Pistachios used to be dyed red to cover blemishes and imperfections created during the harvesting process.
If you have no idea what red pistachios are, you were probably born after 1985’ish. When I was a kid in the 80s’s, I only remember eating dyed red pistachios. I don’t remember seeing pistachios that were not dyed red at all. It was a real mess. I would end up with bright red dye all over my hands and part of my face after snacking on pistachios.
Pistachios are native to the Middle East. Up until the 1970s, the U.S. imported the majority of its pistachios from the Middle East, specifically Iran. Though pistachio trees have existed in California since the mid-19th century, mass domestic pistachio production didn’t ramp up until a ban on Iranian pistachios was enforced in 1979, due to the Iran hostage crisis. This ban has been lifted a re-implemented multiple times since then. As of March 2018, the ban is not in place.
When the U.S. was importing pistachios from the Middle East, the pistachio shells would often appear splotchy due to traditional harvesting methods used where the nuts weren’t immediately hulled and washed. Since the appearance of these stains wasn’t appealing, pistachio producers began dying their shells bright red to hide the imperfections. American pistachio producers use a harvesting system that dries and hulls the nuts before they can get stained, eliminating the need for the red dye. Nowadays, most pistachio producers use this more modern harvesting system and don’t dye their pistachios.
Today, the United States is the second largest producer of pistachios in the world, second only to Iran. You can still buy red pistachios, but nowadays they are considered a novelty item.
- Fifty pistachios have more protein than one egg.
- Pistachios are one of the two nuts mentioned in the Bible.
- In China, pistachios are known as the “happy nut” because they appear to be smiling. They are a popular gift during the Chinese New Year as they are a symbol of health and happiness.
- Pistachios are related to mangoes.
- Over 95% of the pistachios grown in the U.S come from California.
- TheKitchn.com – Whatever Happened to Red Pistachios?
- Huffpost.com – Remember Red Pistachios? Here’s What Happened To Them
- Tastemade.com – 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pistachios