Santa Monica Farmers’ Market Report: Green Pistachios are Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Chefs go nuts for the unique flavor of fresh pistachios

KCRW Good Food Producer Gillian Ferguson shares highlights from farmers’ markets around Los Angeles, along with tips from chefs and growers on how to best use what’s in your basket.

I’ve said it before, but it’s hard to miss CJ Jacobson at the farmers’ market. This morning, I found all six feet and seven inches of the Girasol chef at the corner of 2nd and Arizona bent over a patch of corporate landscaping, his iPhone camera pointed towards a blanket of weeds. “Oxalis,” he stated, plucking a wild microgreen and handing it to me to taste. “It’s wood sorrel,” he said, and in his tone an unspoken “duh” followed. “Not even Round-Up can stop oxalis”

It’s a brief distraction from CJ’s market haul which this week includes the hyper-seasonal fresh pistachios from Santa Barbara Pistachio Company. Once a year, immediately after harvest, the so-called “green” nuts are brought to market, still sheathed in their rose-colored papery husks. The crop, a delicacy to some, is fleeting. By Saturday afternoon, fresh pistachios will disappear until next October.

What’s unique about green pistachios is their yielding texture and the access to the husk, which is typically discarded in the drying process. In Iran, fresh husks are traditionally used to make a jelly (once removed, the papery skins are blanched three times and then cooked with sugar until set).  At Girasol in Studio City, CJ plans to blanch them at least once before chopping it finely as the base for a chimichurri. The actual raw nuts could end up garnishing fish or sprinkled on a bowl of Roan Mills farro.

“I love raw nuts,” he says. “I think they have an entirely different flavor. Just like you’d approach raw fruit or unripe fruit in different ways, I do the same thing with the nut.”

Most of the shoppers who gathered around the pistachio stand at Wednesday’s market will simply peel back the husk, pull apart the shell, toss the milky green pistachio in their mouths and repeat. If you plan on storing them for longer than a week, then David Bomer says you have to act fast. Bomer, who goes by “Boomer” has been working for Santa Barbara Pistachio Company for over ten years. “You gotta remove the outer husk,” he explains. “There is so much moisture in the nut that it will stain and mold the nut – that’s why we only have the green nut for one week out of the year.”

This Saturday’s downtown Santa Monica farmers’ market is your last chance for this short-lived California specialty. Arrive early or wait until next year.

Where to find Santa Barbara Pistachio Company: you can purchase their crunchy, dry-roasted pistachios, pistachio oil and pistachio meal year round at the Wednesday and Saturday Downtown Santa Monica markets and the Sunday Hollywood market.