Story by Nancy Ransohoff
Photos Courtesy of Santa Barbara Pistachio Company
Who can resist the rich, buttery, crunchy goodness of pistachio nuts? Not me, and apparently not a lot of other folks, either. Pistachio popularity is flourishing like the trees at Santa Barbara Pistachio Company. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Santa Barbara County in the Cuyama Valley, the company is the second largest organic pistachio grower in the U.S. Owned by husband-wife team Gene and Gail Zannon, the bustling operation is a family affair. Sons Josh and Tristan handle much of the day-to-day operation, daughter Melissa helps with sales at farmers’ markets and special events, and Gail and Gene focus on marketing.
The Zannons’ 440-acre pistachio orchard is perched in the high desert climate at a 2,900-foot elevation—the hot and cold weather suits the pistachio trees just fine. It also suits the Zannons. “Our family has had a special relationship with Cuyama Valley for many years. It was a magical place to spend time with our children growing up, connecting with the landscape and the unique environment. When an opportunity arose to deepen our roots (literally!) in the valley, we took it! Because the Cuyama Valley is uniquely suited to growing organically, planting pistachios there fit perfectly with our family’s values,” says Gail.
The Zannon family’s high standards are evident in every bag of pistachio deliciousness. They hand sort the nuts and pack daily for optimal freshness and brine with organic Kosher-certified ingredients. They also hot-air dry the pistachios, rather than flame roast, at low temperatures to retain their natural buttery flavor and nutritional value. Pistachios are a great source of fiber, carbohydrates, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and folate. They contain very little saturated fat and no trans fat. So, eat up…flavors range from onion garlic to chile lemon, along with a no-salt option. The company also sells all things pistachio, including butter, flour and oil. Says Gail, “Our roasted, salted pistachios are a perennial favorite. Plus we have gift packages that incorporate three or four popular flavors.” Available online, at most farmers’ markets and at local stores, including Goodland Kitchen in Goleta, Cantwell’s Market, Lazy Acres, Whole Foods, Pierre LaFond and Tri-County Produce.