Pistachio shells, the hard outer coverings that protect the delicious pistachio nuts, may seem useless after the nuts have been eaten. However, there are actually many innovative uses for this common food waste product. From arts and crafts to home goods and garden care, pistachio shells can be repurposed in eco-friendly ways.
Here are some quick answers to common questions about reusing pistachio shells:
- Compost – Pistachio shells can be added to compost piles as a source of carbon.
- Potpourri – The shells can be dried out and added to homemade potpourri mixes.
- Fire starter – Allow shells to fully dry then use with wax and sawdust to make fire starters.
- Pest deterrent – Scatter shells around gardens to deter slugs and snails.
- Exfoliant – Crushed shells make an effective exfoliant scrub for skin or use on dirty pots.
- Crafts – Shells can be used to make picture frames, vases, candles, jewelry, Christmas decorations and more.
- Pet toys – Stuff a sock with shells then knot for a crunchy dog or bird toy.
- Smoking – Some people claim shells can be used in hookahs or to mix with cannabis before rolling joints.
- Dye – Boil shells in water to extract a rusty orange natural dye.
- Insulation – Fill fabric sachets with shells then sew into jackets or blankets for insulation.
One of the easiest and most beneficial ways to reuse pistachio shells is by adding them to a compost pile. Pistachio shells are a source of carbon, which provides an important balance to the nitrogen-rich green materials like food scraps and grass clippings. The rough texture of the shells also helps create airflow in the compost to aid decomposition.
Simply collect pistachio shells after eating the nuts, then distribute them throughout your existing compost pile. You can break up large clumps of shells to mix them in more evenly. The shells will break down over time, adding nutrients to the finished compost. Use this nutrient-rich compost to fertilize gardens, houseplants, lawns and more.
Tips for Composting Pistachio Shells
- Crush shells into smaller pieces for faster breakdown.
- Pair shells with nitrogen-rich green materials like fruit and veggie scraps.
- Ensure proper moisture in the pile – shells can repel water.
- Turn or stir pile regularly to mix in shells.
- Sift out any remaining shell pieces before using finished compost.
The neutral color and unique texture of pistachio shells make them ideal to incorporate into a wide range of craft projects. Their rough exterior and curved shape can add interesting visual and tactile elements to homemade crafts.
Glue cleaned and dried pistachio shells around the outer edge of a plain picture frame to create a nature-inspired design. Layer the shells in rows or alternate directions for different effects. Other options are gluing shells to frame a photo or art print before inserting it into the frame.
Adhere pistachio shells vertically around the outside of terra cotta pots or glass vases with strong glue. Once dry, this creates an organic texture and pattern. Fill the vase with floral arrangements or dried grasses.
Coat the outside of plain pillar candles or glass containers with hot glue then press pistachio shells evenly around the surface while the glue is still warm. Allow to fully dry before burning candle or adding candle wax. The soft candlelight will illuminate the shells beautifully.
Both whole shells and crushed pieces can become beads for making bracelets, necklaces, earrings and more. String the shells on flexible beading wire with other complementary beads for pretty nature-based jewelry. For necklaces and bracelets, apply a clear sealant after stringing to protect the shells.
Create one-of-a-kind Christmas tree ornaments using pistachio shells. Simple fill shells with plaster of Paris and insert a hanger before drying. Or thread shells onto ornament hooks using beading wire for an organic garland effect. Painting shells with metallic or glitter paints adds festive flair.
In addition to composting, pistachio shells have several other uses for gardens and landscaping. Their rough texture and appearance can help deter garden pests, reduce weeds and retain moisture in thirsty plants.
Scattering crushed pistachio shells around your garden beds provides an abrasive surface that repels soft-bodied pests like slugs and snails. These pests dislike sliding over the bumpy texture and will avoid areas with pistachio shells. Refresh the shells after rain or watering to maintain effectiveness.
Spread a thick layer of pistachio shells over any bare garden soil or around established plants to suppress weed growth. The shells block light from reaching potential weed seedlings. Top with mulch or soil to create a uniform look. Pistachio shell mulch will need to be reapplied annually.
Place whole or crushed pistachio shells in the bottom of plant pots and planters before adding soil and plants. The shells can help boost drainage while also retaining moisture in between waterings. Mix shells into extremely sandy soils to increase the water holding capacity.
In addition to using pistachio shells outdoors in the garden, there are many clever ways to reuse them inside around the home. Their mildly abrasive texture makes them ideal for household cleaning and exfoliating.
Grind clean, dried pistachio shells into a fine powder to create an effective exfoliating scrub. Mix the shells with a small amount of coconut, olive or almond oil to form a paste. Apply to the skin in gentle circular motions then rinse. Use regularly to remove dead skin cells and reveal brighter skin.
Stubborn dirt and burnt food caked on pots and pans is no match for the abrasive texture of pistachio shells. Crush a handful of shells and add a few drops of liquid soap and hot water to make a paste. Apply paste to dirty cookware and scrub with a sponge or brush. The shells will safely scour away messes without damaging surfaces.
Involve pets in reusing pistachio shells by transforming the shells into fun toys, treats and more. Dogs and birds especially will appreciate these interactive shells.
Fill an old sock, recycled socks or new dog toy with dried pistachio shells, then knot securely closed. This crunchy texture will appeal to dogs who like to chew while keeping teeth clean. Supervise dogs when playing with shell toys to prevent choking hazards or intestinal blockages if large pieces are swallowed.
Bird Treat Containers
Glue pistachio shells together in a pattern to create a unique feeder or treat container for pet birds. Once dry, fill shells with birdseed, nuts, dried fruits or other healthy foods. The shells add interest and give birds an engaging challenge while foraging for treats.
Beyond traditional crafts, gardening and home uses, some creative people have come up with more unconventional ways to use leftover pistachio shells:
Some users of hookahs and cannabis claim pistachio shells can be used as an alternative to tobacco or mixing in with marijuana before rolling joints. However, research on the safety and effects of smoking pistachio shells appears limited and may pose health risks.
The reddish-brown inner skin of pistachio shells produces a natural dye when boiled in water. Strain and use the colored water to dye fabrics, yarn or Easter eggs. While non-toxic, the dye may be prone to fading.
Fill small fabric pouches with dried, crushed pistachio shells. Stitch pouches between two layers of fabric to create insulating jackets, blankets, or sleep pads. The air pockets within the shell pieces help retain warmth.
When repurposing pistachio shells, keep these basic safety guidelines in mind:
- Wash shells thoroughly to remove residues before use.
- Avoid using shells from molds, or with an odd odor or appearance.
- Dry shells completely if using near open flames like candles or fireplaces.
- Supervise children during craft projects with small pieces to prevent choking hazards.
- Wear a dust mask when grinding shells into a fine powder.
- Research any ingestion or inhalation thoroughly before attempting.
- Discontinue use if any irritation occurs when using shells on skin or pets.
Buying Pistachio Shells
While most crafters and gardeners reuse their own leftover pistachio shells, you can purchase bulk quantities of shells to work with.
Food Processing Suppliers
Companies that process and pack pistachios may sell or provide the shells to crafters and gardeners if requested. Some may have minimum order quantities.
Several online stores offer pistachio shells for purchase, often in large bags around 25-50 pounds. eBay and Etsy also have resellers listing smaller packages of shells.
Bulk from Big Box Stores
Warehouse retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club sell giant bags of in-shell pistachios, which will generate lots of shells after eating the nuts. This can be a more affordable option than pre-packaged shells.
Price of Pistachio Shells
Exact pricing varies greatly based on supplier, quantity, and processing. But as a general guideline, expect to pay:
- Around $1 to $2 per pound of raw pistachio shells
- $2 to $3 per pound for roasted or salted shells
- $5 to $10 for smaller 1-2 pound bags
Cleaning and preparing the shells yourself from in-shell pistachios can be significantly cheaper than buying packaging shells.
Pistachio shells are a versatile item with many uses beyond just composting. From household cleaning to handmade crafts, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Reusing shells keeps food waste out of landfills while bringing new life to what would otherwise be discarded. With a little creativity, you can find the perfect way to repurpose pistachio shells that best fits your needs and lifestyle.