Nuts About Nuts: No Such Thing as One Pistachio

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By Heidi Lewis

We dare you to have just one. Make that a triple dare. Pistachios are always plural because you can’t just have one.

There’s a diet theory proposed by Eastern Illinois University researcher Dr. James Painter called the “Pistachio Principle.” Dr. Painter purports that because of the effort in shelling the nuts, the typical person will eat half as much as they would an already shelled portion. Also, in the test group where the discarded shells were left in plain view, subjects ate 35% fewer nuts than the group where the empty shells were continually swept away.

Whatever your strategy is for nut eating, the bottom line is pistachios are a healthy snack. They are the lowest calorie, lowest fat, and highest fiber nut. Pistachios contain the highly beneficial compound phytosterol, which looks like cholesterol but beats actual cholesterol to the punch by getting absorbed first. A very useful feature in a low-cholesterol diet.

Pistachio growers like the Zannon family of Santa Barbara Pistachios get many benefits, including living among the lovely trees—from their blossoms to the mature nut clusters that ring like maracas in the wind. “The nuts develop inside of hulls that turn from a fresh green to a lovely peachy-pink and finally to a warm yellow-gold with pink tips,” says Lynn, the company’s marketing director. “Throughout the year, the orchards produce a distinctive eucalyptus-like scent,” she adds.

The nuts are harvested, their hulls removed. The pistachio nut is already bursting at its seams in a state of “naturally open” when the hull is removed. They are then hot air dried, not roasted, so the flavor is kept intact. Nuts can also be left raw or flavored. Of all accolades, pistachios taste great and are a joy to eat. It’s a good thing they usually travel in packs.

Preparation: Pry open and eat nut. Repeat. If you happen to come across a pistachio nut with a totally intact shell (meaning, no split), discard it—it isn’t mature enough to eat. If you get a nut with a partial crack that won’t open easily, try using a half pistachio shell to open it—just insert the narrower end of a shell into the crack and twist as you would a screwdriver.

Storage: Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

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