The Pistachio Shake Down

Gail and Gene Zannon own 380 acres of pistachio trees in Cuyama, California. Since I’m doing marketing writing for their pistachio company, they invited Dave and me to come see the harvest. The harvest lasts two weeks out of the year. we arrived on the first day. Gail drove us out to to watch.

Here are the clusters of pistachios ready for harvesting. All of the orchards are in transition to organic. This one, however, is fully organic and will be their first certified organic crop. Everyone was especially excited to see the pistachios coming off these trees.

Cuyama is well adapted to organic pistachios because the short hot growing season eliminates the aflatoxin problem that many other orchards are fighting and the cold winters naturally reduce the pests.

It takes 5 seconds to harvest a tree. A mechanical shaker encircles the trunk of the tree, giving the tree a fast sturdy shaking. Ripe pistachios fall into a collector and the driver moves on to the next tree.

We followed the harvester and picked up nuts left on the ground which we husked, shelled and ate as we walked. We could feel the ground vibrate as the trees were shaken.

Here is a collector filled with freshly harvested nuts. These nuts are rushed to the processing plant to be husked, dried, and sorted. If they are not husked within 24 hours, the husks will turn brown and stain the inner shells.

Gail’s sons Tristan and Josh took a short break for a photo with us. The boys manage the planting, care, and harvest of the trees. Harvest is an intensely busy but rewarding two weeks of the year for them.