When I was a kid, I remember eating red pistachios. They tasted great, but you got red stains all over your hands and mouth, including a red tongue. I never thought twice about it.
When I went to Turkey the first time in the late 1970s, there were these great tasting nuts that looked a lot like
pistachios. But, they weren’t red, so they couldn’t be pistachios, right? Yeah, I was a dummy, they were pistachios in their natural state. I wondered, why the heck did they dye them red in the US, especially given the messy stains. Plus, the natural ones looked better to me. The red just wasn’t “natural” looking, although I thought it was natural before I discovered the Turkish ones.
It seems the red dye was a genius marketing move to cover up blemishes in the shells caused by hand picking (according to a number of sources). That just doesn’t make sense. The
shells in Turkey (back during hand picking days, which is probably still common outside the US) looked fine. And, who cares what the shell looks like. It is the part you are eating that matters. Yep, stained hands bright red was way better than a natural nut. At least the Turks weren’t buying that line.
I haven’t seen a red dyed pistachio nut in years, but while researching information for this post, I found out that at least one company still does it. It seems some folks who grew up with the red ones still have to have them red. Go figure.