Let’s talk about nuts and why they cost so much.
You’re at the grocery store, looking for a healthful snack to pack in your lunch for work, right next to your turkey and bacon on wheat, and maybe a piece of fruit. Aha – nuts! Perfect! Until you see the price tag.
Pistachios, $9.15 per pound. Cashews, $9.39 per pound. Walnuts, $11.18 per pound. Almonds, $11.49 per pound.
Other than peanuts, which are not really a nut, but a legume, why are virtually all nuts so darn expensive?
Around 20 to 25 years ago, nuts were considered bad for you because of their fat content. Now, it’s believed their fat is actually “good” fat, and we should all be reaping the nutritional benefits.
In part, this is why nuts are so pricey – they’re in higher demand than they used to be.
But, if we look at each individual nut, we can see there are a few more reasons for the higher price tag.
Over 80% of the world’s almonds come from California. The trees need certain habitats to thrive – namely, a cool but not cold winter, and a mild spring. With California currently experiencing a record-breaking drought, almonds and other crops are suffering.
Additionally, almond trees rely heavily on pollination from honeybees, who are being affected by colony collapse disorder.
Cashews are expensive because there is an oily fluid surrounding them which contains anacardic acid, a toxin also found in poison ivy. This dangerous substance must be removed, which is a laborious process.
In recent years, there has been a huge demand in China for pecans, driving up the price for everyone. Roughly a third of American-grown pecans are exported to the Chinese.
Pistachio trees are only grown in a few places – primarily California, Turkey, and Iran. They can handle poor soil, but need cool winters and long, hot summers. Further, each tree doesn’t produce a lot of nuts, and it takes the tree six or seven years to begin yielding nuts at all.
Finally, pistachio trees are alternate bearing: they have a year of high production followed by a year of low production, and so on; they’re only at full nut-bearing capacity every other year.
Pine nuts are the seeds of pine cones, and they’re difficult to harvest because they literally have to be extracted from the cones.
Like almond and pistachio trees, walnut trees require specific conditions. They too are primarily grown in California, and thus, are impacted by the ongoing drought.
Again, the surge in popularity of nuts makes them more expensive in general. But as we can see, each nut also bring its own unique cost factors to the table.
However, as a nutritious and filling snack, and a fun and crunchy addition to salads or desserts, nuts are sometimes worth the extra bucks.