SET TON FARMS
Tracy Schneider fills November’s consumer reporter slot
with a behind-the-scenes
look at a popular Kirkland
Signature product. Send your
questions about this article to:
By Tracy Schneider
THE NIGHT HARVEST on a pistachio farm is
magical. ;ough the work is grueling and seemingly
unending—seven days a week for a full six weeks—
the night shi; has an allure all its own.
;e reason? Nighttime is the best time to pick.
;e air is cooler, down to 60 to 75 degrees from a
high of 90 or 100, and the trees, because the air is
more humid, bend more easily as they are shaken,
releasing the ripe nuts. “;e trees are all lit up and
the orchard looks like a Hollywood stage set,” says
Je; Gibbons, plant manager and grower-relations
manager for Setton Farms.
Paramount, Setton and Nichols farms are situated in California’s Central Valley. ;ree of California’s largest growers, all supply Costco with its dry-roasted and salted Kirkland Signature™ California
Pistachios. ;is year’s crop of pistachios started
shipping in late September, and by the time you read
this they will be on Costco warehouse shelves ready
for holiday snacking, baking and gi;-giving.
Costco has sold Kirkland Signature California
106 ;e Costco Connection NOVEMBER 2012
“We’re harvesting earlier this year, and there’s an
air of anticipation,” says Chuck Nichols, president
and owner of Nichols Farms. Andy Anzaldo, the
general manager, grower relations, for Paramount
Farms, is working night and day. “We’re expecting
our biggest crop ever,” he says.
Pistachios for 15 years, choosing only the very
best nuts on the market: U.S. Extra No. 1 in-shell
pistachios with creamy white, naturally opened
shells. Costco also began o;ering Kirkland Signature
Everybody’s Nuts Salt and Pepper Pistachios in 2008.
Pistachio trees are unusual. ;ere are male and
female trees, and in the orchards in the Central Valley,
one male is planted for every 25 females. ;e wind
blows the pollen from the male through the female
trees. A single bud may produce one pistachio nut
or an entire grape-like bunch of pistachios. First the
hulls and shells form, initially as a single entity, and
then they separate, the shell growing to its full size
inside the hull. But if you were to pick the pistachio at
that point, you’d ;nd the shell empty. ;at’s because
once the pistachio shell has reached maturity, it
takes a break from growing, so to speak, to store up
nutrients and water.
NU T ILLUS TRATION: CHRIS A RUSNAK
A;er two months of taking in nutrients, the
tiny seed inside the pistachio shell begins to grow.
It grows for eight weeks, until it gets so large that it
bursts out of its shell, causing the characteristic crack
that signi;es a mature, tree-ripened nut.
Pistachio trees need cool winters and hot, dry
summers, which is why California’s Central Valley
is an ideal location for pistachio orchards. ;e trees
grow in the desert, so they can survive drought, but
to ;ourish the way they do in California, producing
up to 50 pounds per tree, they require a great deal
;e harvest process is complex. Mature nuts
must be picked, cleaned and dried within 24 hours to
avoid discoloration and ensure the best ;avor. Two