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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Pistachio trees thrive in climates with hot summers and relatively cool winters. Pistachios belong to the Anacardiaceae plant family, which includes a number of familiar plants like mangos, cashews, smoke tree, sumac, and – believe it or not – poison oak. If you’re wondering how to harvest pistachios, it isn’t difficult. Read on to find out.
How Pistachios Grow
The pistachios we purchase in grocery stores have a hard shell, but we never see the outer hull, which is known as the epicarp. The epicarp adheres to the inner shell until the pistachio ripens, then it is removed.
When to Harvest Pistachios
Pistachios develop in early summer and ripen in late August or September nearly everywhere in the world, with the exception of Australia. In that case, pistachio harvesting generally takes place in February.
It’s easy to tell when pistachio harvest season is getting closer because the hulls lose their green hue and take on a reddish-yellow tint. When the nuts are fully ripe, the epicarp turns rosy red and begins to separate from the inner shell as the developing nut expands. At this point, the epicarp is easy to remove from the inner shell by squeezing it between your fingers.
Harvesting Pistachio Trees
Harvesting pistachio trees is easy because Mother Nature does most of the work. Just spread a large tarp under the tree so the ripe nuts aren’t harmed by falling in the dirt. Pistachio orchardists use mechanical “shakers” to loosen the nuts, but you can dislodge them by rapping the branches with a sturdy pole or a rubber mallet.
At this point, pistachio harvesting is simply a matter of gathering the dropped nuts. To maintain flavor and quality, remove the epicarp within 24 hours of harvest.
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Covering your garden beds with a generous layer of mulch is not only aesthetically-pleasing, it also helps keep the soil moist, boost fertility, and suppress weeds.
Save up your pistachio shells and mix them with wood chip, bark, leaves, or other organic mulch before scattering it over the garden.
Whole pistachio shells are fairly tough and hard and will take ages to fully break down. As they do, they will slowly release carbon, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to feed the earth.
Pistachio harvesting steps
Timely harvest is very important in reducing early smiling pistachios and preventing growth and increase in the product, so choosing the harvest time in the product is very
It is important therefore to choose the harvest time of the crop is very important. Choosing the right harvest time according to the type of tree transplant and climatic conditions is important. Select.
Note: The best time to harvest is when 70 to 80% of the pistachio skin is easily removed
Important points in pistachio harvest
1- It is better to do the harvesting operation in the early hours of the morning so that the temperature of the harvested crop does not increase.
2- Prevent damage to pistachio green skin
3- Harvesting equipment must be clean and washable
4. Harvesting containers and equipment should not be stored in a place where there is a risk of contamination with fungi and chemicals.
5- Documenting and recording harvest records is very important.
Mechanized harvesting of pistachios:
Mechanized harvesting of pistachios is carried by the person by the branch shakers and consists of a long arm at the end of which a horseshoe-like clip is installed, in which the tree branch is placed and by shaking the crop as a grain from the tree The same is true for trunk shakers, except that it is carried by car and poured into the car.
Note: Regarding the use of mechanized method for different cultivars of pistachios in the garden should be done separately.
Fresh pistachios enter the processing terminal
The harvested product and transported to the terminal should be emptied immediately in the shade and away from direct sunlight, and processing should begin immediately after emptying.
Peeled pistachios harvested
At this stage, there is no risk of aflatoxin contamination due to health prerequisites and rapid peeling
1- Hygienic prerequisites are: The parts of the skin that are in contact with the skin are made of stainless steel and can be washed and disinfected.
2- The peeler should be washed regularly daily.
Pistachio washing (separation of Roabi pistachios)
At this stage, pistachio seeds are immersed in water and separation is done based on the weight of the pistachio. At this stage, water is sprayed with pressure on the pistachio and washing is done.
At this stage, due to the fact that there are hollow, immature and pests of pistachios in the peeled product, which are more likely to be contaminated with aflatoxins, they should be separated.
The more these empty and immature pistachios are removed at this stage, the less likely they are to become infected with aflatoxin.
Can pistachio trees grow in UK?
Watch out a lot more about it. Furthermore, where do pistachio trees grow best?
Pistachio trees grow best and produce the most nuts in an arid semi-desert climate with long, dry, hot summers, low humidity and cool but not frigid winters. During the growing season, pistachio trees thrive on heat. Summer temperatures of around 37 degrees Celcius produce large quantities of the best nuts.
where do pistachio trees grow in the US? One-hundred percent of the U.S. pistachio crop is grown in the West, including California (98.5 percent of the crop), Arizona, and New Mexico. There are about 850 pistachio growers in the tri-state area. California growers have about 250,000 acres of pistachios in 22 counties.
Similarly, do pistachios grow trees?
There are 11 species of pistachio nut trees with only Pistacia vera being grown commercially. Growing pistachio trees commercially for nut export occurs primarily in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Italy and Syria where the arid climate is optimal for growth.
What nuts can you grow in the UK?
There are five edible nuts that grow in the UK but only three are worth the bother: hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, walnuts. The hazel tree grows all over the UK, especially in England where it used to be coppiced for the versatile wood. The 'cobs' or nuts are produced in small clusters of 2-4 appearing in late summer.
Pistachios Plant Pests and Diseases
Pistachio trees don’t have a lot of pests and diseases that bug them throughout the year. Here are just a few that you should remember.
Phytophthora Root Rot
This is a soil-borne fungal disease that attacks the roots, making them weak. It can block the water and nutrients that need to be transferred from the root system to the upper part of the tree. Root rot can cause the tree to suffer from slow growth and production.
Alternaria Late Blight
This fungal disease causes black lesions on the leaves or the immature nuts. Severe infestations can cause premature defoliation.
Controlling late blight can be hard. Try appropriate fungicides and use good irrigation practices that reduce the wetness of the ground around the tree.
Keep weeds and debris from around the tree and prune dead or dying branches.
Septoria Leaf Spot
This is another fungal disease that often goes hand-in-hand with Alternaria late blight. Leaves will develop small, round, necrotic spots that can cause defoliation.
Control in the same way as you do Alternaria late blight.
Panicle and Shoot Blight
Yet another fungal disease, this one causes black circular spots on the leaves, shoots, and rachis. The infected leaves will wither and die.
Unfortunately, this fungal disease is hard to control. You need to use a combination of pruning, fungicide, and proper irrigation practices. Prune the infected areas to reduce the problem the next year.
Powdery mildew causes small, powdery white patches on the leaves and fruit, covering the entire leaf. In most cases, its caused by poor circulation and too much shade. Luckily, it won’t cause severe damage to the pistachio.
This pest can cause the leaves to turn yellow and necrotic. You might notice curling and drying leaves that drop from the tree prematurely. The leaves might have a sticky honeydew substance on them.
The best way to manage this pest is to apply insecticides, but some of these pests have developed resistance to the standard options.
Verticillium wilt is a serious problem for commercial pistachio growers in California. Vert is a fungus that prevents the exchange of water inside the tree. The best bet is to plant resistant varieties and destroy infected trees.
This bacteria causes sooty legions and an excessive amount of resin on trees. Be sure to sanitize tools to prevent spreading the disease, which enters plants through wounds.
Pistachio Twig Borer
If your growing pistachio flowers turn black and fall off the tree, look for larvae and adult twig borer moths. This pest lays eggs in the flowers and then bores into the tree. Use traps to control, along with encouraging natural predators.
Oh, Nuts! Why California's Pistachio Trees Are Shooting Blanks
This year, many of the pistachios grown in California's San Joaquin Valley are missing the green, fatty meat that nut lovers crave. Instead, they're empty inside, the result of drought, heat and weather pattern changes that have messed with pistachio tree fertilization. Kreg Steppe/Flickr hide caption
This year, many of the pistachios grown in California's San Joaquin Valley are missing the green, fatty meat that nut lovers crave. Instead, they're empty inside, the result of drought, heat and weather pattern changes that have messed with pistachio tree fertilization.
In California's blazing hot San Joaquin Valley, millions of pistachio trees are now buried in clusters of small pinkish-green fruits — what would seem like a bumper crop.
But for many growers of the popular nut, the season is shaping into a disaster. Jeff Schmiederer, who farms 700 acres of family-owned pistachio trees on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley, says about 90 percent of the nuts he has sampled from his trees are hollow — what growers call "blanks."
"I've never seen a year this bad for blanks," says Schmiederer, who has been farming pistachios since the mid-1990s.
Richard Matoian, executive director of the Fresno, Calif.-based industry group American Pistachio Growers, says hollow nuts are always present in the pistachio crop, but usually the blanking rate runs about 10 percent. This year, as much as 50 percent of the harvested nuts could be hollow, Matoian says. He estimates this year's harvest could be 300 million pounds or less — down from 520 million pounds in 2014.
Behind the blanks are the same culprits as in many other ongoing agricultural crises: drought, heat and abnormal West Coast weather. Pistachios need plenty of cold during the winter — what farmers call chilling hours. This is essential for the female and male trees to properly bloom and pollinate. But if the winter doesn't provide the minimum chilling requirements, the male trees, which are scattered among the females, malfunction. So the male trees bloom and release pollen at the wrong time — often, after the female trees have bloomed.
"It could be compared to a bunch of guys going to a party, but getting there late — after all the girls have gone home," Matoian says.
Last winter was unusually balmy in interior California, with very little fog or rain in the normally wet months and a record-warm February.
For pistachios, the result of such conditions can be hollow nuts. The trees almost always produce shells, even after a winter of suboptimal conditions. However, they don't necessarily fill out with green, fatty pistachio meat. A pistachio tree full of blanks can easily fool a farmer scoping out his or her orchard from the roadside into thinking they're looking at a whopper crop.
After harvest, the truth is revealed when the pistachios are dumped into a water bath as part of standard processing. Blanks float, while full nuts sink.
Hollow pistachios aren't spotted until after the harvest, when they're dumped into a water bath as part of standard processing. Blanks like the ones seen here float, while full nuts sink. Courtesy Andrew Howe/Horizon Nut Co. hide caption
Hollow pistachios aren't spotted until after the harvest, when they're dumped into a water bath as part of standard processing. Blanks like the ones seen here float, while full nuts sink.
Courtesy Andrew Howe/Horizon Nut Co.
California is home to 99 percent of the nation's pistachio orchards. But not all of the growing regions are showing high ratios of blanks. In lower-lying parts of the San Joaquin Valley, where sinking cold air tends to pile up in the winter, the crop is looking relatively good. Kevin Herman, a grower with about 1,200 acres of pistachios in Merced and Madera counties, is having a fine year.
"I'm not really being affected," he says. "My blanking levels are only about 5 percent." Ditto, Herman adds, for his nearby neighbors.
But on the higher-elevation edges of the wide agricultural valley, and in the southern regions, pistachios have not experienced adequate chilling hours for for at least two winters in a row. Yields here have been severely depressed.
The erratic blooming of the trees has also led to timing problems with the harvest. Because the bloom may last longer during warmer winters, fruiting in the summer becomes spread over a longer period of time. For processors, this is a major nuisance and cost. It means operations must keep running for two or three times as long to handle a smaller-than-normal crop.
"Most years, we harvest 90 percent of the crop in a 21-day window," says Andrew Howe, general manager of Horizon Nut Company, a processor with headquarters in Tulare, Calif. "Last year, it took 60 days." This year, harvest started in mid-August, Howe says, and will probably run into October.
Gurreet Brar, a nut crop specialist with the University of California Cooperative Extension program, says there may be ways to help pistachio farmers deal with warmer winters. Brar's research is geared toward understanding how pistachios react when chilling requirements are not met. The hope is to better predict the trees' behavior and develop chemical treatments to ultimately boost crop yields following warm winters. Breeding new male and female pistachio varieties that require fewer chilling hours to bloom in sync is also a possible solution, Brar says, but one that is decades away.
Pistachios have become a lucrative crop for farmers in California's San Joaquin Valley. As with almonds, demand for pistachios is huge, and new acreage is being planted rapidly. Currently, California is home to about 225,000 acres of mature trees, with another 75,000 acres maturing toward full production age — which usually comes at seven to nine years. Pistachios are less demanding of water than almonds are. However, to produce a bumper crop, the trees require generous irrigation — a tall order in times of drought.
Scientists are anticipating a massive El Nino this winter, which could deliver gushing downpours and, hopefully, snowpack in the high mountains. For farmers, many of whom have been struggling to keep their crops irrigated, this is excellent news. But for pistachio growers, it might come with a bitter aftertaste.
"We could get a lot of rain and help refill our groundwater reserves," says Carl Fanucchi, a retired farmer from Bakersfield who now offers consulting services for pistachio farmers. "But it might mean warm weather, too, and less chilling hours."
That would set the stage for another bum year in the pistachio business.
Trends toward increasingly warm weather even have Herman, virtually untouched so far by blanking, unsure of the future.
"The coffee shop talk around here is speculation on whether the weather patterns we're seeing are just a cycle, and [we'll] eventually go back to getting colder weather," Herman says. "But if this isn't a cycle, and these changes in the weather are permanent, we're wondering what the future is going to be for pistachio growers in California."