ANKARA, TURKIYE - OCTOBER 13: A view of dried fruits is seen in a tray in Ankara, Turkiye on October 13, 2022. Omer Taha Cetin / Anadolu Agency
The Almost-Forgotten Era Of Red Pistachios
By Chris Day
If you're under the age of 40, you may not remember red pistachios, but it was once common to color pistachio shells with artificial food dye, even though snacking on them could leave you red-handed. The history behind when and why people began to dye pistachio shells is unclear, but that doesn't keep theories and stories from spreading on the internet about the formerly bright red snack.
One theory states that pistachios were imported from Iran, where outdated equipment left the shells unappealing, so they were dyed to cover the imperfections. However, as quoted in the LA Times, the California Pistachio Commission says pistachios were dyed after arriving in the U.S. and colored to make them more eye-catching to the consumer.
Another controversial theory states that the U.S. continued to import the nut from Iran until the 1979 hostage crisis when the U.S. imposed embargoes against all Iranian imports — including pistachios. California growers stepped up to the plate, and since their harvesting and processing systems were superior to the Iranian methods, the shells did not need to be dyed.
According to the Washington Post, there's no correlation to this story because it takes ten years for a tree to produce nuts, so it would have been impossible for the California growers to replace the Iranian imports so quickly. If you're feeling nostalgic, you can shell out cash and buy red pistachios, as some companies still sell them.