By Tom Adkinson
(Editor’s note: February 26 is National Pistachio Day, but everyday is a holiday at PistachioLand.)
ALAMOGORDO, New Mexico – If it weren’t for White Sands National Park and the Manhattan Project atomic bomb heritage of Alamogordo, the most famous aspect of this desert town might be the world biggest pistachio nut.
The 30-foot-tall nut is impossible to miss along Highway 54, just up the road from the Hi-D-Ho Drive-In and its famous two-patty “Tiger Burgers” and green chile cheeseburgers. It serves as a magnet, pulling you into PistachioLand, a retail heaven for pistachio lovers that is complemented by a 111-acre pistachio tree orchard and a 14-acre vineyard.
Motorized tours of the orchard and vineyard start at the top of the hour during most of the workday and cost only $2. It’s practically a guarantee you’ll spend more than $2 on pistachios, however, especially after you discover the myriad varieties.
Sure, there are plain pistachios (in the shell or already shelled for the slightly lazy), but try a sample of maple and brown sugar pistachios, or butter toffee pistachios, or garlic pistachios, or garlic and honey pistachios or sriracha honey pistachios. Of course since this is New Mexico, there are green chile pistachios, too. And that’s only the start of the list.
Thomas McGinn started all of this when he planted the orchard on bare desert land in 1980. He died in 2008, and his son, Timothy, built the world’s largest pistachio to honor his father.
The retail store that showcases all those varieties of pistachios also has PistachioLand souvenirs aplenty, pistachio candy (including Atomic Hot Chili Pistachio Brittle) and a tasting room for Arena Blanca Winery (traditional varieties such as chardonnay and merlot, along with specialty wines such as Pistachio Delight, Outlaw Red and Sweet Clarissa).
Since this is the desert, it’s no surprise there’s an ice cream shop, and it’s even less of a surprise that a favorite of visitors from around the world is . . . pistachio ice cream. Sometimes you feel like a nut, especially at PistachioLand.