New Mexico with its long, hot and dry summers and moderately cold winters provides the ideal climate for pistachio trees. Same is true for California where pistachios also have become a significant farm commodity since the 1950s. Just north of Alamogordo lies the McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch. The farm was started in 1980 by Tom McGinn with about 40 acres (16 hectare) and has grown to a 90 acres (36 hectare) pistachio orchard with over 12,500 trees. Their "world's-largest pistachio" right next to the farm entrance is certainly an eye-catcher!
Pistacia vera is native to Central Asia and the Middle East, but grows well also in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California where the climate and soil criteria are met. It is a member of the cashew family. Male and female flowers grow on separate trees and pollination takes place by the wind. Female trees start producing fruit at about age 7, are fully mature with 25 and can bear fruit for up to 200 years. (Wow!) And even longer in their native environment!
Blooming takes place in late March/early April and the trees are machine harvested mid to late September. Similar to pecans, a machine shakes the trunk of each tree and the falling pistachios are caught in a tarp on the machine. I was lucky to find some that had resisted the shaking.
The pistachio shell normally opens before harvest and there is a whole science around growing pistachios with the "perfect split". Yeah, pistachios with too little of a split are annoying, aren't they!
The reddish skin around the shell is mechanically peeled off and the pistachios are then roasted. McGinn has developed a variety of flavors and spices. For the fun of it I picked some Spicy Ranch and some Cocoa flavored ones, but because of the added ingredients I consider them a treat, not a regular snack. Well, the FDA allows the pistachio producer to declare that "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts [, such as name of specific nut,] as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. [See nutrition information for fat content.]" I think, you can't go wrong with dry-roasted, unsalted ones.
The White Sands National Monument southwest of Alamogordo is a fascinating place to visit.
These dunes consist of very fine particles of gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate) crystals. With a geographic spread of 275 square miles (710 km2), it is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Gypsum particles were dissolved by rain from the surrounding San Andres and Sacramento Mountains and built up in the Tularosa Basin. The basin dried out and left gypsum selenite, which eroded to sand-size grains. Prevailing winds from the southwest formed the dunes.
Visitors are allowed to climb the dunes and even do sand-sledding.
|"Saltation" of small sand grains by the wind |
form the rippled structure
Studying the dunes inhabitants (e.g., lizards, mice, insects) must be interesting. They adapted to their environment by becoming white also.
Guido brought this town to my attention. It was somewhat on my way to Deming and so I stopped by.
I took the remote US-27 for the last few miles to Deming. A sign warns drivers that cattle might be on the road. And as if those cattle had read the sign, right when I passed it a cow trotted across the road. No biggy! I had read the sign, too and was slow enough.
More to come.