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Pistachios in a nutshell

Eight years. It doesn’t seem like a long time. In fact, I have an eight-year-old grandson that will be turning nine soon. And as is normal, we adults marvel at how fast time flies, and how fast he is growing.

Eight years. It doesn’t seem like a long time; unless you are a pistachio farmer. Did you know it takes eight years for a pistachio tree to produce? That is just one bit of information I gained from my tour of McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch in Alamogordo, N.M.

Coming from Wisconsin, having no knowledge of pistachios, I am glad I had the opportunity to learn more about the planting and harvesting process, as well as the nutritional value of pistachios.

I gladly paid the $2 fee to participate in the outdoor motorized tour of the orchards and vineyards. As she drove, our guide, Rhiannon, explained the history of the McGinn’s Ranch and the techniques used to pick and process the grapes as well as the techniques used to harvest the pistachios. Rhiannon did an excellent job explaining in language I could understand and was patient with my numerous questions.

Grapes are handpicked during the month of July. The ranch employs high school age students on a seasonal basis to pick the ripened fruit. By handpicking, the integrity of the grape is maintained.

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In addition to hundreds of pistachios, McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch is also home to acres of grape trees and a winery.

Rhiannon pointed out the trunk of the pistachio trees and explained why the bottom of the trunk looks different than the rest of the tree. Grafting. By grafting, the tree grows quicker, healthier, and produces earlier. The ranch sells grafted pistachio trees and they will ensure you get the necessary male and female trees you need. The male pollinate and the females produce the pistachios.

Because of the outer skin of the pistachio, they cannot touch the ground when being harvested because the dirt can introduce salmonella producing germs. A tree shaker is used to loosen the nut causing it to fall into a collection area of the machine.

My thirst for knowledge continued as I entered the country store the McGinn’s operate on site. I sat and read a newspaper article that had been written about the ranch. Tim McGinn is quoted to say, “Diversification. To break even on a pistachio tree, after all the expenses of taxes, fertilization weeding, repairs, water hoses, takes 17 years. Grapes pay back the whole project in the sixth year.”

I spent time strolling through the store. There are commercial kitchens on site that produce fresh baked cookies, jams, jellies, syrups, salsas and many other delicious gourmet foods. The brittles and chocolates are fresh and delicious and made by hand.

I discovered that the ventilation system in the kitchen pipes the aroma throughout the store. What a great marketing ploy. I promise your stomach will start growling and you will begin salivating the minute you walk through the door.

I was just as excited as the little kids on the farm tour when I found out my ticket could be traded in for a cookie. I did not go wrong with my selection of a white chocolate, pistachio cookie! The cookie usually sells for $1; that means my farm tour cost me a whopping buck. You can’t go wrong!

If you are in the Alamogordo, N.M., make sure you stop by McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch. You won’t be disappointed. For more information, visit www.pistachioland.com.

About Cathy Duesterhoeft

Cathy and her husband, Norm, travel throughout the United States in their Brave Winnebago working for Mainly Marathons. When home in Westfield, Wis., their RV is parked on a gravel pad while they finish construction on their new home. Cathy documents their many adventures on her website at www.positiveinfluences.net.

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