The Founder | Productivity | Map of Growing Areas | CPC | Print

Pistachios are as ancient as early civilization, having grown for centuries in the desert high country of the Holy Lands in the Middle East. As a delicacy, their enduring taste has withstood the test of time.

Note: For more on the history of pistachios, click here to link to the California Pistachio Commission Website.

Pistachios were first imported to the U.S. for observation in 1805 by the New Crop Introduction Division of the U.S. Government. Mormon settlers planted a few trees in Southern Utah in the late 1880s, and yet there was no commercial development. Around the turn of the century, one of the first governors of Nevada was so enthralled with pistachios he randomly planted them wherever he traveled. By 1909, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) New Crop Introduction Research Station was established in Chico, California, and some of its first entries were Pistachia rootstocks.

Compared to other agricultural industries, the California pistachio is relatively recent, having been around only since the 1960s. Pioneer Nursery's first commercial crop was planted in 1968, and harvested in 1976. Pioneer Gold was patented and released commercially in 1981, after more than a decade of test plantings. Since its release, Pioneer Gold has become the most prolific commercial pistachio tree in the world.

The Founder

William E. Whitehouse

The first half of the twentieth century was spent researching and developing pistachio varieties for potential development in the U.S. On behalf of the USDA, research specialist William E. Whitehouse, was sent to the Middle East to collect seed varieties for the Chico Research Station. Upon his return to California, Whitehouse, with the help of Chico's Director of Research, Lloyd Joley, experimented with the various varieties, and narrowed down the final selection to one seed. Whitehouse named the seed "Kerman" for the town in Persia (present day Iran) which he had enjoyed so much during his travels, and where he believed he had selected the seed.




Pistachios ready
for harvesting

Today, the California pistachio industry is healthy and viable. Driven by high consumer demand, growing markets and relatively small acreage, pistachios make up one of the most lucrative ag products grown in California today. One of the main obstacles growers must overcome is the six-year lead time from planting to harvest. However, pistachio trees, when cared for properly, have been known to remain fruit-bearing for centuries.

The first commercial Pioneer Gold trees were planted over 30 years ago, and remain as productive today as they were when they were first harvested in 1976. As the industry in California continues to mature, the Pioneer Gold tree will continue to prove its heartiness and disease resistance.

One of the main obstacles growers must overcome is the six-year lead time from planting to harvest.

These quality measures are all performed so that when growers arrive at our Delano facility to pick up their trees, they're assured the healthiest and highest quality rootstock available in the industry.

And the support doesn't end there. Growers who plant Pioneer Gold receive ongoing technical support from our staff as needed. We offer consultation to new growers throughout the season. Our goal is to ensure that all of our growers are completely satisfied, and enjoy productive orchards of Pioneer Gold pistachio trees.

Map of Growing Area

Pistachio orchards love the Mediterranean climate of Central California. Some areas of the Valley are even more pistachio-friendly than others, however, in general, growers enjoy vigorous growth and high yields.

View Map of Growing Areas in California

California Pistachio Commission (CPC)

With their acreage and production expanding, California pistachio growers united in their efforts to promote the industry. In 1981, the California Pistachio Commission was established to provide support through public relations, government relations, marketing and production research. The California Pistachio Commission is funded by an assessment of each pound produced in the state. For over two decades the Commission has served its grower-members, assisting with the development of the industry in both domestic and export markets, and spearheading the research so vital to its continued success. If you are interested in knowing more about the California pistachio industry, Click Here.