New harvest, fresh pistachios have a beautiful pink and white outer skin which feels a bit like a thick flower petal. This outer layer is called the epicarp. When fresh, the epicarp will easily come apart and can be peeled off. Once the soft outer skin is removed, the traditional beige shelled pistachio nut is revealed beneath this protective layering.
Classically a Persian delicacy, fresh pistachios are soft, sweet and juicy inside. Fresh pistachios have a short season and are usually available in September.
Until the mid-1970s, all pistachios sold in the United States were imported, mainly from the Middle East. The traditional growing and harvesting methods used by pistachio farmers in countries such as Iran, Syria, and Greece often left blemishes on the outer shell, which American importers would mask with a red vegetable dye. But with the growth of the domestic pistachio industry, the days of the red pistachio may be numbered. About 96 percent of the pistachios currently sold in the United States are grown in California. These nuts are harvested without blemishes, which makes the red dyes unnecessary.