kitchen table.  It's because of these: 

They're pistachios, still in the hull.  My parents have two pistachio trees, which produce many pounds of pistachios every two years.  (Whatever you're imagining, multiply it by about 20.)

The hulls need to be removed as soon as possible.  The process is simple, but incredibly tedious.  One by one, you take each pistachio...

... make a tear in the hull...

 ... and remove the hull to expose the nut in its shell.
The first hundred or so are really easy.  It goes quickly and you're convinced you could go on forever.  The next hundred are more difficult, as your fingers become sore and sticky.  The next thousand (million?) seem to take forever.  But many hands make light work, which is why we all drop everything and work together to get them done. 

Here we are, finishing up this year's crop.  (Steve was there too - I just didn't photograph him.)

And for fun, here's Trevor and Grandma hulling pistachios in 2010:

And here they are in 2008:

Once you have the hulls removed, you can eat the pistachios raw if you want - they're pretty good (though very different than the roasted ones you buy).  But you can't store pistachios longer than a week or so without roasting them.

Before we roast them, we brine them using a mix of 2 oz salt with 4 oz water.  The pistachios simmer in the brine until the water has evaporated.  Then we spread the pistachios on baking sheets and roast them in a 250 degree oven for about 2 hours, stirring them every half hour.  With the number of pistachios we have, it's an all-day process.

But it is well worth it.  In the end, we have a 2-year supply of pistachios in our pantry, with some set aside to give as gifts.  And considering that $10/lb. is about the cheapest you'll find for bulk pistachios in the shell (shelled and/or packaged are much more expensive than that), a few days' worth of labor saves us a lot of money.

You know, I probably should make a note on the calendar now that we'll be busy with pistachios in October 2014!


  1. Wow!! That looks like a lot of hard work but soooooooooo wroth it I am sure!!!!!

  2. I never knew that's how pistachios grew! Fascinating! And, that's WHY they're so expensive! Very cool! :)

  3. WOW what a wonderfully informative post. We import pistachios here in India and they are frightfully expensive!

  4. Wow that is a lot. So do they only grow every other year??? I should google it.. haha.

    1. Some pistachios appear on the off years, but the harvest is VERY heavy every other year.

  5. I agree that it looks like it's a lot of hard work. I bet it's all worth it in the end though. Awesome post!

  6. I'm always learning something new on your blog! Had no idea about the pistachio growth cycle or the hull. Just knew that I love them. :) I bet they are wonderful freshly picked, hulled and roasted!

  7. Wow! That;s a lot of work!!!!!! I love pistachios but they are expensive...but now i know why!
    BTW - here's my address so you can send me a batch...

    LOL, JK! ;0)


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