No one familiar with the works of John Steinbeck would think of California farming as a cool and clean enterprise.

Indeed, the author of “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden” would surely recognize the impulses and tensions underlying the nasty fight that has just broken out between Fresno’s Assemi brothers and Los Angeles-based Wonderful Pistachios, which is probably the largest pistachio distributor in the world.

In addition to real estate development, the Assemi family grows pistachio as part of an extensive Valley farming operation.

At issue, of course, is money — as much as $50 million, based on the Assemis’ estimate of their pistachio crop’s value. But the fuel is the bad blood that has apparently erupted between the Assemis on one side and Stewart and Lynda Resnick, the owners of the Wonderful Co., on the other. The immediate cause appears to be the Assemis’ decision to start processing pistachios in a plant of their own, rather than turning over their crop to Wonderful.

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