As you know we are nuts about our little pistachios, like really nuts, think Paddington Bear and marmalade sandwiches and times it by 100! Yep we love those little pistachio beauties like a parent loves their child. We spent a long time searching for our perfect pistachio partners and found them in the form of a small cooperative of artisan pistachio farmers in Fthiotida, Greece. It was a perfect match. They had the same love for pistachios as we did but more importantly, they had the same passion in sustainability, simplicity, trust and ethical awareness. Luckily for us they didn’t find our pistachio passion crazy and it’s been a wonderful partnership since 2012.
The cooperative has an agronomist called Giannis, (chief science pistachio grower to you and me) and what he doesn’t know about growing pistachios isn’t worth knowing! We are also very fortunate to have a top Agriculturalist in our family- Ian. Ian has over 35 years working across global supply chains servicing the global Food and Beverage Industry. We are VERY lucky to have such a superstar in our team. You will probably have met him alongside Jane, he also does market stall holder, driver, carrier of heavy things and pistachio cracker very well but his main interests are agriculture.
Ian and Giannis have been working closely to bring us stories from the pistachio orchards so we can all be more involved and more knowledgeable about our pistachio’s journey. This month Giannis explains to us about pollination, and the need for male and female trees to grow pistachios- who knew?!?
Pistachio trees are usually planted at 6X7 or 7X7 metres distance. Most of the orchards have 20 to 25 trees per acre. One in every 7 tree’s is a male tree so in every acre we have 3 males and about 20 females. In big fields male numbers can be smaller and in isolated orchards can increase for better results.
Male trees come in three different types regarding the time of flowering. A (alpha), B (beta) and Γ (gamma). ‘Α’ males flower first, usually between 20-25 of March, ‘B’ at the end of March early April and ‘Γ’ the first ten days of April. Male flowering lasts 10-20 days and female flowering 6-10 days. The flowering of the females varies depending on weather conditions. Low winter temperatures make flowering earlier because the plant can come out of its lethargy more smoothly. For our region most suitable are ‘Γ’ males because most of the year’s females flower at the same period. When planting a new orchard our growers use mostly ‘Γ’ males, a few ‘B’ and very little ‘A’ trees so as to cover all possible female flowering periods.
Male trees are left to grow taller and bigger than female trees for covering easier bigger surfaces. The pollination takes place naturally with the wind. Male pollen is like dust. If you blow on a male flower at this time, a small cloud of pollen erupts. Sadly, female flowers that are not pollinated produce empty shells. Male trees don’t grow pistachios just pollen, like humans the pistachios grow on the female.
This year pollination in our orchards took place early April. Weather conditions were great, so we are very hopeful for a good harvest. In 2019 we had very wet weather during pollination and some orchards produced a large number of empty shells. The weather also effects the size of Pistachios. At this time, our orchards are producing pistachio size varies from 0,5 cm up to 1,5 cm. It takes between 4 to 6 weeks for pistachios to appear at the place where the female flowers were.
So that’s it, our pistachios have started their journey in becoming the mighty nuts we all love. Over the coming months we shall carry on the journey bringing you up to date information on our 2020 pistachio crop.