Keeping A Legacy Alive At McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch
McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch, Tim McGinn
MRV: The Buzz, Your RV Lifestyle Insider. Written By: Olivia Richman
The Big Nut: McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch
Home To The Worlds Largest Pistachio, And Includes 95 Acres Of Pistachio Trees, 25 Pistachio Candies And An Award Winning Pistachio Recipe
There's 95 acres of pistachio trees, 25 pistachio candies and a two-time award-winning pistachio recipe, but the actual story, said McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch owner Tim McGinn, is the world's largest pistachio.
“I call it the Big Nut,” said McGinn. Featured in the 2011 Paolo Sorrentino film “This Must Be the Place” and episodes of Larry the Cable Guy, as well as numerous publications, documentaries and news stations, the 30 foot tall pistachio statue was erected in the memory of McGinn's late father Michael, the founder of the Pistachio Tree Ranch.
“When my father passed away in 2007 I was 38. I was grief stricken. I wanted a way to memorialize my father. One night I thought of this crazy idea and the next day I called a buddy of mine who was a home contractor here,” recalled McGinn. “ He was building million dollar homes. I handed him a nut. I said I wanted him to make this, but 30 feet tall. He said, 'Why don't we build a beautiful house?' I said I wanted this as a memorial for my father. He said he would build the whole thing. Four months later we unveiled the world's largest pistachio. It's on the farm, right in front of our large retail store.”
For the past 10 years, travelers from all over the world visit the Pistachio Tree Ranch to see the world's largest pistachio. People can't wait to snap a photo with the famous landmark, which visitors have called “fun,” “baller,” “huge” and “incredibly awesome.” The huge draw of the Big Nut is an emotional topic for McGinn, who feels it's truly kept his father's legacy and story alive.
“As a kid we used to do a lot of road trips,” he recalled. “My dad liked driving across the country. We would stop at different things along the way, whether it was historical sites or oddities. As I got older I realized those things were disappearing. I wanted to build something that represented the size of my father's dream, for his farm. I thought if I build this, people would stop, read it and read the plaque, that talks about my father. I would accomplish the goal of keeping his dream and memory present.”
And Michael's dreams are alive and well to say the least. Pistachio Tree Ranch harvested 150,000 pounds of pistachio last year (and 185,000 the year before) and produced 4,000 cases of wine and 30 tons of grapes. The Pistachio Tree Ranch also has Pistachioland, a retail store that successfully sells numerous pistachio candies and pastries. Not bad for a family that was brand new to the pistachio and winery business.
In 1978, Thomas and Michael (who was 10 at the time) lived on the east coast. Thomas was working for Thomas' English Muffin as a plant manager in New Jersey when he decided he wanted to go back to his roots of farming (he grew up in Panama, where he later managed banana plantations). So off to New Mexico he went.
The first pistachio tree was planted in 1980. From that point on, the family added orchards, blocks of trees each year within the same piece of property. McGinn was scheduled to go to law school but after growing up on the farm he felt that was where his future lied. He said: “It's a somewhat unique crop and unusual for the area. I liked being my own boss. I liked the work itself. I like being outside, driving tractors. I like nurturing the plants to a productive state. I love the chemistry and the magic of the wine-making process.”
They added a retail store in 1995, which McGinn said he felt was the “savior of the new farming industry.” And Pistachioland has been more than a “savior.” It's been a huge success, almost as huge as the 30 foot pistachio. Almost.
Inside a large kitchen at the ranch, the family makes 25 different pistachio candies, one of which won the Scovie Awards in 2006 and 2007: The Atomic Hot Chili Pistachio Brittle. The unique and rich recipe beat out 740 other entrants the first year. The second year a new panel of judges voted for the brittle again.
“I feel wonderful,” said McGinn. “I was so excited then, and I'm excited to this day, 10 years later. The recipe is a guarded secret, of course.”
The recipe was created by McGinn's wife Clarissa, who has created all of the candy and cookie recipes. She also makes fudge. There are nine flavors of pistachio right now, including garlic flavored, lemon-lime, dill pickle, ranch and bacon. Each flavor is approved by a large panel of people, which the ranch also does with their wines.
“One time Clarissa said to me, 'Why don't we take all the flavors after they've been flavored and mix them together into one bag?' I said it was crazy, the flavors would just mix together and nobody would want it. I'm always the pessimist,” laughed McGinn. “You take the red chili and a scoop of the ranch and a scoop of the garlic and you put it all in the same bag and it's called The Works. And people love that variety! It ended up working. This is New Mexico where people like things hot. They do elsewhere, of course. But people around here love spicy food. When you mix spicy and sweet, it's a great combination.”
While Pistachioland products are available online, many people prefer the full experience at the ranch, where there's a 15,000 square foot store complex. People who come to see the Big Nut and retail store also have the chance to try homemade ice cream (including pistachio flavor of course) and take a tour of the giant farm in a 16 passenger electric tour vehicle.
Pistachio Tree Ranch has 95 acres of pistachio trees, 14 acres of wine-producing grapes and a 7,000 gallon federally licensed winery, but none of this compares to the immensity of the Big Nut. It all pales in comparison to the legacy of Michael McGinn, the memories of his dreams and innovation, of his hopes and goals. There's nothing else like the Big Nut.
A graduate of East Connecticut State University in Journalism, Olivia
has written for Stonebridge Press & Antiques Marketplace among
others. She enjoys writing, running and video games.
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