Serious Eats

That's Nuts: Is California the Nuttiest State?

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[Photographs: Andrea Hernandez]

According to the California's Agricultural network, the state of California accounts for a whopping 46% of fruit and nut production in the US. Is California the nuttiest state? Just check out these stats:

Almonds
Almond production is a big source of pride for the Golden State. Nearly 100% of USA-grown almonds are grown in California! In fact, they're the state's third leading agricultural product. And almond production in California isn't just large by American standards. 80% of almonds grown worldwide come from California, with countries like Spain, Turkey, and Australia contributing to global almond production too.

Pistachios
Pistachios have been grown commercially in California for over thirty years. The first pistachio trees planted for commercial use in California, called Pioneer Gold, are just as productive today as they were when they were first harvested in 1976. Pistachio orchards particularly flourish in the warm, Mediterranean-like climate of Central California. The leading brand of pistachios coming out of California is called Wonderful Pistachios—its parent company also owns Fiji water and POM Wonderful pomegranate juice drinks.

Walnuts
Walnuts were first cultivated in California as early as the 1700s; they were called "mission walnuts" because they were planted by Franciscan fathers. The first Californian walnuts grown for commercial purposes were planted in 1867 in southern California, but walnut production spread quickly to the Central Valley, which is still California's prime walnut producing region today. California walnuts account for 99% of U.S.–grown walnuts.

Macadamias
Even though Hawaii is probably the most famous macadamia-growing state, there's a growing interest in commercial macadamia nut production in Southern California. Small macadamia nut production has existed in pockets of the Southern California region for over 50 years. While it will never rival the size of the other crops, it's certainly a nut to watch!

Which California-grown tree nut is your favorite? Ever visit a tree nut plantation in California? Got any nut-tastic recipes?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co. which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying, or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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