Give him pistachios ­ he’s worth it!

Give him pistachios � he's worth it! by Bob Karolevitz I like pistachios!

They go good with my evening cocktail; and although they are apparently a native of Iran and are cultivated occasionally in Afghanistan (when the farmers there aren't growing poppies for heroin), I still favor them over sunflower seeds and less romantic-sounding nuts.

And now that California and Arizona are providing much of the domestic production, I find my prejudices shrinking. (I'm a great exponent of "Buy American.")

Actually, pistachios, like soy beans, are a johnny-come-lately crop in the U.S., but they are gradually making up for the delay. Some 40 years ago the bulk of them came from Turkey. Now Arizonians alone grow more than five million pounds each year, most of them being processed in the tiny community of Bowie in Cochise County east of Tucson.

I thought you'd like to know that.

When we visited historic Tombstone years ago in that same county, we didn't know about pistachios. We thought they were something Italian, like pizzas, so we overlooked them. But I digress!

The pistachio tree � usually 15 to 20 feet high � likes it warm and dry. That's why it thrives in Southwest Asia and in the more arid parts of the United States. (South Dakota is not climatically suited for it, although, goodness knows, we've had a few warm and dry years lately.)

The nuts are borne in clusters, sort of like holly berries, and have a hard-shelled husk which tends to split without giving up the edible kernel. Because of that, they are easier to crack open than peanuts, otherwise I would do without them.

Besides that, their mild, pleasing flavor has given them a growing number of aficionados, including me.

Phyllis, who eats peanut butter for breakfast every day, allows me to have pistachios because they boost my potassium level and have a zero rating for cholesterol. However, I couldn't care less about those dietary facts. They just taste good, that's all!

Of course, they cost a little more, but who cares? After all, I'm worth it, I say modestly. As long as Phyllis lets me, I'll keep cracking them with gusto.

By the way, to prove that they are more than just a passing fancy, they even have an Internet calling card, www.azpitachio.com. Needless to say, I haven't sought further information from that source. It doesn't work too well on my Smith-Corona typewriter, which I use in place of a computer. To each his own, I always say.

On the other hand, I think I know more about the wrinkled nut than I want to. I don't care that the trees have "pinnate leaves and axillary panicles of apetalous flowers" (whatever that means). I only know that pistachios go well with my evening drink � and that's good enough for me!

I'll leave all that scientific jargon to people who understand it. I'm just a pistachio junkie, and I don't want to be burdened with stuff better off left to those who talk another language, thank you!

© 2004 Robert F. Karolevitz

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