Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pistachio Nuts

I recently heard two fascinating stories. They are about ordinary things that changed over time. If you're old, you'll recognize the changes when they are pointed out. If you're young, you won't know about them because you aren't aware things were different in the past.

The first story is about pistachio nuts. The second story is about grammar. I'll tell you the first story now and leave the second one for a later post.

When I was young, pistachio nuts were red. Bright red. The experience of eating them was memorable -- your fingers and lips got stained red. You never forget that. For kids, it was fun.

It's been a long time since I've seen a red pistachio nut. I wondered what happened to them, so I did a little research. Here's what I learned.

In the middle of the last century, pistachios became popular in the West. They were imported from the Middle East which was the only place they were grown. The nuts had blemishes so growers dyed them red to conceal the unsightly marks. Humans are hard-wired to avoid food that looks bad and nut-sellers used red dye to cover up blemishes on perfectly-edible nuts.

Later, farmers in California started growing pistachio nuts. With better knowledge and machinery, they learned how to grow nuts that don't have blemishes. This eliminated the need for dye and farmers started selling un-dyed, naturally-beige nuts.

Eventually un-dyed nuts replaced red ones and now it's almost impossible to find a red nut.

If you're old, you remember red pistachios and probably wonder what happened. If you're young, you've probably never seen a red one. Ask your parents or older friends about this and you'll hear their memories of red pistachios.


  1. Omg! Pistachios are my favorite. I have never ever seen a red one. In fact, I was introduced to them via ice cream before I'd ever had the actual nut.

  2. This was so interesting! I had to share with my husband and he claims it's all news to him because he is from a "younger generation". LOL He is 11 months younger than me.

    I do love pistachios and I do remember the red ones. He doesn't, but I believe it is because he is from France.

    Fun fact! Maybe I'll be able to use it to impress someone one day.


  3. When I was in high school, I worked in a candy-and-nut store and used to bring giant bags of red pistachios to my cousins' house for Creature Features.

    Mightily anticipating the grammar post.

  4. I had no idea! I always associate pistachio with the color green (pistachio muffins, pistachio pudding...) so red seems totally off the wall. My mom doesn't remember them either, but neither of us are big on pistachios so perhaps that's the case... - A

  5. I had no idea!!! How strange!!!x

  6. I remember seeing others eating them somewhere...on TV? And getting all red. Cute story.

    1. There was a comic scene about two cops getting red lips while eating these in one of the Police Squad movies (I think IV).

  7. You know, it has been a long time since I've seen red ones. I never ate them because the color weirded me out. You learn something new every day!

  8. I can't recall actually ever eating the red ones, but I do clearly remember them being sold when I was little (I want to say by the Canadian candy + nut company Nutty Club, but definitely don't quote me there). This fun post really begs the question, what other commonplace foods have undergone a substantial vision change over the decades, yet still remained firm favourites? I'm going to start keeping a list of those that spring to mind or that I discover online (or off) and if I can get at least a few, will likely turn it into a post down the road. Thanks for the great inspiration, Ally!

    ♥ Jessica

  9. i vaguely remember red ones. not sure if i'm thinking of red ones or regular ones that were coated with a flavoring??

  10. i swear the red ones tasted better!

  11. Now I'm confused - I dont recall these being red ever.. maybe I am just a little old ;)

  12. I remember them being a pink color in my country. Not something I ever acquired a taste for.