We are Pistachio Farmers. We have about 200 nut bearing trees that are around 20 years old.
We take great joy in mining minerals to use in production of our pistachio harvest – We want to share with you what we do with the minerals and, most importantly, give you the chance to enjoy some of our harvest!
Pistachio trees are either male or female. You can graft the two together and have one hermaphroditic tree, as we have one of these in our grove, however, for the most part, they are separate and do different things.
The female tree has big broad leaves and branches that have lots of curves and style. The male tree has very thin leaves and sharp pointed branches that have sharp, straight, shoots. The female tree is the one that bears nuts, the male tree is responsible for the pollination. They are wind pollinated, so the timing has to be perfect every year during pollination.
The first mineral we mine and use is raw gypsum/selenite. Just a few miles away from our orchard, we have extensive deposits of raw gypsum, which we then water tumble in a giant 50 pound vibrating tumbler. The “waste” water is a large part of what we need for the grove. Every year we make a fertilizer for the tree including pistachio wood ash, steer manure, a rich compost and tea, plus, crushed gypsum, all watered down with our waste water from the gypsum tumbling.
Gypsum has a wonderful effect on soil, creating a path way for water to seep deeper into the ground. This is especially useful for this climate as the soil around the trees needs to soak in the water rapidly to the trees, rather than evaporating away from the top of the soil.
The larger pieces of gypsum are then sold as tumbled stones by us at mineral shows and even on Amazon.com, where you can get a nice box of tumbled gypsum with free prime shipping!
There are two important times in the pistachios tree’s lives every year. In the beginning of spring, which is around March, the branches start to bud.
During this time, pollination is right around the corner, but first, they need a treatment of minerals to help them through the year. A mixture of Borax and Zinc are prepared and sprayed onto the tree’s branches, in order to do two things. The Borax, which we mine in Searles’ Lake every October, makes the hard shell form thinner, which allows the pistachio seed to break open the shell while on the tree, something we want to happen.
The Zinc allows the stems and seeds to hold fast onto the tree, which is very important because the winds in this part of the world can be devastating to an non zinc treated tree, dropping all the blooms and seeds onto the ground, resulting in a loss of pistachios.
At the end of October and beginning of November, the trees are harvested. Most orchards harvest with a tree shaker, we harvest ours by hand. It requires a lot of labor and time, but it is what we choose to do. It makes us appreciate these delicious tree seeds a bit more! We separate the nuts from the stems by rolling them around on a large tarp, where the stems start to float to the top of the pile, then, scoop up the pistachios, put them in an industrial peeler which removes the fleshy coating, then float the nuts in a vat of water. The empty nuts float to the top and the ones with nuts sink to the bottom. They are then air dried and roasted with pistachio wood to fuel our ash needs for the following year. We brine some of our nuts with pink salt that we collect every year in Trona, California. We separate only the finest crystals for this use!
The end result?
We had bumper crop this year and we are happy to take your orders for pistachio nuts in opened shells from now until December 1st 2016