Pistachio nuts are a tasty and nutritious treat that many of us enjoy eating. The nuts are quite versatile and can be used in a wide range of recipes, making them a popular choice. One of the largest downsides to our love of these little green nuts is their price! How can something that grows on a tree cost so much? Well, let’s find out exactly why pistachio nuts are so expensive.
What You'll Learn Today
- Why Do Pistachio Nuts Cost So Much?
- Can I Grow My Own Pistachio Nuts?
Why Do Pistachio Nuts Cost So Much?
Growing anything these days is becoming an increasingly costly business, even for large commercial enterprises. Just about everything has gone up, including labor costs, fuel, equipment prices, fertilizer costs, water, you name it.
But high production costs are just the tip of the iceberg, other factors also play a big part in the price of pistachio nuts.
- Pests & Disease -The trees themselves are pretty hardy, being quite resilient to poor soils. But there are a number of pests and diseases that can cause farmers big losses when things go wrong.
- Careful Management – To try and prevent this, they need to provide the trees with exemplary care and management and try to stop any problems before they start.
- Harvesting – If everything goes well and their orchard produces a fine crop of pistachios, the next hurdle is getting the nuts collected once they have opened but before they start falling off the tree.
Any pistachios that end up on the ground must be discarded as they can be contaminated by soil.
Special equipment is used to harvest the trees by shaking the trunk. The nuts then fall into a purpose-made catching device before being loaded up and taken to the processing plant. You can read more about this in our article – How Pistachio Nuts Are Harvested And Processed.
- Processing – This involves pretty large-scale equipment that is very expensive and requires manpower to maintain and operate.
- Packaging – Packaging prices, just like everything else, continue to rise and are another expense the producers have to make back.
- Distribution – The final step before the pistachios arrive in store is distribution around the country. Again, this requires manpower as well as the costs of the vehicles used, their fuel, and maintenance charges.
As you can see, the upfront costs to the producers are huge, and in order to make any money, they must pay that forward to the consumer by charging a price that is appropriate.
Are Pistachio The Most Expensive Nut?
Although it may seem that pistachios are the most expensive nut on the market, they actually aren’t. Pistachios take the number three spot for most expensive nut, with Macadamias taking the top position.
In this video, you can learn exactly why macadamias are the world’s most valuable nut:
There are also other expensive nuts, although prices do fluctuate, and the same type of nut purchased from one outlet could be more or less expensive than the same type of nut bought from somewhere else.
Using average per-pound retail prices, let’s take a look at them from least expensive to most.
9th Place – Pecan Nuts
With an average price of $7.00 per pound, pecans sold in the US are homegrown and come primarily from Georgia, Texas, and New Mexico.
Usually, pecan nuts are sold out of their shell, so processing costs include de-shelling as well as everything that goes into growing and harvesting the nuts.
Luckily a well-looked-after orchard of pecan trees can live for a long time and be productive for many decades.
Pecans are rich in magnesium and phosphorus and, like pistachios, are enjoyed in both sweet and savory dishes.
You can learn more about pecan trees in our articles.
8th Place – Brazil Nuts
These meaty and delicious nuts come from Brazil, from the rainforest, to be exact, and cost an average of $7.30 per pound.
These are generally purchased with their shells removed, and although production costs in Brazil are less than they would be in the US, there is still more transportation to consider.
These nuts are also becoming rare because, unlike other types of nuts, these trees are not grown in orchards but almost exclusively grow wild in the rain forest.
The trees rely on bee pollination, but deforestation and other disturbances to the environment in Brazil are causing problems with the ecosystem, including bee numbers.
Brazil nut trees are now protected, and only authorization by the Brazilian Institute of Environmental and Renewable Natural Resources can permit one to be felled.
The nuts themselves are waxy and rich in the mineral selenium. This vital antioxidant is becoming depleted in other food sources due to the demineralization of the soil caused by overfarming. This is a global problem.
7th Place – Walnuts
Another nut grown in the US is the Walnut. There are two main types used for consumption the English walnut, which is not native to the US, and the black walnut, which is.
The largest production of walnuts is in California, where the climate demands a lot of irrigation, and the soil needs additional nutrients to keep the trees in top condition.
Per pound, you can expect to pay $7.94 for walnuts. But as they are one of the most health-beneficial nuts out there, I think they’re worth the price.
Walnuts are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and assist with healing.
The oldest known tree to provide food is the walnut, with evidence dating back to 10,000 BC.
Read our articles on walnut trees here.
6th Place – Cashew Nuts
Cashew nuts are native to Brazil and are also grown in parts of Asia. The nuts are toxic when raw and must be processed before they are safe for consumption, which pushes up their price.
Sadly there is another very dark side to the cashew, the way it is harvested. An estimated 168 million children in Vietnam and India are forced to pick the nuts and forego any education.
But the suffering doesn’t end there. Processing the nuts is also done by hand. They must be de-shelled, but the shells contain cardol and anacardic acid, which results in skin burns and injury to the eyes of people who are forced to carry out the work, often with no protective equipment.
Per pound, cashews cost around $9.00, but one has to ask if the cost of human suffering is worth this price, even if the nuts are delicious.
5th Place – Chestnuts
One of my favorite nuts are chestnuts, although, for some reason, I don’t really think of them as nuts, partly due to their soft shell.
These are grown in China and widely around Europe. They are native to the Northern Hemisphere and have a strong association with the holiday season, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”
Although chestnuts grow in huge forests, it takes special conditions to grow ones that produce large enough nuts, with a good enough flavor to sell commercially.
The trees grow best in deep, rich soil with a plentiful water supply, and harvesting and processing are expensive. They have a fairly wide range when it comes to price, and it varies between as little as $4.00 to as much as $11.00 per pound.
Chestnuts have good medicinal benefits and provide calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and B Vitamins. They also have the lowest fat content of all nuts, making them very healthy.
4th Place – Almonds
These heat-loving trees can be traced back to ancient times and are still one of the best-loved nuts in the world today. In certain cultures, sugared almonds are used to celebrate marriages.
The beautiful blossom of the almond tree is pollinated exclusively by bees, and it’s common for hives to be situated in almond orchards.
Most of the world’s almonds come from southwest Asia at a price of $14.00 per pound. This is due mainly to high processing and transportation costs.
The nuts are filled with health benefits, including regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, making them a great choice for diabetics.
3rd Place – Pistachio Nuts
2nd Place – Pine Nuts
Although we call these nuts, they are, in fact, seeds, and I guess in reality, a nut is also a kind of seed, but hey, details!
Where would pesto be without pine nuts?! These tasty little treats come from particular pine tree species, but most commonly, Mexican pinons, Colorado pinions, Italian stone pines, and Chinese nut pines.
Per pound, you can expect to pay around $23.00, the reason being that pine trees take an average of 15 to 25 years to start producing the seeds, and the trees must be harvested by hand.
Processing is also done by hand, as the seeds are ripe a week before the cones open, which means they must be pulled apart.
1st Place – Macadamia Nuts
Originating in northeastern Australia, these nuts were for a long time gathered and enjoyed by Native Aboriginal people who called them “Kindal Kindal,” but the name Macadamia came from Dr. John Macadam, a British colonist.
Only two of the ten types of macadamia trees produce nuts, and it can take seven to ten years from planting for them to do so.
The nuts have the hardest shell in the world and need to be crushed by special machines under high pressure. They aren’t picked from the tree but harvested from the ground once they fall when ripe.
Their cost per pound is in excess of $25.00, and a little surprisingly, Australia is not the biggest producer of the nut. That is claimed by Hawaii, as the growing conditions there are perfect for the trees to thrive. They are also commercially grown in South Africa.
Can I Grow My Own Pistachio Nuts?
Growing your own pistachio nuts is possible if you live somewhere with the right climate, USDA zones 7 to 11, have good soil conditions, a sandy loam is preferred, and have plenty of space.
These trees reach heights of around 30 feet and have a main tap root that is just as long. This means they need deep soil with no pans or rock beds that stop the roots from diving deep down into the earth.
It takes an average of 7 years before your young tree will produce its first nuts, and they will need plenty of care to provide them with sufficient water and nutrients.
You can learn more about growing pistachio trees in our range of articles.
It seems that not only pistachio nuts are expensive, but nuts in general. This is mainly due to the costs involved in producing, harvesting, processing, and transporting them.
The more that is done to the nuts before they reach your home, the pricier they become. For example, pistachio nuts that are raw in shell are far cheaper than raw nuts that have been removed from their shells. This is due to the additional processing required.
Despite the high price tag, I think pistachios are still worth the cost, not as an everyday nut, but as one you eat for a special treat.
To read more articles about growing your own nuts, fruits, vegetables, and plenty more besides, head on over to our site.