Pistachios

My favourite grocery store has moved its big display of fresh peppers and shoved them over to a less prominent aisle.  A few months ago the space allocated to fresh peppers was about equal to the space for bananas.  Now their peppers take up as much space as celery.

Stranger yet, is the fact that the space that was once dominated by fresh peppers is now largely taken up by pistachios.  Yes, pistachios.

Galen Weston, along with his kids, staff and family at Loblaw’s and its related companies are no fools when it comes to retailing.  They respond to consumer trends and wishes.  They will probably tell you that when buyers buy fewer peppers and more pistachios, they will respond accordingly by devoting more or less display space to each product.

What the big grocers won’t say is that their return on investment on expensive pistachios is greater than that of lowly fresh green, yellow and red peppers.

Grocery stores carry far more than everything from soup to nuts.  Nowadays you can buy motor oil, underwear, Christmas trees and petunias from the same supermarket as you buy kale and ice cream.

But why the up spike in pistachios?  Yes, Pistachios are good for you, but they can hardly be put on the same playing field as blueberries and kale, which are so good for you that they enjoy their spot in the category of superfoods.

Pistachios are low in calories and chock full of vitamins and proteins.  Much like cashews and almonds, pistachios offer great benefit for your heart, skin, hair, and health.  No doubt a handful of pistachios are far better for you than a handful of potato chips.

If pistachios are so good for you, should we not grow them here in southwestern Ontario?

Not so easy.

Pistachios have fussy growing requirements.  Temperatures need to be hot and dry through the day and cooler in evenings.  They need at least a few months of dormant period or winter where the temperature dips down to near or slightly below the freezing point.

Unlike tomatoes and peppers whose temperature needs and growing conditions we can duplicate in greenhouses, pistachio trees require high heat and low humidity which is difficult to achieve in Southwestern Ontario.

Nearly 100% of North Americas’ pistachios are grown in California.  Pistachios store well, have a long shelf life and ship easily, making distribution relatively simple.  Trucks shipping strawberries and blueberries from California can easily add a few pallets of pistachios for the Ontario market.

Those of us with adventurous green thumbs can easily grow pistachios from seed.  Place them on a warm windowsill and keep them growing for up to three years at which time they need to go outdoors.  Pistachios will not bear fruit until they are at least 6 to 8 years old.  And like Blueberries and Hollies, Pistachios are dioecious, which means you will need both a male and female plant in order to produce fruit.