• Lorraine A. Lee

Pistachios, grapes and sunshine

Look at how straight the lines of trees are compared to our typical backyard plantings. Even in the driest season, the caretakers provide just the right amount of water for them to grow. Pistachios are one of my favorite nuts and these tree remind me of the first time I tested this delicious food. Our daughter was in nursery school in Fremont, California and during a morning session, I went to visit two young mothers from Hong Kong whose children went to school with Margot. We were going to have an impromptu bible study and when I arrived, 100s of pistachios on a tray in the middle of the dining room table greeted me. "I've never had these" I said as they showed me how to open the shells. They were so welcoming and kind to me and soon after we met, they left with their families to go back to Hong Kong to do missionary work. A plate of pistachios were often on our kitchen or dining room table as our daughter did homework over the years. Now two decades later I remember that morning of sharing with happiness, thousands of miles away.

Today there are almost 200,000 acres of pistachio trees in the San Joaquin Valley of California and more are planted every year. The first pistachios were probobly harvested in Sonoma, now known world wide as wine region. Over the mid to late 1800's and 1900's, botanists and horticulturalists worked diligently to grow these trees without much success. In 1929, a year after my mother was born, 20 pounds of pistachios were planted in trial plots by William Whitehouse which he brought back from Iran. It was difficult to achieve what we see today in these photos but people kept trying. Finally in the 1960's experiments were producing improvements and by 1976 a million and a half pounds of pistachios were harvested.

The central valley of California is famous for it's trees, nuts, fruit and vegetables. Palms are relatively easy to transport and transplant so palm plantations are a common sight. Someday these trees will be growing in a public park, a five star hotel landscape or an upscale property overlooking the ocean.

People use what they have in their region to make fences. Of course, palm fronds are perfect here!

The best grapes in America I think are from California, warm right off the vine.

We see how patience, nourishment, attention, love and care produce such abundance. Looking at these grapes inspires me to paint them now while thinking about the sunshine and the dry, hot weather I miss so much.

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