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August 24, 2020 / Posted by:

Red Pistachios!

Back in the olden days of the 1980s, it felt like red pistachios got as much real estate in grocery stores as regular pistachios. And while you can still find them in the U.S. today, they’re harder to find and more like a novelty-item for Christmastimes. So today, getting a case of period fingers (because red pistachios stained your fingers up) is a very special event!

When I was a kid, I thought that red pistachios were naturally red and didn’t learn until a little later (okay, it was yesterday) that they were dyed that way. The Spruce Eats says there’s a couple of theories for why pistachios were dyed red. Red pistachios were born in the Middle East, and one theory is that a Syrian pistachio importer wanted his goods to be different than his competitors, so he made his nuts look like they were playing the Kelly LeBrock role in a reboot of The Lady In Red (called The Nut In Red) by dyeing them red. But another theory, which is probably the correct one, claims that pistachios were glamoured up to hide blemishes.

One story says that the tradition of dying pistachios originated with a Syrian importer named Zaloom, who dyed his pistachios red to distinguish them from his competitors. Another story holds pistachios were dyed to mask mottled markings, a natural result of the drying process, and other imperfections to make them look more palatable to consumers. Today, this story is the one most food historians agree upon.

As for why we don’t see red pistachios anymore on the regular, HuffPo spoke to┬áRichard Matoian, the Executive Director of the American Pistachio Growers, who said that red pistachios began to make their exit in the 80s, and it had to do with the increase in American nuts (wink wink) and the harvest process that American harvesters do:

With the limit on imports and the increase of American grown nuts with American harvesting systems, there became no need to dye the nuts. American pistachio producers use a harvesting system that dries and hulls the nuts before they are able to get stained, which eliminates the need for covering up blemishes altogether. Even today in Iran, Matoian explained, pistachio producers have picked up the new harvesting technique that eliminates stains and the subsequent need for dye.

America ruins everything including these sexy pistachios. But it’s probably for the best, because my family and red pistachios don’t deserve to hear me say, “Look, I just made out with Aunt Flow!” after getting red-stained lips from eating red pistachios.

Pic: iStock/kmacdoug

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