Sunday, March 6, 2016

Heart of the Desert Pistachio Farm, Alamogordo, New Mexico

When in Yuma, Arizona, you visit a date farm; when in Alamogordo, New Mexico, you visit a pistachio farm. And that's exactly what we did. I don't know how many pistachio farms there are in the Alamogordo area, but there were 2 within half a mile of our RV park. We decided to visit only one, Heart of the Desert. It was interesting.

Visitor Center and Gift Shop
One of the things that attracted us to Heart of the Desert is that they offered a free tour of their farm. I like free. Heart of the Desert claims to be both the oldest and the largest pistachio farm in New Mexico. The climate around Alamogordo is similar to that in Iraan, where pistachios have been grown for centuries.

Our tour began in the Visitor Center, where we watched a short video about the farm. A tour guide then gave us a brief introduction before leading us outside to view the actual trees. There is roughly 1 male tree for every 10 trees. The males are generally a bit taller and a bit wider than the females. The season runs from early spring to early fall. During our trip, the trees were leafless, as they are decidious.

Part of the large orchard. The tree in center is male; it is taller. It gets to pollinate all those beautiful females around it. Lucky tree.
We next donned hairnets and toured the building where the pistachios are sorted. Machines do most of the original sorting by size before being passed on to real humans to finish up. Next stop was the building where the nuts are roasted. Next step is packaging the nuts, and then they are stored in a refrigerated area.

Employees sorting nuts by hand. Our tour guide is on the left.

This large machine sorts nuts by size.

Roasting oven
The Visitor Center is also a gift shop, and you can, of course, purchase various pistachio related items. Heart of the Desert also produces wine, and you can pick up a bottle or two of good wine. There are numerous pistachio products. Some are simply roasted, while some are spiced. I opted for a 1 lb bag of unsalted and roasted pistachios. I sampled the chocolate pistachio bark products, and they were also delicious.

Road goes down the center of the orchard. The San Andres Mountains are in the western background, and if you look carefully, you can see the line of white gypsum sand from White Sands National Monument at the base of the mountains.
One of the things about traveling, especially in retirement, is you have time to visit places like this and learn something. This was a good outing, and one we really enjoyed.

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