Not long ago, few pistachios were grown in California.
Today pistachios are of the Valley’s top crops.
Chuck Nichols says Nichols Farms started growing pistachios in 1983.
Pistachios were so new, his farm had to engineer processing methods by borrowing machines and ideas from other industries.
Nichols says, “Nothing was developed for pistachios. The hullers that we use were for potatoes or carrots.”
He says the cleaners they use were mostly for beans and seeds, driers for corn and silos for grain. Open and closed pistachios are separated with equipment developed for dried peas. They’re sorted with equipment originally designed for coffee beans. “We used to roast them in coffee roasters. First ones we had here, we had coffee essence of coffee flavored pistachios for a long time!”
Pistachios are very moist at harvest and must be processed right away.
Nichols says, “They’re 40 to 50% water. So when they’re harvested out of the fields, they need to be immediately be brought into the huller where they’re washed, peeled and dried. Otherwise they’ll start molding or the shells will stain.”
Nichols says, “It’s pretty cool to see what you’ve chosen as your life’s work to be accepted and enjoyed by people.”