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  #1  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:15 AM
CheeseDonkey CheeseDonkey is offline
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Why are pistachios so expensive?

I've seen various answers on the interwebs, however they all seem to be from people acting like pseudo-experts who really have no idea what they're talking about.
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  #2  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:23 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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I'd be interested to hear this. Not just pistachios, either, but lots of nuts. Cashews are ridiculously expensive.
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  #3  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:43 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Yields per unit land area is lower than for comparable crops - about one half to one third that of almonds or peanuts. Probably currently limited by a number of factors, including:

The plant is biennial-bearing (so the crop is half what you might expect).

It's a desert plant - adapted to arid conditions, and does not well tolerate the sort of intensive watering and feeding that might provoke heavier cropping in other species.
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Old 10-18-2011, 07:45 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
I'd be interested to hear this. Not just pistachios, either, but lots of nuts. Cashews are ridiculously expensive.
Cashews again - even lower yield per acre - about a quarter of the yield per acre for peanuts or almonds.
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  #5  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:52 AM
constanze constanze is offline
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Only know about hazelnuts, but there's lots of handwork involved sorting the nuts once they are cracked to spot moldy ones (Mold is a big problem once you grind them, and the big surface area lets them spoil quicker).

If you want to buy whole nuts, you also have to manually sort out the rancid ones (not yet moldy, but taste bitter) and the shrimpled ones, which the customers don't want. End result is lots of labour = high price.
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  #6  
Old 10-18-2011, 07:58 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
Cashews are ridiculously expensive.
Meant to add - the reason that cashews are quite low-cropping is this. The tree devotes a fair chunk of its energy budget to the production of that pear-shaped false fruit (which is edible). The nut is inside that scabby-looking structure on the bottom - one nut per fruit.

Also, the shell surrounding the nut is dangerously poisonous - so the nuts need carefull handling and processing, increasing the cost.
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  #7  
Old 10-18-2011, 08:50 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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That's nuts.
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Old 10-18-2011, 10:54 AM
purplehorseshoe purplehorseshoe is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Meant to add - the reason that cashews are quite low-cropping is this. The tree devotes a fair chunk of its energy budget to the production of that pear-shaped false fruit (which is edible). The nut is inside that scabby-looking structure on the bottom - one nut per fruit.

Also, the shell surrounding the nut is dangerously poisonous - so the nuts need carefull handling and processing, increasing the cost.
The part I bolded - is there any market for it? Edible, yes ... but does it taste good?
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  #9  
Old 10-18-2011, 11:00 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Apparently yes, it's sweet and juicy and is eaten raw, juiced or made into preserves.

I've not had the pleasure of trying it yet, but it's on my list.

Last edited by Mangetout; 10-18-2011 at 11:02 AM..
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  #10  
Old 10-18-2011, 11:07 AM
rainy rainy is offline
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Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
The part I bolded - is there any market for it? Edible, yes ... but does it taste good?

According to a television show I saw on the subject, you're not likely to get to experience one unless you go to where they grow. That 'pear' is extremely fragile and doesn't ship well. Seems like there was some other characteristic that prevented it from being pulped and canned for distribution, but maybe that was just lack of a market.
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  #11  
Old 10-18-2011, 12:29 PM
yorick73 yorick73 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Apparently yes, it's sweet and juicy and is eaten raw, juiced or made into preserves.

I've not had the pleasure of trying it yet, but it's on my list.
I know there is a juice made from it in certain parts of central America. I think it's called jugo maranon or something similar. It's very tasty and I've seen it served in local central american eateries here in the US
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  #12  
Old 10-19-2011, 12:14 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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What makes it a false fruit?
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  #13  
Old 10-19-2011, 12:32 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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It's a technical term meaning that the fruit arises from structures other than the directly seed-bearing ovary of the flower. Also known as accessory fruits - other examples of accessory fruits include apples and strawberries, although cashews are perhaps the ideal example because you've got the conspicuous accessory fruit, then.this other thing on the end with the seed in it, which is the actual fruit.
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  #14  
Old 10-19-2011, 09:53 AM
MacLir MacLir is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Also, the shell surrounding the nut is dangerously poisonous - so the nuts need carefull handling and processing, increasing the cost.
It is sometimes amusing to reflect on edible items that are the "white sheep" of an otherwise nasty family, much as tomatoes are relatives of the deadly nightshade.

Cashews are members of the Anacardiaceae family. Most of us have likely encountered a more familiar member of the family, and may remember it strongly. Poison Ivy.

Last edited by MacLir; 10-19-2011 at 09:57 AM.. Reason: Correct mis-spelling
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  #15  
Old 10-19-2011, 04:50 PM
Yeticus Rex Yeticus Rex is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CheeseDonkey View Post
I've seen various answers on the interwebs, however they all seem to be from people acting like pseudo-experts who really have no idea what they're talking about.
I found this link informative with regards to pistachios and goes back several years.

Quote:
Thus, despite the expectation of a larger total crop, the salable open inshell should be very close to last year's supply. What remains to be seen are the effects of ever increasing Chinese demand, the recent strength of the US dollar, and an expected smaller Iranian crop. The first receipts report for the 2011 crop will be released on October 15th, and we'll know more then.
I also have a pistachio tree on one of my properties (about 5 years old) and I have a lot of blanks or a small squishy white embryonic nut inside although the outside are half rosy in color, but no splits yet. I'm in SoCal.....High Desert.

Last edited by Yeticus Rex; 10-19-2011 at 04:51 PM..
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  #16  
Old 10-19-2011, 06:06 PM
tattman40 tattman40 is offline
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"Because the pistachio is the official nut of the jihad."


Quoted from the movie Anywhere USA.
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  #17  
Old 10-19-2011, 06:26 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MacLir View Post
It is sometimes amusing to reflect on edible items that are the "white sheep" of an otherwise nasty family, much as tomatoes are relatives of the deadly nightshade.
Indeed. Carrots:Hemlock. Perhaps the worst group for this is the legumes - lots of superficial similarity across species (one bean looks much like another), but widely various edibility/toxicity.

Quote:
Cashews are members of the Anacardiaceae family. Most of us have likely encountered a more familiar member of the family, and may remember it strongly. Poison Ivy.
True, but we also get mangoes and pistacio, so it's OK

Last edited by Mangetout; 10-19-2011 at 06:27 PM..
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  #18  
Old 10-19-2011, 09:22 PM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
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And btw, what happened to the pistachios that turned your fingers red? I really like them but now they seem to be extinct.
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  #19  
Old 10-19-2011, 09:38 PM
minor7flat5 minor7flat5 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Apparently yes, it's sweet and juicy and is eaten raw, juiced or made into preserves.

I've not had the pleasure of trying it yet, but it's on my list.
It is very sweet smelling and the fruit is indeed quite fragile and easily bruised. My wife used to keep them in her fruit bowl when she was living in Brazil. She liked the way they made the whole house smell nice.

Cashew apple is similar to lemon in that it smells great but you might not enjoy a bite from one.

The best thing to do with cashew apples is to make a delicious light and fragrant summer drink by adding sugar and water. Cashew juice tastes nothing like the nuts.

They sell cashew juice concentrate in the international section of some larger supermarkets. It's a yellow liquid in a bottle. Try it some time
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  #20  
Old 10-19-2011, 10:47 PM
MikeS MikeS is offline
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Originally Posted by Lukeinva View Post
And btw, what happened to the pistachios that turned your fingers red? I really like them but now they seem to be extinct.
Staff report on why pistachios are/were red. Ignore the initial silliness.

Last edited by MikeS; 10-19-2011 at 10:47 PM..
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  #21  
Old 10-20-2011, 08:37 AM
EarlyMan EarlyMan is offline
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
I'd be interested to hear this. Not just pistachios, either, but lots of nuts. Cashews are ridiculously expensive.
Since there are way smarter guys in the room than me, while we're on the subject - can someone tell me why Macadamia nuts are so expensive? (They are by far the most expensive nut for sale in my grocery store).
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  #22  
Old 10-20-2011, 08:53 AM
AndrewL AndrewL is offline
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Originally Posted by EarlyMan View Post
Since there are way smarter guys in the room than me, while we're on the subject - can someone tell me why Macadamia nuts are so expensive? (They are by far the most expensive nut for sale in my grocery store).
The macadamia nut has very soft meat, yet one of the hardest shells of any nut. Shelling the macadamia without destroying the meat is difficult and usually requires special equipment. The macadamia tree also grows in a limited area.
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  #23  
Old 10-20-2011, 09:27 AM
Lukeinva Lukeinva is offline
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Originally Posted by AndrewL View Post
The macadamia nut has very soft meat, yet one of the hardest shells of any nut. Shelling the macadamia without destroying the meat is difficult and usually requires special equipment. The macadamia tree also grows in a limited area.
If I recall correctly, I once read that only man-made machine and parrots can open macadamia nuts.
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  #24  
Old 10-20-2011, 09:29 AM
MacLir MacLir is offline
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Originally Posted by AndrewL View Post
The macadamia nut has very soft meat, yet one of the hardest shells of any nut. Shelling the macadamia without destroying the meat is difficult and usually requires special equipment. The macadamia tree also grows in a limited area.
The leaves of one of the two varieties are also rather prickly - think of a holly leaf stretched longer and thinner - which may complicate the picking process.
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  #25  
Old 10-20-2011, 10:17 AM
G-SE G-SE is offline
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Not to hijack, but since we're on the topic of pistachios...

I have found that pistachios grown in the US (California) are larger and meatier than imported ones I've had from Turkey & Iran. Anyone know why this is?

I prefer the taste of the smaller ones, and have been on a constant quest for Iranian pistachios ever since I left Europe.
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  #26  
Old 10-20-2011, 01:37 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is online now
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Because Honey Badger don't work for free.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-e4vu_wL-M

Last edited by thelurkinghorror; 10-20-2011 at 01:39 PM..
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  #27  
Old 10-21-2011, 01:10 AM
Zebra Zebra is offline
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I thought cashews were expensive because they taste the best.
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  #28  
Old 10-21-2011, 10:54 AM
control-z control-z is offline
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Originally Posted by Zebra View Post
I thought cashews were expensive because they taste the best.
A great treat for me is chocolate ice cream with cashews on top. Satisfies two great cravings at once.
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  #29  
Old 10-23-2011, 01:35 PM
Section Maker:Jupe Section Maker:Jupe is offline
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One would think that macadamias would be more expensive, perhaps the large volume of nuts they set offsets the cost of cracking them.

We had a volunteer macadamia tree, it would put out about 20lbs of nuts per year. The nuts were extremely difficult to crack, all conventional methods failed. The almost perfectly round shape, and slippery skin, (this after removing the tough fibrous outside) made most tools slip off. Using a hammer to open them required body armour, as they tended to shoot everywhere. A large vice would do the job though, as once the shell is cracked, it falls apart easily. We heard of pacific islanders putting them under boards and driving trucks over them, but we decided that sounded a bit iffy. Quite the invasive tree as well. And the leaves are VERY rough edged, with holly like points.
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  #30  
Old 10-31-2011, 02:57 AM
Mr_write Mr_write is offline
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Quote:
I have found that pistachios grown in the US (California) are larger and meatier than imported ones I've had from Turkey & Iran.
David Fairchild of the US Department of Agriculture went to Iran to scout out the best pistachio trees. He brought them to California and began cultivating the best. Although they were being harvested as early as 1929, it wasn't until the late 50's that pistachios were considered a commercial crop. American pistachios do not sit around on the ground waiting to be picked up as in the middle east. Thus, there is no reason to color them with a dye to cover the blemishes.

As for the expense. The raw price of the pistachios vary due to market forces. Please see:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/1698016/USDA-Pistachios
to see the harvested price for the years 1977 to 2006.
Almost all* pistachios in California are processed in a factory called "Nut City" near Stockton, California.

*"Almost all" is a typical weasel phrase to take into account a few trees in gardens.
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  #31  
Old 10-31-2011, 12:51 PM
Interconnected Series of Tubes Interconnected Series of Tubes is offline
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IIRC from Guns, Germs, and Steel; nut trees in general are a recently-domesticated crop, in part because it takes so long for them to reach production. Almonds, for example, usually start producing in the third year. In addition to their harvesting and processing needs, some of the costs for nuts might have something to do with the long and risky start-up costs associated with their cultivation.
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  #32  
Old 10-31-2011, 01:02 PM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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Originally Posted by Lukeinva View Post
If I recall correctly, I once read that only man-made machine and parrots can open macadamia nuts.
And lemme tell ya, those man-made parrots are expensive
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  #33  
Old 10-18-2012, 10:16 AM
nut case nut case is offline
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Oligopoly

The reason pistachios are so expensive is because there is no competition from producers. A few years ago (5?) the pistachio growers banded together to form a "marketing alliance" that is identified on packages by the tag phrase "wonderful pistachios". That alliance became a defacto oligopoly ( price control by a few) under the cloak of an advertising cooperative. How it works is that the producers pay into a "kitty" which then produces advertisements - notably the poor taste risque ads with b-list celebrities but designed to be pseudo-offensive so they'll be discussed and remembered. If you're a producer and you don't join their group, they have ways of crowding you out of the market. If your in the group, pay your fees and all is well. I used to buy pistachios for less than half of what they cost since "wonderful pistachios" came into existence, and it wasn't that long ago. I may be nuts but I haven't eaten any since.
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  #34  
Old 10-18-2012, 10:48 AM
Testy Testy is offline
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I've tasted a sort of jam made from the cashew fruits. The guy told me his Jamaican grandmother made it.
One other item about cashew trees. I had a volunteer tree in Thailand. What no one mentioned was that there was a HUGE colony of red ants that defended the tree. When I went to lop of a dead branch the ants came after me like some kind of science-fiction bug. stripping off all my clothes got me talked about a bit.

Regards

Testy
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  #35  
Old 10-18-2012, 10:48 AM
Kevbo Kevbo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Interconnected Series of Tubes View Post
...in part because it takes so long for them to reach production. ...
The US state of New Mexico now has a sizeable nut growing industry. Some of it is due to families that were in danger of losing land to taxes. By planting nut trees, they were able to declare business losses to lower tax liability.

Ordinary businesses must produce a taxable profit within a few years, but nut farms are allowed to operate at a loss for much longer (decades??), because nut trees take so long to mature and start producing.

This worked, and families kept their land. Eventually the trees did start producing, and now there is a nut industry in a very arid part of the country where other agriculture struggles.

Note: The above is local lore, and may well be complete nonsense, but it made sense to me. I heard it from a long time resident of Carizozo, NM which is now a good place to buy Pistachios.
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  #36  
Old 10-18-2012, 10:51 AM
Testy Testy is offline
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Forgot something about pistachios. When I was in Saudi, I could buy perfect and beautiful bags of nuts from California for waaay cheaper than I can but them in the US. When I came back to the US I was appalled at the price of these things.

Regards

Testy
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  #37  
Old 10-18-2012, 10:53 AM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Quote:
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And lemme tell ya, those man-made parrots are expensive
Yes, but they're cheaper than the naturally-occurring machines, which is why they stick with the man-made ones.
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  #38  
Old 10-18-2012, 11:18 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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They're expensive because consumers have shown they are willing to pay for them at that price.
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  #39  
Old 10-18-2012, 11:39 AM
Dave Hartwick Dave Hartwick is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
They're expensive because consumers have shown they are willing to pay for them at that price.
I find this answer to be about as satisfying as "because".
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  #40  
Old 10-18-2012, 11:50 AM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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Originally Posted by nut case View Post
The reason pistachios are so expensive is because there is no competition from producers. A few years ago (5?) the pistachio growers banded together to form a "marketing alliance" that is identified on packages by the tag phrase "wonderful pistachios". That alliance became a defacto oligopoly ( price control by a few) under the cloak of an advertising cooperative. How it works is that the producers pay into a "kitty" which then produces advertisements - notably the poor taste risque ads with b-list celebrities but designed to be pseudo-offensive so they'll be discussed and remembered. If you're a producer and you don't join their group, they have ways of crowding you out of the market. If your in the group, pay your fees and all is well. I used to buy pistachios for less than half of what they cost since "wonderful pistachios" came into existence, and it wasn't that long ago. I may be nuts but I haven't eaten any since.
I can still get generic pistachios at the grocery store - which also sells Wonderful. After eating a few bags, I'd say Wonderful has better quality control.
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  #41  
Old 10-18-2012, 11:51 AM
drastic_quench drastic_quench is offline
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Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
The part I bolded - is there any market for it? Edible, yes ... but does it taste good?
No, and no. As someone else noted, they perish quickly. The taste is tart and unremarkable. You can juice them, but you need to add so much sugar, you might as well juice something that already tastes good.
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  #42  
Old 10-18-2012, 11:51 AM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CheeseDonkey View Post
I've seen various answers on the interwebs, however they all seem to be from people acting like pseudo-experts who really have no idea what they're talking about.
And then you came HERE?
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  #43  
Old 10-18-2012, 02:24 PM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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nm

Last edited by panache45; 10-18-2012 at 02:24 PM..
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  #44  
Old 10-18-2012, 02:43 PM
drewtwo99 drewtwo99 is online now
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This doesn't quite answer the question, but considering how damn good cashews and pistachios taste, I think we get them for a bargain.
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  #45  
Old 10-18-2012, 02:48 PM
Molotok Molotok is offline
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Originally Posted by drastic_quench View Post
No, and no. As someone else noted, they perish quickly. The taste is tart and unremarkable. You can juice them, but you need to add so much sugar, you might as well juice something that already tastes good.
You make it sound like Kool Aid.
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  #46  
Old 10-18-2012, 04:40 PM
Xema Xema is offline
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stripping off all my clothes got me talked about a bit.
Is this something the ants did?
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  #47  
Old 10-18-2012, 04:52 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Besides the low yield that makes prices high to start with, many of these crops were traditionally picked by very low wage workers who are no longer available.
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  #48  
Old 10-18-2012, 05:31 PM
Alessan Alessan is offline
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It's because of the Iranian nuclear program.
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