Road trip further west! — petroglyphs, pistachios and gypsum? (Part II)

Little hungry after connecting with thousands of years of history?  Let’s go get some pistachios.

Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves is a great place to visit on the north side of Alamogordo.  They sell some wonderfully tasty bags of flavored pistachios.

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Pistachio trees next to the visitor center at Eagle Ranch.

Unfortunately, Pistachios can only be grown in a few places in the world.  They are a member of the family Anacardiaceae which contains such widely known plants as the cashew, mango and, oddly enough, poison oak.

The history of pistachio cultivation in the US is rather interesting.  From the Eagle Ranch website:–

It is a deciduous tree, requiring approximately 1,000 hours of temperature at or below 45° F. in order to grow normally after its winter dormancy. Pistachio nut trees, generally, are suited for areas where summers are long, hot and dry, and the winters are moderately cold. A native desert tree, it does not tolerate high humidity in the growing season. 

The trees are dormant from December through February and begin to bloom with the arrival of warmer weather in late March. The male pollinates the female via the April winds, and the shell of the nut is fully developed by mid-May. Before June ends, the seed inside the shell has begun its rapid expansion and by the first of August, the seed has filled the shell. The nuts, splitting at the seams, are usually ready to be harvested the first week of September.

Pistacia vera L. probably originated in Central Asia where large stands of wild trees are found in areas known today as Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan. The first commercial plantings in these countries were most likely started from seeds collected from the best wild trees. The tree was introduced into Mediterranean Europe at about the beginning of the Christian era. The climate in the Tularosa Basin is almost identical to the pistachio producing areas of Iran and Turkey. The altitude of both areas is identical.

Although the pistachio was first introduced into California by the US Department of Agriculture about 1904, very little interest was generated until the 1950’s. Since that time, pistachios have become a significant farm commodity in California.

Plantings have also been made in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in those areas that meet the climate criteria. The tree flourishes and bears well in well-drained soils, but its root system will not tolerate prolonged wet conditions. It seems more tolerant to alkaline and saline conditions than most other commercial trees. The vigor and productive life of the tree is extremely long lasting. In the mid-East, there are trees on record of having productivity of several hundred years.

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The Eagle Ranch Pistachio Grove (also known as “Heart of the Desert”) has a very nice visitor center in Alamogordo.

The company offers pistachios in a number of wonderful flavors inspired by the cuisine of New Mexico–Green Chile, Red Chile, Garlic and Green Chile and just plain roasted and salted.  All of them are great.  They also sell wines from the Heart of the Desert vineyards and a number of other great New Mexico treats.

In the mountains to the east of Alamogordo, high-quality apples and cherries are also grown.

Another site I used to enjoy checking out was the Alamogordo sawmill.  It operated from 1899 to 2007.  Many times I spotted mostly Southern Pacific and Cotton Belt 50-foot boxcars spotted at the sawmill.  The logs came from the nearby Sacramento Mountains.   A rail line once existed that would haul logs to the mill.  Relics of the logging rail line can still be seen in Lincoln National Forest to the east.

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Dusty, old spur heading up to the former Alamogordo sawmill.

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Closer view of former sawmill,  Note lumber kiln to the right.

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Typical of the 50-foot SP and Cotton Belt boxcars I saw spotted at the sawmill in the early 1990.

Next stop and final leg of the road trip will take us to the Gypsum sands to the west also known as White Sands.

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