Going Nuts!: Understanding the Complexities of the Pistachio Market in California

I’ve been appraising agricultural properties in California for over 30 years. This state is full of rich and diverse plant life, each with their own unique requirements and conditions for growth. Understanding these conditions is essential for providing accurate and reliable valuations. One plant known for its complexities is the pistachio plant. Keep reading to learn some of the many things I learned while researching for the valuation of a pistachio orchard.  



Pistachios are the fastest tree growing acreage in the tree nut industry. This is a high desert tree originating in Iran with trade bringing pistachios to the Mediterranean, Europe, the Middle East, Inland Australia, and North America. The United States is the largest producer, and pistachios add $5.2 billion into the California economy. Pistachios require hot summers above 86 degree Fahrenheit, with the largest plantings in CA warmer areas in the Central Valley, such as Kern, Tulare, Fresno, Kings and Madera counties. Pistachio in several counties around Sacramento are starting to gain popularity for new orchard development. The trees are very tolerant to marginal soil conditions and are very drought tolerant, which is very important given the climate over the last several years and groundwater pumping restrictions in certain parts of CA.


  • Unlike other tree nuts, Pistachios open on the tree and cannot touch the ground during harvest
  • The tree is shaken catching the nut before it hits the ground
  • Full production takes 12 to 15 years (most nut trees mature in 5 years)
  • The feasible life of the tree is close to 100 years (most nut trees are 25 to 30 years)


  • Pistachios were once considered food exclusively for royalty
  • They are distant cousins of Mangos
  • The trees Pitch (Sap) was once eaten to freshen breath
  • Hearing the crack of a pistachio shell is considered good luck
  • Pistachios are one of the oldest flowering trees in the world
  • Pistachios are one of only two nuts mentioned in the bible
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