Pistachio scientifically known as Pistacia vera L is from the Anacardiaceae family, a small tree native some regions of Syria, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Turkmenistan, Pakistan and India that produces this important culinary nut.
Pistacia vera is often confused with other species in the genus Pistacia also known as pistachio. These species can be distinguished from P. vera by their geographic distributions (in the wild) and their nuts. Their nuts are much smaller, have a strong flavor of turpentine, and have a shell that is not hard. The name pistachio is a loanword from Persian word Peste via Latin.
The pistachio nut was first cultivated in Western Asia where it has long been an important crop in the cooler parts of Iran. Spread into the Mediterranean world by way of Syria and then introduced into Italy by the Roman consul in Syria. Very recently pistachios have also been cultivated commercially in the countries like Australia, New Mexico and in California where it was introduced in 1854 as a garden tree. David Fairchild of the United States Department of Agriculture introduced hardier cultivars collected in China to California in 1904 and 1905, but it was not promoted as a commercial crop until 1929. Walter T. Swingle’s pistachios from Syria had already fruited well at Niles by 1917.
Pistachio is a desert plant, and is highly tolerant of saline soil. It grows well when irrigated with water having 3,000–4,000 ppm of soluble salts. Pistachio trees are fairly hardy in the right conditions, and can survive temperatures ranging between −10°C (14°F) in winter and 40°C (104°F) in summer. They need a sunny position and well-drained soil. Pistachio trees do poorly in conditions of high humidity, and are susceptible to root rot in winter if they get too much water and the soil is not sufficiently free draining. Long hot summers are required for proper ripening of the fruit. The bush grows up to 10 meters (30 ft) tall. It has deciduous pinnate leaves 10–20 centimeters (4–8 inches) long.
The pistachio fruit is a drupe with an elongated seed which is the edible portion. Pistachios are used widely for culinary purposes. The fruit has a hard, whitish exterior shell. The seed has a mauvish skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavor. When fruit ripens the shell changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red and abruptly splits part way open which is known as dehiscence. Each pistachio tree averages around 50 kg of seeds, or around 50,000, every two years.
In India, Pista is widely used as a dry fruit in dishes like lassi, kulfi, sandesh and powdered and added in Kalakand, Doodhpeda etc. Pistachios are also finely grated and garnished over most of the sweet dishes that include Rasmalai, Shahi Tukre, Burfi, Rabdi etc. They can also be eaten on its own by just cracking them open and remove the nut. They taste excellent when slightly roasted and salted just like peanuts.
Pistachios have sweet nutty taste with favorable aroma. Baklava, a sweet pastry made of layers of “phyllo dough” filled with chopped pistachio, almonds and cashew nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey, is a popular preparation in Turkey, Iran and middle east. Roasted and crushed nuts often sprinkled over salads, desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based preparations, biscuits, sweets and cakes. Split pistachios are a great addition to salads. Popularly known as “pista”, these nuts have been widely used in sweet dishes in South-East Asian countries
The Chinese are the top pistachio consumers worldwide with annual consumption of 80,000 tons, while Americans consume 45,000 tons. Russians (with consumption of 15,000 tons) and Indians (with consumption of 10,000 tons) are in the third and fourth places. Pistachios were once a treasured delicacy among royals. In modern times, pistachios are appreciated for their flavor and the nutritional benefits they offer. Pistachios make a perfect snack as they contain considerable amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Pistachios are a good source of copper, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and B6. The nuts deliver 30 vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and contains lots of fiber. If you are trying to boost your intake, pistachios are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Pistachios eaten in conjunction with protein-rich grains, vegetables, and fruits help you to add protein to your diet. Pistachio nuts are an excellent source of vegetable protein. The best way to add these excellent nuts into your diet is either add them to foods or add them with fresh green salad. Chicken stir fried with nuts tastes fantastic and Persian rice and pistachio salad is a very good combination.
Eating one ounce of nuts (about a handful) five times per week is enough to provide health benefits, and may lower your risk of heart attacks and diabetes. Eating this amount of nuts will also ensure that your nut consumption doesn’t lead to weight gain; however, nuts do not usually promote weight gain, since they are filling and actually help curb the appetite. If you adore nuts and aren’t allergic to nuts, then go ahead and make your life nuttier!
The nutritional values of dry roasted plain Pistachios per 100 g are:
Energy: 2391 kJ (571 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 27.65 g
Sugars: 7.81 g
Dietary fibers: 10.3 g
Fat: 45.97 f
Proteins: 21.35 g
Vitamin C: 2.3 MF
Calcium: 110 mg
Iron: 4.2 mg
Magnesium: 120 mg
Phosphorus: 485 mg
Potassium: 1042 mg