Harvesting of Red Rock Ranch Pistachio Orchard
Our pistachio farming operation and production facilities are located in Hurricane, Utah. We farm 20 acres of trees which adds up to 2,500 individual trees. There is one male tree for every 15 female trees. The male tree produces pollen in the early spring and utilizes the wind to pollinate the female trees.
Pistachios grow in clusters similar to grapes. The hull of the pistachio is called the epicarp. It is about 1/16 of an inch thick and adheres tightly to the hard inner shell until the nut is ripe. When ripe, the epicarp will separate from the hard inner shell. The epicarp will easily come apart and can be peeled off when ripe. The epicarp has a reddish/yellow color during development. The color begins to lighten in September and when ripe, it is a rosy, light yellow.
When ripe, the pistachios fall off the tree when the branches or the tree is given a sharp shake. A catching frame shaker paired with a catching frame receiver are used to remove the pistachios from the trees. They shake the tree and use the large slanted decks to catch all the pistachios. The pistachios fall into a trough which is then raised to put all the pistachios onto a conveyor belt. The belt then feeds the pistachios into a large container. The epicarp is removed within 24 hours after the nut comes off the tree to maintain high quality nuts. The hulls (epicarp) are removed by abrasive action in large commercial potato peelers. The nuts are then washed in cold, clean water. During the rinsing process approximately 20% of the nuts will be "blanks" that do not contain any nut meat. These blanks will float in water and are removed and discarded. The nuts are then soaked over night in a saturated brine solution (a super saturated solution of salt). They are then spread out on stainless screens and allowed to sun dry for approximately 3 to 4 days. They are again salted then dry roasted, which helps maintain the delicious, natural flavor of the pistachio nut. Try a store purchased pistachio along with a fresh Southern Utah pistachio, the taste difference will surprise you.
Good pistachio nuts split open while on the tree. About 30% of the nuts will not split. These non-opened nuts are separated from the good, split nuts. Only the nuts that have naturally opened on the tree are sold.
Pistachios keep very well if just a few precautions are taken. In general, the lower the temperature, the longer the storage life of the nuts. Pistachios can be held at temperatures up to 68° F without significant deterioration for as long as one year. Prolonged heat turns the oil in any nut rancid. A cool, dry cabinet or a refrigerator are good storage locations.