Back when we thought low-fat everything was the way to go, nuts were cast off as fatty calorie bombs best saved for occasional splurges like long road trips or Sundays at the ballpark. Boy, have times changed. Now we know that nuts actually have unsaturated (a.k.a "good") fat plus piles of other nutrients. We also know that they fill you up, and reams of research backs their many other health benefits. In fact, with all the stir surrounding the heart-healthy Paleo and Mediterranean diets, nuts, a key component of both meal plans, are having a heyday.
In the wake of California Gov. Jerry Brown's decision to enact mandatory restrictions on the use of water given the state's ongoing, historic drought, people nationwide have become obsessed with almonds. Not in the sense that people are buying and eating lots of almonds, mind you. In the sense that suddenly everyone with even a tenuous connection to the Internet is an expert on the water usage of various agricultural products.
Sadly, for more than half my life, I had avoided some of nature’s most perfect and healthful foods: nuts and peanuts. I had been mistakenly told as a teenager that nuts were fattening and constipating, effects I certainly wanted to avoid.
A quarter-century ago, when I first started farming the fertile ground of western Fresno County, my crop was cotton. I wasn't alone. Back then, the San Joaquin Valley had more than 1 million acres of white gold. Federal water cost me — hard to believe today — only $25 an acre-foot. And there was plenty of it. My neighbors and I irrigated inefficiently by sprinkler and furrow.
In 1957, a small experimental orchard in Chico, California distributed to commercial nut-growers a promising new variety of pistachio tree from Iran, called Kerman. The United States Department of Agriculture wanted to see how these Kerman trees might perform in the richly fertile Central Valley of California.