Not many people can resist the temptation of cracking open and eating fresh pistachios, but is there a way to eat whole pistachios without removing the shells?
Can you eat pistachio shells? No, you can’t eat pistachio shells because they are very hard and can cause a range of digestive issues if you do end up eating them. Pistachios are meant to be eaten without the shell and there is no way to process the shells to make them edible.
Check out our guide below to learn more about why you can’t eat pistachio shells and the best way to make use of the shells!
All About Pistachios
Pistachios are perhaps one of the most widely consumed nuts in the world. Majorly harvested in Iran, these nuts grow on pistachio trees and are encased in a soft skin that can easily be removed.
The nut is encased in a hard shell or, in the case of ripe pistachios, the seed inside can also burst through, making it far easier to remove the shell by hand.
The pistachio industry has a staggering dollar value and due to the increasing global demand for this tasty nut, it is expected to steadily increase year over year! The nuts are harvested by hand and then sent to a factory where they are first cleared of debris.
The cleaned nuts then go through various quality checks before they are spread out over an open area. The nuts are sun-dried for about two days, this is an important step because the moisture content in the nuts can cause them to go bad very quickly.
Drying pistachios makes them easier to ship abroad and can also prevent the growth of dangerous toxins via mold.
The dried pistachios then go through a machine that punctures the shells to make them easier to open. Uncracked shells are discarded while the cracked ones go to the packaging line.
The nuts are then vacuum sealed and then shipped abroad to countries like the US and UK, where pistachios are fondly eaten at cocktail bars and at home.
When the pistachios arrive abroad, they are screened again for debris and go through multiple quality checks due to the stricter requirements set by the food agencies in developed countries.
Once the nuts pass all the quality checks, they are sent to a container that coats them with a combination of salt and water. Water is used in this process because it can reach inside the nut and flavor it without having to remove the shell. The flavored nuts are then roasted and packaged!
In the entire process, the hard shell of the nut remains intact. There are two main reasons for this:
1. The Shells Protect the Nut
Pistachio shells are made from very hard plant fiber that not only provides a home for the seed but also provides protection from the environment. Since pistachios are commonly imported by various countries, it is better to export them with the shell because shelled pistachios are less likely to endure long transportation routes and rough handling.
Keeping the nuts in the shell also brings down the added cost of adding extra padding to the crates since the shells do all the protection.
2. Pistachio Shells Are Iconic
The other reason has to do with cosmetics. See, throughout history, pistachios have been known for their hard shell and their soft greenish seed. This imagery is closely linked to the nut and people prefer purchasing unshelled pistachio nuts for regular use.
Sure, you could go with shelled and unsalted pistachio nuts for baking or cooking purposes to save time, but the vast majority of people sitting at cocktail bars would rather eat unshelled pistachios while having their favorite beverage.
Can You Eat Pistachio Shells?
The short answer is: NO! Here is why you can’t eat pistachio shells:
Pistachio shells are incredibly hard. Unlike other shells that can break just by depressing them between the fingers, these shells don’t budge – at all. The only way to open a closed shell would be to either use a small nutcracker or to bite down the nut between your teeth, which can be quite dangerous.
The nuts serve very little purpose beyond protecting the seed which is why most people choose to discard it.
The exterior of the shells is very smooth with a few faint ridges depending on the quality and age of the nut. The shell consists of two concave halves that cover the seed. Once cracked, the shell can be pulled apart from the tip.
The Shells Are Indigestible
Due to the firmness and density of the shells, they are also extremely hard to digest. People who end up eating the shells may likely pass them whole. In the worst-case scenario, the shells can also cause some health problems.
For smaller children, the shells also pose a choking hazard. These shells may be small enough for an adult to swallow, but please be careful when giving pistachios to little children. The concave shape of the shell can cause it to lodge in the throat and cause discomfort and even pain.
When the shells enter the stomach, they may cause cramping or diarrhea too. Fortunately, the shells are not capable of long-term damage. Once they are out of your system, you will automatically begin to feel better.
What to Do If You Ate Pistachio Shells?
If you have accidentally eaten pistachio shells then the first thing that you need to do is to remain calm. Drink a bit of water to allow the shell to pass through the food pipe. When the shells are in the stomach, they can take a few days to pass through your system.
Please wait and observe if you feel any discomfort and never try to induce a vomit after eating the shells. If you feel any form of pain or discomfort then you should immediately visit your primary health provider.
Your doctor may prescribe you pain medication and also advise you on what you can do while the shell passes through your digestive tract.
If the shells become lodged in your throat, then the best course of action would be to, again, remain calm! This is extremely important because panicking can cause the shells to lock into your food pipe even more.
Sip water and take deep gulps until you feel that the shells have passed. In most cases, pistachio shells do not cause any disruption but in some cases, they can cause a few symptoms.
If you feel tightness in your stomach, pain after 24 hours, a fever, or blood in your stool then you should immediately consult with your health provider.
What Can You Do With Pistachio Shells?
There are a few non-food-related things that you can do with pistachio shells!
Pistachio shells are an excellent way for you to unleash your creativity. The shells have a smooth outer layer and their pale-yellow color gives them a fantastic surface to paint! Color the shells and use them in your designs!
This can also be a fun bonding activity with little children. You can also use glue to make different shapes and designs using pistachio shells.
You can even reuse whole uncracked pistachio shells. Instead of cracking them, paint them and use them for arts and crafts!
If you want to be environmentally friendly, then we highly suggest that you use discarded shells for composting. Pistachio shells contain a range of nutrients that can be extremely beneficial for the soil.
It is easier and cleaner to compost pistachio shells too since you don’t have to deal with mushy textures or the usual odors associated with compostable food materials. Just add them to the composting bin and let nature do its thing.
Pistachio shells may be inedible, but they can be used in other fun ways! Now that you everything about whether you can eat pistachio shells, here are some related questions:
Should You Roast Pistachios With the Shell On?
When using fresh pistachios, it is best to roast them with the shell on. The shell will help trap heat and will allow the pistachios to cook evenly. But please only used FDA-approved fresh pistachios as these nuts can contain mold toxins or bacteria.
After roasting them, quickly salt the pistachios and let them cool down!
Can Pistachio Shells Get Stuck in Your Tummy?
No, pistachio shells usually pass through the digestive tract and don’t get stuck anywhere in between. Since these shells have smooth corners, they rarely cause any trouble. But if you have eaten a broken shell with sharp corners then you may have to talk to your primary health provider for more information on what to do.
How Can You Store Pistachios?
Storing pistachios is easy. Just put the pistachios in an airtight jar with the shell on and keep the jar at the back of the fridge at 40F. This way, the pistachios will remain edible for up to 6-8 months. The shells will also keep the pistachio from being overexposed to air which can cause oxidation.