Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sunkist shelled pistachios are too easy to eat

Probably nothing tastes worse than a bad pistachio nut. And unfortunately, by the time you know it's a bad nut, it's too late. Even if you spit it out, you're stuck with the disgusting slimy taste in your mouth.

However, it's just a small price -- sort of a tax -- that pistachio lovers willingly put up with to indulge in each bag of joy.

Because of international politics, the pistachio situation in the US had seriously declined until recently. Most pistachios had come from Iran (which used to be called Persia). Back in the days of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was a US ally who spent lavishly on his family but tortured and imprisoned many of his citizens, there was a plentiful supply of excellent pistachios.

The administration of President Jimmy Carter in 1977 created a strain on relations between Iran and the United States. Carter, unlike previous American presidents, was outspoken about his criticism of the Shah's government and its human rights record. Carter pressured the Shah to allow more freedom for dissidents.

In 1979, Iranians revolted and the Shah was ousted. Ayatollah Khomeini became Iran's new leader and soon began issuing vicious rhetoric against the United States, describing the country as the "Great Satan".

On November 4, 1979, a revolutionary group, angered that the recently deposed Shah had been allowed into the US for cancer treatment, occupied the American embassy in Tehran and took 52 US diplomats hostage for 444 days

The crisis led to lasting economic and diplomatic damage, and a disruption to the flow of rugs and pistachios. On April 7, 1980, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Iran, a break which has yet to be restored.

The ordeal reached a climax when the United States attempted a rescue on April 24, 1980, which resulted in an aborted mission and the deaths of eight soldiers. The crisis ended with the signing of the Algiers Accords on January 20, 1981, and the hostages were freed.

California produces almost all US pistachios, and about half of these are exported, mainly to China, Japan, Europe and Canada. In the early days, they were dry, and tasteless, but the growers have learned and now they can compete with the Iranians.

Sunkist -- known mainly for oranges, markets a two-pound pouch of "pistachio kernels" -- nuts without the shells -- that they say equals four pounds of nuts in the shells.

They are absolutely delicious, dry-roasted and with just the right amount of salt, and with maybe just one bad nut per pound.

Unlike regular pistachios, you won't have cracked teeth, cut lips, slashed tongues or broken finger nails from opening the shells.

Unfortunately, the inconvenience of opening "normal" nuts is a self-limiting factor. Sooner or later you get tired of opening the shells and you put the bag away for another day. The pre-shelled nuts are so convenient, there's nothing to prevent you from scarfing down a pound or two all at once!

I buy mine at Sam's Club, but they're also available at Amazon.com and elsewhere. Price is about $20.

CLICK for more info, and a chance for win a year's supply of pistachios.

Most people buy pistachios for the taste, but they might also be good for you!

In July 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first qualified health claim specific to nuts lowering the risk of heart disease: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (42.5g) per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease". In research at Pennsylvania State University, pistachios in particular significantly reduced levels of LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol, in the blood of volunteers. Pennsylvania State University's Department of Nutrition and Sciences has also conducted related research on other health benefits of pistachios, including an April 2007 study concluding that pistachios may calm acute stress reaction, and a June 2007 study on the cardiovascular health benefits of eating pistachios. (info from Wikipedia)

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