We get letters – v. 4 Pistachio Dyes

Again, not so much a letter as a comment in posts.

Amy wrote:

Ever seen fresh pistachios? Me neither, but they seem to be popular down under. Pinkcocoa Tabetai, a blog from Australia, has a picture of them: http://tabetai.blogspot.com/2005/03/pyrmont-growers-market-march.html

And guess what? They’re kind of red on the outside of the hulls. Maybe they’re dyed red not only to cover blemishes but to mimic the natural colour of the hull?

Another source shows that both the outer hulls and inner skins are tinged various shades of pink and purple:

Alas, sometimes when doing research, I miss certain facts or gloss over others. Last night, Amy called me on it.

In my post a few weeks back about pistachios, I said “So when it comes to pistachios, remember this: They are almost never red, and are only slightly green.”

But Amy has a point when she writes, “Maybe they’re dyed red not only to cover blemishes but to mimic the natural colour of the hull?”

Certainly a possibility, and I had thought about that. But I’ve checked and re-checked my sources. It turns out that the red-dye coloring was an American invention, because we tend to like our food to look as unnatural as possible (See various Kraft food products for more proof of that theory). When it comes to the history of dying pistachios, it seems that the “covering blemishes” and “making the nuts stand out” theories are most often cited. I couldn’t find any stating that they were dyed that way to mimic the color of the hull.

I actually like Amy’s theory better because it presumes that pistachio vendors have some sort of aesthete, but I think this falls under what I will call “Kate’s Law of American Food Companies”. This law states that one should never under-estimate the unnatural things that American food companies will do to natural foods.

Thanks for the comment!

Public Domain Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Wikipedia: for all of your Public Domain Needs.

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